The Campfire (and 5 great places to have one)

The waterfalls, the mountaintop views, the wildflowers blooming in spring, the trees changing color in fall — all things I love about hiking and backpacking. But what I think I love most — and have missed the most in the past year — is gathering around a campfire at day’s end and simply talking. Talking about who’s having what for dinner, about past trips together, about the simple things … about then Seinfeldian nature of life. The Vicious Circle had their Algonquin Roundtable, campers have their campfire.

Non-campers believe the purpose of the campfire is to keep warm, maybe cook food. But backpackers know otherwise. Yes, a good fire helps us stay awake past 6 o’clock on a winter trip. But it’s also the nexus of conversation, of talk about anything, and everything, and nothing.

This week on the GetHiking! Southeast Podcast we share snippets of conversation from ’round the campfire from a recent weekend trip to the Wilson Creek area of North Carolina’s Pisgah National Forest. Even if you have no idea what’s being discussed, if you’re a camper, the conversation will sound familiar.

Check out the podcast here.

And while great campfire discussion can happen just about anywhere, here are the five sites we’ve found most conducive to a good fireside chat.

  1. Hunt-fish Falls

    Hunt-fish Falls 

Primitive site (1.4-mile hike in)

Wilson Creek area of the Pisgah National Forest

Mortimer, NC

The site where our podcast conversation took place, but the site of many great conversations before it. Located in a narrow valley along Little Lost Cove Creek, there’s an intimacy here that encourages folks to let their guard down.

More info here.

2. Standing Indian Group Campground

Standing Indian

Drive-up, Site B

Standing Indian Recreation Area, Nantahala National Forest

Franklin, NC

At 3,000 feet, the nights are cool even in the dead of summer at this campsite along chatty Kimsey Creek. An ample stone fire ring accommodates a sizable fire with seasoned wood available at the campsite.

More info here.

3. Little Long Mountain

Primitive (0.8-mile hike in)

Uwharrie National Forest

Asheboro, NC

Who would guess that one of the best campfire sunsets (and sunrises, if you’re so inclined) to be had is in the Piedmont? Actually, in the Uwharrie Mountains, a relic mountain chain rising more than 1,000 feet in an area where elevations much above 400 feet are rare. The fire pit has a sweeping 180-degree view, from east to south to west (pictured at top).

More info here.

4. Dogwood Camp

backcountry skills
Fire good, at Dogwood Camp

Primitive (0.75-mile hike in from NC 101)

Neusiok Trail, Croatan National Forest

Havelock, NC

There’s something bewitching about bering gathered around a campfire in a dense coastal forest. Who knows what lurks beyond the glow cast by your fire, the only clues offered by the chatter of a diverse (and unseen) animal world.

More info here.

5. Naked Ground

Primitive (4.4-mile hike in)

Joyce Kilmer/Slickrock Wilderness, Nantahala National Forest

Robbinsville, NC

A campfire in a wilderness, especially at a campsite you had to work like the dickens to reach, holds a special allure. And in this wilderness, home to some of the oldest trees on the East Coast, the allure is downright primal. The farther from civilization, it seems, the more revealing the conversations.

More info here.

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