There is something about a campfire, generic National Park Service edition

May 3, 2019

There is just something about a campfire that soothes human souls, brings joy to and instills awe in people who gather around one.

Campfire in a National Park unnamed; photo from the Golden Gate National Park.

Thanks and a shake of the old scrub brush to the Golden Gate National Park, on Twitter.


Something about a campfire: Boy Scouts, Order of the Arrow 2018

October 21, 2018

It’s a great photo, chiefly.

Another in our series of campfires.

From the Twitter feed of the Order of the Arrow, the Boy Scouts' honor camper organization; the tweet honored the 103rd anniversary of the service group, in July of 2018. Photographer, location and date not revealed.

From the Twitter feed of the Order of the Arrow, the Boy Scouts’ honor camper organization; the tweet honored the 103rd anniversary of the service group, in July of 2018. Photographer, location and date not revealed.

No, it didn’t escape me that the campfire itself appears not to be lit. One of the mysteries of the photo.

As might be expected in an organization dedicated much to camping with a good group of boys and men, several organizations sprang up not long after Scouting got a start in the U.S. Carroll A. Edson and E. Urner Goodman initiated the Order of the Arrow (OA) at a summer camp near Philadelphia. The honoring of good campers and good citizenship, and the dedication to service to Scouting had wide appeal, and other councils outside of Philadelphia adopted the practices and program.

In Circle 10 Council BSA, the organization in Dallas, Texas, and surrounding counties, another service group started about the same time, the White Sharks of Takodah. Over time, Texas Scouts and Scouters moved into the national movement of the OA, though the White Sharks traditions continue with a day of work dedicated to improving the council camps annually.

OA members have three levels of membership, Ordeal, Brotherhood and Vigil Honor. Ordeal includes Scouts and Scouters nominated by their Troops, Crews, Ships or other units, who have endured an ordeal that includes a day of service to BSA camps. Brotherhood membership can be obtained with additional service and time. Vigil Honor requires that an Arrowman keep vigil over a campfire for an entire night, a sometimes daunting task in wood-scarce locations, and a trial always just at staying awake.

After two years of exceptional service as a Brotherhood member, and with the approval of the national Order of the Arrow committee, a Scout or Scouter may be recognized with the Vigil Honor for their distinguished contributions to their lodge, the Order of the Arrow, Scouting, or their Scout camp. This honor is bestowed by special selection and is limited to one person for every 50 members registered with the lodge each year.

I learned and practiced building great program campfires as a young Arrowman. My mind goes back to a hundred such great opportunities for camaraderie in and outside the OA, and in and out of Scouting.

There is something about a campfire that puts the soul at ease, and opens it to the glorious brotherhood of fellowship with other people, under a great sky, in the dark.

Tell us about your campfire experiences and memories in comments, please.

Tip of the old scrub brush to the Order of the Arrow Twitter account.

 


Something about a campfire, in Arches National Park

November 8, 2013

Campfire in Arches National Park, by John Dale

Photographer John Dale wrote: “We rolled in to Arches National Park to a beautiful sunset and got to our campsite just as it got dark, but that left us with a clear sky, plenty of stars, and a fire to warm up next to. Here’s a photo from the timelapse I took that night.”

From a photographer named John Dale, via Arches National Park’s Facebook page.

More:

Map of Arches National Park, Utah, United Stat...

Map of Arches National Park, Utah, United States showing predominant features such as arches, peaks, rivers and streams, mines, and roads. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Texas, “Go fish!”

May 28, 2013

No, this isn’t a comment about the Texas Lege.  That I have to tell you that is comment enough.

Texas Parks and Wildlife notes:

Catching a fish is fun for kids, but many families have questions about how to get started. That’s why some state parks are offering free fishing classes. They’ll teach you the basics through fun, hands-on activities. Texas Parks and Wildlife has this report on a program called “Go Fish” as the June Outdoor Activity of the Month.

To find places to fish and events near you, visit texasstateparks.org/fishing

Doesn’t seem that long ago, but he’s grown, graduated from college and moved 2,000 miles away; heck, both of the boys graduated and moved away.  We started our romancing of Texas State Parks at Ink’s Lake State Park, in one of the hottest Augusts I ever would wish to see.  We got a new tent, big enough for a family and bigger than the pup tent Kathryn and I used on the Atlantic Beaches (never did get that hurricane smell out of it . . .).  I worried about older son Kenny.  Little patience for anything not electronic.

The rules were they could play handheld games until we got there, in the car, but not once we got down to camping.  When we got to Ink’s Lake it was 105º F.  Kenny decided he’d rather stay in the car with his games.  Eventually the batteries died.

