HERE COMES CAMPFIRE SEASON
A few more words about structuring a campfire
It is almost camping and wiener roasting season again and that means campfires. It is hard to find a camper who does not love campfires. I say ‘almost’ because I know a woman who cannot handle the smoke and had a man once tell me that I was polluting “his air.” I can only hope he did not try to take any of “his trees” home with him.
I heard about a guy who wanted to bring a little bit of nature into his house, so while camping he dug up a small oak which he judged as being barely sprouted and took it home. After planting it lovingly in a redwood pot full of the finest potting soil and placing it in the bay window where it would get plenty of sun he sat back waiting for it to take hold and start growing. A little later that day his neighbor came to visit and asked why in the world he was growing poison oak in his window box. I wonder where he started itching first.
If you read my previous article about campfires you know it was concerned with lighting the fire. This time I want to show you how to construct specific types of campfires. There are three types of campfires every camper should know about: 1) Heat 2) Light 3) Cooking.
The campfire for heat. This is a low, wide fire, typically a ‘log cabin’ fire. It is constructed by placing logs atop each other at 90 degree angles, creating a box-like structure much in the way a log cabin is built, but with air space between each layer. It will burn hottest and longest with hardwood (broad leaf tree) logs which will collapse into center creating a wonderful coal bed for cooking.
The campfire for light. This is a higher, more narrow fire. The tepee configuration is a classic and most useful for lighting the campsite. Flames follow the shape of the structure. In this case the flames will stream upward like a torch.
The campfire for cooking. Any campfire will eventually collapse into a bed of coals for cooking, but if the only purpose for the fire is cooking you may not want to wait that long. Also, during the day you do not need light and if the weather is warm you do not need heat. For this purpose build a fire simply by placing small logs on burning kindling (gently so to not scatter embers or smother the flame) in a crosswise fashion and let them become charcoal embers. When a breeze threatens to interfere dig a small trench in which to build the fire. This is also good for placing a portable cooking grate over the embers.
A really good design for an all around campfire which will give you heat and light while waiting for a good bed of cooking embers to develop is the chimney design. Start out as you would to build a log cabin fire but place each layer of logs a little closer to the center creating a smaller center opening at the top.
A word about safety. Use common sense. If you do not have any, just stay out of the woods altogether.