One of my favorite things about camping is the campfire. When I am away from the luxuries of a modern-day home, I am often reminded of the importance that fire has had in human history. Okay, maybe I don’t think about it that much. However, I do recognize that having a campfire when at a park or campsite makes spending time outdoors that much more fun. I should specify that in this post, I am referring to campfires that are in fire rings placed at well marked campsites. When out in the wilderness, fires should be reconsidered because of their long lasting effects on the surrounding environment. Let’s take a look at what makes the campfire so great.
First, it’s a good source of light. I can’t think of anything else that puts out enough light to light up a whole campsite that doesn’t burn out your corneas if you stare right into it. Actually, I find it quite mesmerizing to stare into fire. It is constantly moving and changes as it burns. Eventually, it dies off with the night leaving glowing coals.
Second, it’s a good source of heat. Even during the warmer months, it can still get quite cold once the sun goes down. It feels even colder once you wake up and your blood hasn’t started circulating yet. A campfire is the perfect source to stay warm. In Wisconsin, early spring is cold and late fall is cold. I have been camping in both. From my experience, the camping trip was so much more enjoyable if it was easy to keep a fire going and stay warm. The first campout that my wife and I went on together was in the late fall. I had made the mistake of forgetting to bring any tinder and the wood I had brought was too green to burn easily. Needless to say, it was very difficult to get a fire going. I wouldn’t say it was a miserable trip, because we still had a good time, but it certainly was more of a challenge to stay warm. That, and it took us about three hours to cook breakfast one morning. I like to think I’ve learned a thing or two since then.
Third, it’s the perfect setting for conversations. You might think of the campfire as an ancient version of the television. Only, it doesn’t have loud and obnoxious commercials and actually very little sound at all. Okay, so a campfire is not like a TV. My point is that in todays world, furniture is usually pointed at the TV. At a campsite, the chairs are usually pointed at the campfire. For me, when we are sitting around a campfire with only its crackle to listen to, I can’t help but think about things. It is like I actually take time to pay attention to what I am thinking about rather than my mind constantly being distracted by all the many things that go on at home and work. What better time is there to verbalize those thoughts and carry on lengthy conversations with those you are camping with!
Fourth and finally, it is a fun way to cook food. Have you ever tried to microwave a marshmallow? It just cannot compete with a lightly toasted marshmallow cooked over a fire. I am not sure what all the science is behind it, but in my experience, food just taste better when it is cooked over a wood-burning fire. There are some dishes that I have come to really enjoy cooking when we are camping that I just cannot mimic at home. It is also fun to experiment with cooking over a fire. There are many different ways to cook over a fire, here are a few: over a grill, on a stick, in a Dutch oven, in a pie iron and on a spit. It all depends on what you want to try to cook over a fire.
As you light your fires, please remember to be careful. I consider myself lucky to live in a part of the country where forest fires are not a big problem. If you are camping in an area that prohibits campfires, do not start one. The signs are there for a reason. The carelessness of one person and his fire can cause a mess for many other people. It is true that one can go camping without a campfire, but few of us have any other opportunity in this age of technology to experience its heat, light, and comfort. Next time you are camping take some time to appreciate just how great the campfire is.
“One can enjoy a wood fire worthily only when he warms his thoughts by it as well as his hands and feet.” ~Odell Shepherd