Along The Trail 6-5-14

14

Editor’s Note: This is a column written by Switzerland County’s David Hewitt. The articles center on all things ‘outdoors’, from hunting and fishing to woodsmanship.

*

The night air is thick with the scent of honeysuckle.

A slight breeze with just a hint of a chill signals a perfect evening. Blue smoke wisps from the flames as the seasoned, straight grained ash pops and cracks, mixed in with some green hickory.

There’s something magical about the first campfire of the year. Hypnotizing, it casts a spell on all that sit around it’s warmth. Not a giant blazing bonfire roaring with heat and noise, but an intimate fire, one that hisses and snaps, one that beckons you close, one that draws you near.

Fire is a funny thing - wild and out of control, it’s a destroyer of property, homes and even lives. But contained, it’s a source of comfort, warmth and safety. A good fire is mesmerizing, relaxing. The flames lick in and out, taking on a life of their own. The coals breath white, orange and red underneath with each draft. The flames dance and with each crack of the burning wood, embers head skyward just like our dreams and thoughts.

I get lost in the flames, everyone’s face lit with the warm, orange and yellow glow. The campfire invites laughter and smiles, memories and reflection. In it’s trance, I think about past camping trips, long forgotten hikes, hunting trips from the long ago and good friends. The smell of the wood smoke takes me back to pup tents and canvas, thoughts of poison ivy rashes and mosquito bites and swimming holes, but all good memories.

Hot dogs and brats roast on the end of a stick with a sizzle, their aroma mixing with the other smells of the campsite. Comfortable conversation across the flames with friends and family and your special someone, all of us waiting to dig in. Marshmallows are roasted, more than a few of them sacrificed to the fire, but most find their way to be mated with graham crackers and a chocolate bar.

The evening gets later and the night grows darker. The heat rises and the leaves stir, stars spread out across the sky.

Relaxed now, stories are told.

The fire is poked and the flames prodded. We chat about today’s affairs, but mainly, the fire talk is about “remember when’s” and “back then”….

I find myself drifting off, not asleep, not tired but fixed on the fire, thinking about my past, where I am and how I got here. I think about my passions, my hobbies, likes and dislikes. I think about my family and my children. The flames take me to another place, a time machine of sorts. I wander about how many fires people have sat around. Sat around talking, laughing and living and thinking.

How many stories told, how many meals shared, how many hands held.

I look deep into the flames and then to the lovely lady next to me, her face framed in the fire’s glow, shadows dancing off the trees and a warmth hits me, not only from the burning fire but from deep inside myself. A warmth of contentment…and a smile crosses my face and I sink further into my chair and let the fire work its magic as the day melts away and I’m lost in my thoughts.

Maybe for you, it’s a shopping trip or a round of nine holes on the golf course. Maybe a long drive on a winding country road?

For me, there is nothing more relaxing, more soul cleansing than the sight, smell and feel of a quiet, refining campfire shared with the company of loved ones and those closest to us.

– David Hewitt