It was a fun, but not necessarily easy first day.  We had Disney TrueLife Adventure watching a wasp and spider fighting.  We had deer wandering through the site, including one with a deformed mouth (we named her Celeste, but don’t ask me why).  Deer would do almost anything for a bite of cantaloupe.  Swimming, rocks to jump off of . . . Kenny was bordering on crabby.

I never took to fishing.  That’s Kathryn’s bailiwick.  She got poles for the kids.  The whole point of the trip was to get back to fishing for Kathryn.  Kenny complained about the hot son on the end of the pier, about the worms, about the lack of video games.  He complained about everything until he got that pole in his hand and dropped the hook in the water.  I wish we had it on video.  Instantly, he became a man of patience.

Caught his first little fish that day, too.   Bluegill, or crappie — I don’t remember.  The next few days brought quite a bit of adventure — small boat tour of Ink’s Lake, big tourist boat trip on nearby Lake Buchanan (” . . . this is Texas, Honey. It’s pronounced buck-CANnon. Don’t forget.”).  We froze in Longhorn Cavern.  We found magic, and five-foot catfish, at Hamilton Pool.  The catfish were larger than James, but he took great delight in watching them in the bottom of the supernaturally-clear pool.

English: Photo taken by Reid Sullivan during d...

Hamilton Pool, near the Pedernales River – photo by Reid Sullivan during drought conditions 1/2/2006, via Wikipedia

Both boys got great at camping, both had long periods with Boy Scouts after YMCA Guides (Kenny got Life; James got Eagle).  I think both of them got the fishing merit badge with help from the Mighty Fisher, Eddie Cline.  We have thousands of photos, lots of great memories, and for our family, it started with that trip to Ink’s Lake.

The good stuff all started with fishing.

More:


Camping with the guys

May 22, 2013

No campfire necessary?  Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, President Warren Harding, and Harvey Firestone

No campfire necessary? Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, President Warren Harding, and Harvey Firestone. Harding was probably the closest to poverty in this group. Photo may be from a camping trip in Maryland, circa 1921.  AkronHistory.org

Every Boy Scout knows, there’s something magical in a campfire.  Sometimes, you don’t even need the campfire.

More details of their camping exploits here, at Frederick County Forestry Board. See also this history site from the Maryland Forest Service, Department of Natural Resources.


Why a campfire? (reprise)

October 26, 2012

It was more than five years ago I originally posted this?  Heck, I won’t even add links or a “More” section at the bottom.  I deserves to be repeated though, I think, especially in an election year when we wish we could gather more people around a campfire.  Here goes:

Training adult Scout leaders always produces a few puzzled looks, and occasional passionate, fearful rebukes, when I note that a campfire gives a boy or a girl an opportunity to play with fire.

No, I don’t mean, exactly, that we should let kids play with fire.  There are rules — what’s burning must be in the fire pit, is the chief rule.

There is some primal need to watch a fire, to study it, to experiment with it, and finally just to watch it go. If you camped as a kid, you probably know what I mean.

Camp fires are universal.  This one was outside Bangalore.

Camp fires are universal. This one was outside Bangalore.

Every kid needs to do that.  It’s a part of growing up.  It’s a necessary memory for healthy and sane adults.

Start a fire, and a kid will get a stick and poke the burning logs and, especially, the red-, yellow- and white-hot coals after the fire burns a while.  They’ll start the stick on fire, put it out, and light it again.  They’ll pull the stick out of the fire and watch the flame consume the stick.  Kids will experiment with different things on the fire, to see whether, how fast, and how they burn.

Just keep it in the fire pit.

A Scoutmaster can tell which kids have been camping. A Scoutmaster knows which kids have been able to sit around a campfire and play with fire in that way.  Kids who know fire are more mature, generally, more relaxed about the excitement of the stuff, and much more careful with it.  Scouts who have dabbled in the campfire respect fire for what it is and for what it can do, good and bad.

What you’ll remember 20 years later, or 30 years, or (God bless me!) 40 years, and I hope 50 and 60 years, is the watching of the fire as the flames die down to a red and pulsing bed of coals.

You’ll remember some of the stories — Freddy Jonas’s often-told story of racing down the Champs Elysee in horse-drawn carriages, bribing the driver of the other carriage to go slower to win the race; the story of Rulon Skinner, the best non-swimming canoe instructor on Earth, and the big canoe race in which his opponent finally tipped Skinner’s canoe, and then yelled “snake!” to appeal to Skinner’s other great fear; the night the bear invaded the camp at Ben de la Tour, a bear later found to have antlers and four hooves.  You’ll remember the s’mores, and you’ll forget how messy they are.  You’ll remember the time you waited for the cobbler to cook after someone forgot to start the charcoal, or the the time the story got so good you forgot to take the cobbler off the fire, and how the Dutch oven had to be thrown away because it never would come clean.

