The campfire: the Algonquin Round Table of the Outdoors

We love a good campfire after a long day on the trail. We love it for the light, which extends the day into night (especially welcome when the sun sets at 5 p.m.). We love it for the heat, without which we would be forced into our bags all the earlier. We love it for its s’more-making potential.

Mostly, though, we love it for the stimulating conversation staring at flames tends to inspire. Around the water cooler at work it’s small talk about the day-to-day: cleaning the attic, taking the kids to practice, the leftovers you brought for lunch. Around the campfire, it gets downright philosophical, as these snippets from a backpack trip a couple weekends ago reveal:

* * *

“You can drink in a National Park.”

You can’t drink in a National Park.

“You can drink here.”

This isn’t a National Park. It’s a National Forest. You can do anything in a National Forest.

“No, you can drink in a National Park, but you can’t carry a gun. But you can carry a gun in a State Park, but you can’t drink.”

* * *

“It’s called ‘Beanboozled.’ You get two jelly beans. One’s, like, tutti fruitti. The other’s barf.”

And you have to guess which one you’ve got?

“No. You know.”

Then why would you eat it if you knew beforehand that it was barf?

“It’s a middle school thing. It’s funny. They think it’s funny.”

Does it mean I’m old if I don’t think it's funny?

Does it?

* * *

“I teach sixth grade science. So, I teach matter, geology, earth science. I’d really like to teach apes.”

Apes?

“Sorry, teacher jargon: Advance Placement Environmental Science.”

* * *

“My husband teaches, too. He teaches Latin.”

Latin?

“It’s making a resurgence.”

* * *

“Ramen noodles and packaged chicken: 30 cents and two eighty-nine!”

* * *

“I also dehydrated some, well, what would you call it? It was, I guess … well, I guess it was chili.”

That was a lot of thought and deliberation to come up with “chili”.

“Oh, and I dehydrated some hot and sour sauce, too. It came out like fruit leather.”

* * *

“My undergraduate degree? It was in partying. No, was it social work? I can’t remember. It wasn’t doing me any good. I had to move back home with my parents. After a while I had to do something to get out of the house, so I decided to get my RN.”

How old were you then?

“35.”

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