Beyond The Campfire was created to encourage readers to explore the great outdoors and to look at it more closely. Get out and take a hike, go fishing or canoeing, or simply stretch out on a blanket under a summer sky...and take your camera along. We'll talk about combining outdoor activities with photography. We'll look at everything from improving your understanding of the basics to more advanced techniques including things like how to see photographically and capturing the light. We'll explore the night sky, location shoots, using off camera speedlights along with nature and landscape. Grab your camera...strap on your hiking boots...and join me. I think you will enjoy the adventure.

The Pilot

The Pilot
The Pilot

Friday, December 24, 2010

Campfires I have Known - Part One - The back yard.

Here's part one of another story taken from the archives of stories I've written over the years.  I suppose it fits well into the category of "Beyond the Campfire".  It's a bit too long to make into one story so I will break it up into two parts.
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The ethics of backcountry travel in today's wilderness often dictates an absence of a real campfire, but, there are still places where the warmth of that enduring symbol can still be felt on those cold starlit evenings.  A campfire adds that unique touch and helps to create a bonding with the outdoor experience...especially within the domain of the night.  They are like snow crystals in that no two of them are ever alike.  I guess that is what is so endearing about them.  Each one develop their own personality and become the personification of that particular outdoor adventure.  The aroma of the burning wood...the heat generated by the amber coals...the soft glow and dancing shadows created by the flames can transform even the most cold of nights into a memory that will last long after the coals are extinguished.

I have known many campfires over the years and have watched them grow from a tiny infant flame into a roaring fire casting an hypnotic glow across the camping site.  Not all the fires were equal...some were downright inferior..but each of them contributed to the pleasure of their respective moment in time.

My first experience with campfires and camping out in general occurred in my grandparents backyard in the small town of Wister, Oklahoma.  The stately old house in which they lived for almost 70 years was situated at the top of a knoll not far from what was downtown.  The yard was over an acre or so in size and was covered with old stately oak and elm trees.  (The elms have probably fallen victim to that nasty Dutch Elm disease by now I'm sure).  In that backyard stood an old well with a crudely built covering.  On those hot and muggy summer days so prevalent in that part of the country, my grandmother would draw three or four loads of the crystal clear ice cold water and place a watermelon or two in it to cool them down.

One summer when I was about 9 years old, my dad purchased an old army surplus canvas pup tent for us kids to use and with that simple piece of outdoor gear I lived dozens of adventures within the shadow of that old well.  My grandmother would allow me to build a small campfire in the dirt...as long as I was careful.  There was no shortage of wood as the old oak and elm trees constantly shed dry branches at the slightest breeze.  She would give me a blanket or two and along with an old army cot that barely fit inside the tent, I would sleep out under the stars...not more than twenty feet from her back door.  She'd take a peak out the window as night came just to make sure I was alright.

The highlight came the next morning when I would rekindle the campfire...grab a couple of eggs and some bacon from the frig and cook breakfast.  My grandmother would always offer to make breakfast...but I insisted on doing it myself cooking on the open fire.  It was great fun...and a wonderful learning experience for an 8 or 9 year old boy.

Those campfires were my pride and joy.  I actually felt like I was living an adventure as grand and exciting as Lewis and Clark.  That old tent eventually rotted away and was discarded but the memories of sleeping out on those hot summer nights...and those first campfires set in motion a lifetime of outdoor discoveries.  They added a sense of realism to a small boy's imagination.  I'll never forget those days, and all the campfires since then had their roots planted during those summer nights.

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