“C’mon baby, light my fire!” MASSE
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When we go camping, our canoe is heavily loaded with essentials: food (frozen items for the first two days), a tent, lots of drinking water (plus a water purifier in case we want to extend our stay), some reading material (if rain confines us to our tent), some wellseasoned hardwood firewood, writing material (immersion in nature stimulates creativity) and a generous supply of birch bark. (No, I do not write on birch bark.)
In our style of canoeing and camping, a weight- limit is never a consideration because the only portaging we do is from my pickup truck to the water’s edge. I have no desire to become a Sherpa, donkey or any other beast of burden. At my age, any portage longer than the 60’ 6” distance from the pitcher’s mound to home plate is out of the question.
Camping without a campfire would be like a sundae without ice cream, a movie without popcorn or a wedding without a ring. A campfire’s glow is the wilderness equal of TV as post-sunset entertainment. We carry enough hardwood with us to provide a couple of hours of cheery warmth after the sun slips below the horizon.
Getting a thick piece of inadequately seasoned firewood to ignite is like pushing a cart uphill with a wet rope. However, placing strips of birch bark, then some twigs and branches, under several pieces of carefully split well-aged firewood gives you a RollsRoyce campfire.
The place to relax after a day of paddling is around a campfire. Carefully fed, it will provide warmth and a pleasant glow until almost every star has been counted and the last story has been told. The presence of a spellbound audience, the background eerie calls of the loons, the yipping of the coyotes and the hooting of the owls encourage stirring tales of long- ago travels and adventures.
As John Geddes once said, “Light a campfire and everyone’s a storyteller.”
And who is this John Geddes you’re quoting?” Until I consulted with my favourite lexicon, Mr. Google, I had no idea. Was he the 18th century Scottish bishop? Maybe the 19th century American politician? How about the 20th century British cyclist or the American journalist who was once associated with the New York Times? I lean toward the John Geddes of Maclean’s magazine being the source of that quote.
Let’s discuss it around our next gathering around a campfire. I’ll bring the birch bark, you bring some stories to tell.