You may remember that little fox at Camp Carter, sneaking just beyond the light of the fire and carefully circling every chair, looking for something good to eat, to steal.  Or that stupid porcupine that, now that you think of it must have been rabid, heading straight for the fire there in the only stand of Ponderosa pine in Utah County, up Payson Canyon.  And that will trigger the story of the night the fire wouldn’t start in the Catskills, and what seemed like hundreds of giant porcupines convened in bacchanalian festivities while campers dared not sleep, in their tents.

Someone will mention retiring U.S. flags, and you’ll remember the retirement ceremony for the flag from the widow of the veteran, how she insisted that you promise the flag would be burned completely and honorably, and warned “he’ll be watching!”  You’ll remember the mass flag retirement after the lifting of the burn ban at Wisdom, and how you suddenly realized lots of flags put out lots of toxic fumes — but somebody ad libbed a part to the ceremony to add time to let the fumes clear, and no Scout noticed (you hope!).

We haven’t even gotten to the singing.

I was put in mind of the power of the campfire with a remembrance from Real Live Preacher writing at High Calling:

I remember how worried we were the first time we tried to set one of those brush piles on fire. We nervously stood before a ten-foot high, fifteen-foot wide mound with a can of lighter fluid and a couple of matches. I squirted a modest amount around the bottom of the pile and stood back while Michael threw the match. That’s when we discovered that it’s surprisingly difficult to set things on fire. Now I marvel at stories of people casually throwing cigarettes out of their cars and setting whole forests ablaze. Michael and I had a hard time starting fires even when we used diesel fuel and a blowtorch.

It takes about five hours to burn a giant pile of brush and cedar, so Michael and I would start a fire, then sit on the tailgate of the brown pickup truck and talk while we kept an eye on it. Apart from the searing heat and looking like chimney sweeps, it was fun. I’m always looking for guilt-free reasons to sit around and talk with friends. I don’t suppose I’ll ever have as good an excuse as I did back then.

A guilt-free reason to sit around and talk with friends?  A campfire is an automatic reason — guilt only obtains if there’s a ban on burning where you’re making the fire.

Carl Buell painted another one that took my breath away the first time I saw it.  Go see it. (I’m asking permission on this one; it may take a little while. Posted below with permission.)

That’s not a photograph, you can tell because it so well preserves what you remember — better than any photograph ever could —  it preserves what you remember from that campout up in the San Franciscos the night the sky was so blue so late and you could see the whole moon from the earthglow — or was it in New Mexico?  Probably not Colorado because there aren’t any mountains — oh, but if he’s looking east, it could have been south of Pueblo . . . no, maybe near Albion in the Sawtooths . . . Buell works in the east; it’s probably up in Maine . . . but he lived and painted in Marin County.

Didn’t he perfectly capture that night?

Campfire, by Carl Buell.  Copyright Carl Buell, all rights reserved; used with permission


Women to match our mountains: Women at Work, Parts 1 and 2

February 12, 2012

I do love the tops of mountains, and I wish I could climb them.  Fortunately, there are cameras, people who know how to use them, and people who know how to edit film to tell a story, and put us all in awe.

Plus, living among us are people brave enough and skilled enough to get to the tops of those mountains, people who make the filming possible and worthwhile.

“Women at Work” is a film of a climb by “the Cirque Ladies 2010,” described by Emily Stifler:

In summer 2010, Lorna Illingworth, Madaleine Sorkin and I spent 25 days in the Cirque of the Unclimbables, Northwest Territories, Canada. Our goal was to free climb the entire 1963 Original Route on the sheer 2000′ Southeast Face of Proboscis, and grants from the American Alpine Club encouraged us to document the adventure. The result: Women at Work (VI 5.12 R).

Cirque of the Unclimbables?  Okay, I’ll watch.

Part 1

Part 2

More: 

Half the fun is getting there:  Camp in shelters made by Mother Nature:

Camping under large boulder in Fairy Meadows, Cirque of the Unclimbables - SummitPost.org

Camping under large boulder in Fairy Meadows, Cirque of the Unclimbables - SummitPost.org - "Nice roof," one wag commented

Map of Cirque of the Unclimbables, from Nahanni.com

Map of Cirque of the Unclimbables, from Nahanni.com; those dots are not settlements

 

Map to Cirque of the Unbclimbables and area, from BlackFeather.com, a tour company

Map to Cirque of the Unbclimbables and area, from BlackFeather.com, a tour company

 


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