HOW TO START A CAMPFIRE
First you need to understand that there are various types of campfires; there is the one that produces a bit of heat and a lot of smoke (maybe good if you were trying use a rug and send distress signals to the search party), there is the cozy campfire (perfect for singing songs around, roasting hot dogs…you get the picture), and then there is the raging inferno. We’ll get to that one later.
Some people just do not have a knack for starting a camp fire…or any fire for that matter. My husband, Dan, said that when he was in Viet Nam, he couldn’t even start a fire with napalm or a flame thrower. He’s even tried dried kindling and a blow torch (must be the torch ran out of propane) I guess that is why he was point man and tunnel rat. He has since discovered the joys of “fire starter sticks” and uses them with gleeful abandon. I was impressed once because he actually started a fire by rubbing two sticks together. I should mention that the sticks were actually match sticks…the ones used to start a fire in a fire place (about 12” long with HUGE heads on them). Me, I’m the “tipi” builder for my campfires. With this method, once you get your “tipi” established, just toss in a match or two and the kindling (dry pine needles, dead leaves work well) will start to smoke. Then you lean down and gently blow on this smoky mass of needles and leaves. You do need to use a certain amount of caution though. I have managed to come close to singeing my lips and eyebrows when the smoke burst into flames. After the fire begins to grow, just add some twigs until those catch, then you can add larger branches and pieces of wood.
But some people just are not happy unless they have a raging inferno! What is up with that!!?? A camp fire should allow you to cook food, boil water, provide heat and light and just be part of the camping experience. THESE types of fires are not good for anything except to test the durability of Kevlar…and to make other campers and nesting birds nervous and make campground owners climb the wall.
I’m not quite sure what these type of “campers” use to start these infernos, but I have witnessed some of the activity that takes place prior to starting the fire. You’ll see them out at their campsite, trusty hatchet in one hand, a piece of firewood gingerly balanced by holding it upright with the foot, trying to “chop off” splinters of wood to start the inferno. The kids are usually standing by with the burn ointment, a big supply of bandages and large tweezers (used to get the slivers of wood from flying splinters of wood out of the wood choppers hand). Once Dad has that completed, they add the splinters and hunks of wood to the fire pit and proceed to pour on lighter fluid or gasoline or both…then bend down, add a match and expel air from their lungs in the direction of this kindling, gasoline and lit match! Hence the burn ointment. While the mother is treating the hubby for 2nd degree burns, the kids are now standing back by the car watching the paint bubble. The tent has already launched skyward due to riding on the warm currents of air created by this man made jet stream.
In order to cook on this fire, you would have to toss your food in from a distance of 15 feet or so. You wouldn’t even be able to get through the heat waves to turn the food over! Once the fire has dwindled down from a wall of flames to maybe flames of 3 or 4 feet in height, you might be able to find your flaming burgers and burnt potatoes. Won’t they taste yummy when doused with water?? I’m sure the aroma of that concoction might be enough to entice bears from hibernation and give the rest of us the dry heaves.
If worrying about firestorm campfires isn’t enough, we also have had guests who can make a gas grill into a projectile. That is why the gas grills at the cabins are now chained to the outer side of the deck. It isn’t that we are worried about someone “walking off” with a gas grill, but rather we are worried about what kind of damage a flaming air born gas grill can cause. It got so dire that we had to have signs made that state “GAS GRILL! DO NOT USE CHARCOAL STARTER OR IGNITER FLUID OF ANY KIND!” You can get a sign for just about anything, but we’ve found that they are only effective if people actually read them (which is usually right after mini explosion and right before they have had a chance to pick themselves up off the ground).
- Cathy Clementz
- A long time ago, I was a child. (I started out as Cathy First from Colon, Mi.) For the past several years I’ve been an adult. A lot of things went on between those two stages of life; probably no more or no less than anyone elses. My husband and I moved to “da U .P” from southern Lower Michigan several years ago (yes we were trolls at one time). We owned and operated and operate Clementz’s Northcountry Campground and Cabins just north of Newberry, Michigan until May 2015. We have grown kids and grandkids (who all live downstate). My passion is life and all that Nature has to offer us and trying to photograph it in unique ways. Our intention in life is to see all that Nature has to offer us. We hope that you will be a part of our adventures as we cruise through our lives together. Come back often!