Posted by: GeekHiker | July 9, 2009


Mel Heth’s post a couple of days ago reminded me of a campfire many years back.

I was traveling solo on the North Coast, in the redwoods.  I’d stopped in Humboldt Redwoods State Park, staying in the campground there next to the Visitor Center.

I unloaded the Corolla, set up the tent, and went about making dinner.  After dinner, I went over to the campground entrance and picked up a bundle of firewood for a fire that night.

The wood was damp, but I had a lot of fire-starting materials with me, so I figured I’d be able to get it burning without too much trouble.  I headed back to camp, wet wood in tow.

The campground, I noted as I walked through, was pretty empty that night, being the off-season.  The nearest camper to me was another solo camper with his RV; he was already relaxing in front of a blazing evening fire he’d made using the same damp wood I’d just bought.

Back at camp, I stacked some pieces of the wet wood in the fire ring, placing some dry kindling and starter material under it.  I struck a match, enjoyed for a moment the bright light and pleasant flames of my starter material burning… until it fizzled out a few seconds later.

Nothing of the wet wood caught.

I tried again.  Same result.

I continued, again and again, trying to get the fire lit.  My results were little more than some small, pathetic flames that never lasted over a minute.

Meanwhile, my neighbor’s blaze kept going strong.  Mocking me.

After 45 minutes I was starting to get frustrated.  I was starting to think it just wasn’t worth the trouble to try to get this soaked wood lit into a fire.

I was bending over for one more try when I heard a loud roar.  “What the hell?” I thought.

I looked over at my neighbor.  Apparently his fire had started to die down.

So he had put some more wood on it.

And stoked the embers.

With a bloody flamethrower.

Attached to a fracking propane tank.

I looked down at the sad little flame in front of me, the end result of nearly an hour’s worth of effort.

It flickered pathetically for a second and winked out, leaving only a couple of smoldering, glowing, hissing embers behind.

I decided it was time to go to bed.



  1. It was cheatin’ — just strategizin’! LOL

  2. Doh! I meant to say: it WASN’T cheatin’

    Yes, it’s time for ME to go to bed!

  3. I drive a Crapolla too! 2001 LE. I went “high end” *snort* because I wanted the ABS brakes and full size spare. The brakes I use quite often but never (touch wood) had to use the spare. Next time take me with you and you can light my fire 😀 He he.

  4. Haha well my wood wasn’t wet – it was just thick and took awhile to light. Is it even possible to have a fire with wet wood? I don’t remember from my Girl Scout days…

  5. I don’t get it. Doesn’t everyone who camps carry a flamethrower?

  6. That is awesome. Who knew that a flame thrower was required camping material? And congrats on the persistence. That is impressive. I think I would have decided to go to bed long before that!

  7. Reminds me of when I worked on a fire crew. We spent an 18 hour shift putting out “hot spots” on the Gamboa fire near Big Sur.

    Miserable work, walking ankle deep in ash looking for what appear to be whiteflies hovering near a stump, rock or mound. These are jets of heat that cause small bits of ash to levitate. Dig up the smoldering roots, chop them to bits, douse them with a liter of water from the dribbling “piss pump” bladder you’re wearing on your back and then repeat.

    Around 10 PM the temperature dropped wildly to about 35 degrees. During the day it gets so hot you can’t wear more than a t-shirt under your lightweight Nomex trousers and fire jacket. So it was teeth-chattering cold.

    We decided to change strategy and no longer put out hot spots. The new plan was to put out *cold spots*. It helped that every member on the team was equipped with two liters of high-test to keep the guys with the chain saws supplied.

    Needless to say we didn’t mess around with a Boy Scout style fire-lay. Definitely liberated some carbon that night.

  8. Ha, this reminded me of Jeepgirl’s camping post about people who took along their entire backyard grill.

    Nothing like being out in the elements, truly facing nature, eh?

    • hehe…that reminds me of one camping trip where, at a nearby site, the females of the group stayed in the vehicle while the males set up a large tent. The females then darted from car to tent. Next morning the process was repeated, in reverse. Seriously, they didn’t even emerge for ritual food cooking or an exploratory trek to restroom facilities.

  9. I was just talking about something like this the other day. When I would go camping in TX with my ex and his buddies, starting a fire meant dousing the pyre with kerosene. Morons.

  10. K – Yeah, he did plan ahead, I suppose…

    K – LOL

    Ms Behaviour – The old Corolla was an 88, and lasted quite a long time before I got the truck. And: *snicker*

    Mel Heth – You can if you can get it hot enough. The moisture evaporates from the wood and it burns. Most times, though, you just end up with a really smoky fire

    Homer-Dog – Maybe I’m the outsider?

    Aly – Been trying to figure out where to get one of those fancy flame-throwers now…

    Phil – Cool story, thanks for sharing!

    Spleeness – I’ve been tempted, make a good steak…

    Marie – If I were a guy in the tent and the girls came in, I probably wouldn’t be complaining 😉

    Dingo – LOL, maybe that’s Texas-style?

  11. i don’t know if cheater is the right word, though what do i know about camping. maybe there are some unwritten rules that one ought to follow. or maybe you could have borrowed his blow torch…just the one time.

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