Outdoorsy people have a thing for fire. It is not as if we are pyromaniacs, dying to set something a blaze, but we typically enjoy making and sitting around camp fires. Whether you are in a campground, on a 12 day hike in the mountains, or doing a relaxing 4 day canoe trip with friends, some of the best memories are those around a fire.
I’m sure we have all had our share of similar experiences with fires. It typically starts like this – Finally, after a long day of hiking/paddling/whatever, you make it into your camp for the night. You’re tired. All you want to do is to strip that pack off your back and lay down. But alas, there are chores to be done! You’re going to have to cook your food, set up your tent, hang your food in a tree, and run a clothes line to dry any wet clothes you have. These things are all essential, yet what is the first thing everyone usually does? They go and get wood for a fire.
Technology is great; we no longer have to rely on a camp fire to cook our food or boil water. We have compact and light backpacking stoves that can boil multiple cups of water in 4 minutes. We have water filtration systems that can pump liters of clean water, faster than ever. We do not depend on sunlight or firelight to pitch our tents and stow our gear. We have LED flashlights that pump out hundreds of lumens and have extraordinarily long battery life. So why do we enjoy fire so much?
Fire is not only one of the most basic and essential things man has ever discovered and learned to manipulate, but it is also the world’s oldest coping mechanism. Going outside the cave or hut to gather wood for a fire probably got early man’s mind off of their problems. It helped them live better lives. Tired of eating raw, tasteless meat? Build a fire. Stuck out in the woods at night after a day of trying to spear a mastodon and you don’t want to be eaten by some mountain cat thing? Build a fire. Had a rough day in the hut with the wife? Go outside and tip back some mead with your buddies around the fire.
I could be slightly off with my assessment of early human life, but there is no denying that fire has a calming presence. One of the first things that you are taught if you get lost is to stop moving and make a fire. Even if it is daylight and warm, make one anyway. There are a lot of reasons for this. Building a fire forces you to focus on the task at hand. Gathering kindling, fuel, building the fire, lighting it, and keeping it going, all of these things help to get your mind off the situation and forces you to calm down.
It is a point for people to gather around, to cook some food, and to swap stories late into the night. The flames flicker and dance, and makes us stare into it, as if in a trance It lulls us into deep thought and relaxes us. Its orange embers crackle and creak as they give off heat to cook our food. There is something calm and collecting about sitting around a fire. Some of the best moments outdoors with friends and family take place around it.
That is one of the great things about loving the outdoors. We get to sit around campfires. Whether it is in your local campground, or on the side of a mountain overlooking a lake, the fire is the same. It brings us together, relaxes us, and forces us to think and appreciate our adventures and our lives… Until next time…