Road Flares & Ice

“I want to be the condensation on the glass. I want to be that phenomenon that takes place between hot and cold.” – Terrence Howard

Road Flares & Ice are both features of my camping experience.  Let me explain.

At the Overland Trailer production shop this past week, it is about 108 degrees (F) outside and inside with all of the machinery & activity combined with the need to wear long sleeves, protective gear, and boots, it is just plain HOT.  And it got me thinking about all of your summer adventurers who may be camping in the summer heat too.

Of course summer heat is part of what makes camping so great.  We look forward to beach days and evenings spent with iced tea and hot dogs.  Those are great memories.  However, at some point, the heat becomes too much and the fun melts out of the camping experience.  SO, I thought of that extreme heat and that led to extreme cold.  In this post.

Two Stories.  One Hot…One Cold.  Road Flares & Ice.

The Hot

As a grade school kid, I loved camping.  So did my other friends.  We’d go out as a group with our families, dogs, and bicycles and just have the time of our lives out in the woods.  Often our dads and moms would plan some challenges for us kids to complete.  Sometimes it was camp cookery (as you know from this blog, I still like that!), animal tracking, knot tying, and much more.

On one camp trip in the fall, us kids were asked to make a fire using only one match.  Into the woods we went in search of the best materials needed for making such a fire.  Light dry tender, kindling, fuzz sticks, and larger pieces of wood were inspected for moisture content and quality.  Then we assembled our fires.  From previous lessons, I had learned the different ways to make a fire and their uses.

I chose to make a council fire.  The council fire, sometimes called the pyramid, uses a gap under the materials for air flow and the tender and kindling.  Then all of the other wood is stacked perpendicular to the two bottom pieces making a pyramid shape.  This way, the material is exposed to flame right away and the fire doesn’t change shape as it burns.  So, I lit it with my precious match.

I don’t remember how many times we did this.  I know sometimes I had more luck with my match than others.  I do remember that this first time, it worked.  ALL of my planning had worked in my favor, as did mother nature.

About 10 years later, at Farragut state park, many of our families were camping together again.  The one match throwdown was proposed.  Us teens went into the woods looking for anything that was remotely dry.  It had been raining for a solid week before our camp trip and everything was wet.  My fire didn’t start with my one precious match.  However, I was driving by this point and knew that I had “alternative measures” in my truck.  I folded the passenger seat down and grabbed my secret weapon.

A Road Flare. Any fire is a one match fire if the match is a road flare.

I lit the flare and tossed it into the bottom of my fire.  The constant high heat eventually caught my pile of soggy limbs on fire and pretty soon, I had a nice ripping fire.  The dads came by to inspect it.  They complemented me on the size of my fire.  One of the dads looked into the fire and said “That is one really bright fire isn’t it?”.  I winced.  Did they know?  They said a few more things and then moved on to inspect the other fires.  I thought I had it in the bag.

Later, after I lost, one of the dads walked up to me and asked, “How many more road flares do you have?”.  We both had a good laugh.

I encourage you to hone your skills with the one match fire!  It is a good skill set.  Then if you get frustrated, you know what to do with your road flares!

The Cold

It was the end of July and a bunch of us high school boys planned an epic backpacking trip up into the rocky mountains.  It was a steep trip and started out in sweltering heat.  As we climbed higher over the 7 mile hike, the temperature quickly dropped.  By the time we got to the secluded mountain lake, it was nearly cold.  In fact, the lake had an iceberg floating in it.  We quickly set up our tents.

One of us had the bright idea to pack a watermelon to the top.  We’d done this before and there isn’t anything more tasty than a nice watermelon after a long stiff hike.  Of course we all had to agree to take turns packing the heavy melon in to the lake.  Once there, we were going to put it in the lake to cool it off but the air was so cold we just set it on the ground and crawled into our sleeping bags.

We had also discussed hanging the watermelon in a tree to keep it cool.  Recently, I asked a bunch of people about this method and few knew of it.  It’s an old camp craft trick.  Put your food into a dry bag.  Cover the bag with burlap or other natural fiber cloth.  Soak the cloth in water.  Then hang everything in a tree.  As the water evaporates, it pulls heat out of the food.  A great way to keep food, or in our case a melon, cool!

In the morning, there was 6″ of fresh snow.  None of us had packed for snow.  In the past, we’d hike in with skis and take full advantage of the snow but this time we had none of the gear.  Bummed out, we at our delicious watermelon.  Then someone mentioned watching a movie and we broke camp and left.

Sometimes our camp trips don’t turn out like we thought.  Snow in late July is certainly a show stopper.

You see, this is what I love about camping.  All of the environments we can put ourselves into.  The surprises of our new surroundings make us face new problems and think creatively for good solutions.

This is also what I like about teardrop camping.  Having to use a small space for everything forces me to determine what is really important and what I really need to accomplish the goals of my camp trip.  In building my own, there were lots of problems to be solved.  That was really satisfying.

Until next time!



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