What is it about a camp fire?

It doesn’t matter if I camping in the middle of the winter or in the hottest part of July, a camp fire is mandatory in any camping experience! But what is about a fire that intrigues us so much? I can sit around a fire with a cold beverage shooting the breeze with my wife and friends for hours! When I camp I need to start my morning out with a good cup of coffee and a fire. Mid afternoon I need to stoke that fire back up for some good pot pies or hot dogs. And by evening that fire becomes the epicenter of the social gathering. Campfires are the essense of camping. There was a campground that Amy and I considered when we traveled to Nashville. However, when we found out that the campground had no firerings it was a done deal. No way could I stay for three nights without a fire! What kind of campground does not allow campfires? The campground had a lot of good reviews online but for me, not having campfires was the ultimate downside!

I can remember many great childhood memories of campfires. When I was a young cub scout we always loved to mess with fires. Every year we had an annual campout; just the boys and their dads. We had a great time. During one campout, the boys decided to embrace our pyro sides and make a huge campfire. We took everything we could and put it in the fire. The fathers had no idea until the next morning when they were looking for the styrofoam cups and bowls! We had burned them all! Burning styrofoam is way cool 😉 A really pissed off father who did not get his morning coffee is NOT way cool!

Some of my more “high class” friends complain that campfires cause you to smell like, well a campfire. So? The smell of a campfire and the site of tall flames in a fire ring bring peace and relaxation to an otherwise stressful week! (For tips for eliminating the tell tale signs you have been camping – Click here!)  Roasting marshmallows, making pot pies, using the dutch oven to cook, roasting hot dogs, or just simply burning stuff are the cool aspects of a campfire. And isn’t funny how campfires cause people to talk? Maybe it’s the beer but campfires have a way of facilitating a good discussion. Whether it’s hanging out with old high school friends bringing up stories of the “old days” or colleagues sitting around complaining about the incompetent boss, the campfire is the common denominator.

What is Camping?

It seems like a simple question, right? Webster defines camping as “to live temporarily in or as if in a camp or outdoors, usually for recreation”. Yet, defining camping is ultimately in the eye of the beholder. One aspect of camping Amy and I enjoy is people watching. We love to walk around the campground and check out what everybody is camping in whether it is a  pop-up, travel trailer, fifth wheel, motorhome, or tent. Actually, we have seen some people camp in teepees.We stir up conversations, find out where they are from, why they camp, etc.

Camping means different things to different people. For some it is embracing the simple life and getting in touch with nature. This means nothing more than a simple tent. I have met some people who would never set foot in a camper  because it is not “real” camping. Our first camping experience as a couple was at a campground near our house called Cedarbrook. I met an older gentlemen who had been camping since he was a boy scout. We had a good conversation on what camping means. He was there with his wife who insisted on camping in a travel trailer. She had to have her own bathroom and shower. As a good husband, he respected her wishes and they own an RV. However,  he told me that he prefered tent camping to anything else. He told me stories of winter camping in Michigan. WOW! That seemed crazy to me, until I tried it myself. This man told me the only way to experience true nature is to camp as close to it as possible (tenting). Being in a camper is not “real” camping, he told me.

While this man enjoyed the experience of tent camping, I have talked with other campers that insist that pop-up campers are the way to go. They are the best of both worlds. On one hand they offer the nature aspect of camping, since it’s essentially a glorified tent on wheels, yet it provides the luxury of being off the ground and other amenities such as water, stove,refigerator, etc.

A buddy of mine owns a 30 foot travel trailer and loves it. He has a wife and two little kids and for his family neither a tent nor or a pop up would be their definition of camping. Although both he and his wife both started out tenting and then moved up to a pop-up, when the kids came along there was need for more space and a sense of self-containment. Bathrooms were a must. And truth be told, my buddy could not live without his flat screen tv or sattelite on a trip camping 🙂

As Amy and I visit more and more campgrounds, we meet many people that have made their camper their home. Many campgrounds not only offer weekly rates, many also accomodate campers who stay “long term”. Most of these type of campers choose 5th wheelers. “Permament campers” want the freedom to up and move whenever they choose and live in regions of the country dependant on the seasons. Amy and I joke a lot about selling the house and buying a fifth wheeler as our portable home. Though sometimes I am not sure if we are joking….

For me, camping is an escape from the reality of the stresses of the work week, deadlines, projects, etc, etc. Camping gives me that much needed break from every day life, even if it only lasts a weekend. It energizes me to get through the next week so that I can camp the following weekend! From a spiritual side of things, camping and embracing nature allows me to enjoy God’s creation and spend time with Him. Walking the trails, sitting on the benches next to the lake, and relaxing by the campfire give me that opportunity to experience God.

Amy and I started out with a tent. We loved tent camping with our dogs and they loved it too. After a few months of fall camping, we decided to buy a Rockwood (model 1980) pop up camper. We love our new camper and we have used it several times in the winter and this spring. As teachers, we are blessed to have the summer off so we have big plans to travel the country searching for more campgrounds and experiencing the peace of camping.

What does camping mean for you?