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Tag Archive | "Campfire"

Campfire


By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

Backyard fire pit with campfire.

Sparks fly and crackle over quiet conversation. Colored flames mesmerize. S’mores are meant for eating in the dimness of glowing coals. Escaped fires are frightening and destructive. We all lament the currently raging forest fires burning out of control across the nation. 

Campfires instead provide yellow, red, blue, and green flames. Hidden in the flames are stories pulled from life’s memories. We cannot resist the chance to share outdoor experiences from adventures in the wild. I recall flipping in the Pine River’s floodwater one April when snow still covered the ground. We were on an overnight paddle trip. The group stopped to build a fire to dry our clothes while I stood naked in freezing air by the warming flames. Embellished details will wait for campfire sharing. We continued our voyage after the delay.

Campfires have a pleasant aesthetic. They provide a calm for reflection to share the day’s discoveries. It might be the size of the fish that got away, the rainbow of light reflecting from fish scales, or the blood drawn by a fin spine on a carelessly handled fish.  

We have all experienced smoke that follows us wherever we sit near the fire. We ask, why does smoke always follow me? Depending on the wood collected, some fires spark and display more colors or make louder pops than others. Pinewood filled with dried sap pops more than broadleaf tree branches. Green wood sizzles with bubbles oozing from xylem and phloem tubes at the cut ends of the log. 

Dumb moths fly to the fire and hopefully dodge the heat and flames before it is too late. When built in a properly constructed fire pit like those in our state and national parks or state forest campgrounds, we can safely burn. At Ody Brook, we have a fire circle lined with cement blocks. A bucket of water and rake are handy. It is fun to have a good rip-roaring fire with flames shooting high. For that reason, I keep shrubs and trees cut well away from the fire ring. 

As dusk settles upon us, daytime nature niche activity quiets, night sounds amplify, and we calm while gazing into the ever-changing flames. Campfire magic draws us. When the excitement of raging flames burn down, our mood becomes more peaceful when only glowing coals remain. It is best to hold the most intriguing stories until only embers create dim shadows on everyone’s faces. 

When people start fading and blend into the dark forest background, it is time to stir the coals to revive face details. Before dark, cut small shrub stems to make roasting sticks. Use green stems so they will not catch fire when toasting marshmallows. Teach kids to safely handle a jackknife for whittling the point. 

Youths will be anxious to get their marshmallows into the flames only to discover they will catch fire. Charred is not as tasty. Delay getting out the treat until there is a bed of coals. A slow roast allows the marshmallow to expand like an inflatable raft. When it is a puffy golden brown, place it on the chocolate candy bar waiting on a graham cracker. Use the second cracker to free it from the roasting stick. No explanation is needed for what to do next. 

Good luck trying to get kids and many adults to wait for flames to burn down before roasting begins. 

Campfires unify a family camping event. Ground fires often are not allowed in city or town yards but a solution is available. There are portable free-standing metal campfire trays. They have a curved metal disk that sits on a tripod stand. They can be placed on the driveway or in the lawn. The rising heat will not scorch the lawn. Campfires need not wait for infrequent camping trips. Find excuses to enjoy life outdoors with family members.

Enjoy the flames and night sounds. Talk about the wonderful creatures looming in the surrounding tree leaves or among the shrubs at yard’s edge. Insects, birds, and mammals are mysterious creatures watching you.

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at odybrook@chartermi.net – Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary, 13010 Northland Dr. Cedar Springs, MI 49319 or call 616-696-1753.

Posted in Ranger Steve's Nature NicheComments (0)


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