Saturday, February 9, 2008

Big Sur or How to Start a Campfire Using Only Your Car

At the end of May of 2005, after graduating from Berkeley, I decided to load my camping gear and a few discarded pallets into the back of my 1990 Forest Service green Jeep Cherokee and take the coast highway down from San Francisco to Los Angeles, where I would be working as a teacher.

Image: The Pacific Ocean near Big Sur, CA is a turquoise rivaled only in the tropics

The plan was to stop over for a day or two at Big Sur, CA. It would be a much needed chance to camp, hike, and unwind after a particularly gruelling two weeks of finals, culminating in my senior thesis—a complex essay on Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene.

I found a place to camp about 20 miles south of Big Sur in a Forest Service campground. In order to camp in Big Sur, you must have a reservation, but, in contrast to the packed Big Sur campgrounds, the Forest Service campground was empty. This suited me just fine.

After setting up camp, I hiked some lovely rocky mountains with views of the Pacific. I descended to my campsite just as the sun was setting. When I got back to my campsite, I realized I had a pretty big problem. I had forgotten to bring water, and the campground (like many out-of-the-way sites) had no running water.

Image: The Last Photo of the Day. A stark sunset in the mountains above my campsite. (Near Big Sur, CA)

I was thirsty, and wanted to drink something right away, but I had no choice but to wait till I could boil some water from the creek that ran past the campsite. I unloaded my pallets and was faced with the awful truth: I had forgotten matches. My entire plan depended upon my campfire. I would need to boil water to drink and cook my food over the fire. There were no stores and no other campers.

That’s when, in an act of desperation, I decided to try the electric, popup, cigarette lighter in the dashboard. If it can light a cigarette, surely it can light a campfire. Two hours later, after making countless trips from my car to my campfire holding a wad of toilet paper with a few precious embers, I finally succeeded. From then on, I’ve always carried a lighter in my glove box.

Camping Necessities

  • A lighter, matches, or both
  • At least a gallon of water per person
  • Toilet paper (doubles as kindling)

Image: Success! At the end of a long day, there are few things as satisfying as cooking a meal over an open fire. I typically build a campfire, and, when it has burned down a little, I place my trusty cast-iron skillet directly on the coals. It works quite well.

3 comments:

  1. mchislock@fs.fed.us16 February, 2008

    Google sent me your blog.

    I enjoyed reading your travels. If by any chance you decide to schedule an adventure to the Sequoia National Forest, Giant Sequoia National Monument, and would like to describe your trip, I would be happy to post a photo journal of your visit. I would even give you photo credits. I like your photography, and writing style. Keep up the great work!

    In July, we celebrate our Centennial - 100 years of stewarship conservation. Visit our webpage to schedule your next outdoor adventure! http://www.fs.fed.us/r5/sequoia/

    Looking forward to hearing about your next journey!

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  2. Nice blog Ben, have subscribed to keep up with your trips

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  3. Last night I just took a picture of the moon while I was walking home. I still haven't checked how it did. Have to get it from my mobile phone. It was around 8pm, which probably has not arrived there yet at this time of writing. :) It's most likely just about 6pm there now.

    C5 at http://globalrecycledproducts.com

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