On Friday evening, I arrived in Kutztown. 30 minutes later Stephen got home from the farm. And 2 hours after that we were off to Kempton to go camping for the night with 2 of his friends.
His buddy Sam has some family land out in the country with a private little campgrounds they’ve carved out in a semi-clearing. The view is stunning, as you round hills of farmland and forest, then take a hidden left up a dirt road. The path cannot be navigated by mere sedans, thus the enormous truck. The path climbs upward, so close to the corn you nearly brush into it, then dips down the back and out of sight around the edge of the woods before disappearing into the trees. If you’re lucky, you’ll come across a family of deer with a couple of fawns so young they still have their spots. And you’ll wait patiently for them to gather their wits and hop clumsily into the next field.
The first thing you always do when setting up a campsite at night, as I’m told, is start the fire. Stephen & Chris gathered tinder & kindling and Sam found some dead pine needles to use as starter and the guys went to work building the fire. Next, the tents went up quickly and we unpacked our stuff, including food & beer & s’mores provisions.
I’ve always admired the wilderness knowledge and skillfulness that Stephen & many of his friends possess. They never cease to leave me smiling with their ingenuity and resolve. They tie impeccable knots for any purpose and sleep atop rocks & roots without pillows (what?!). But of all their various skills and tricks, I love to watch them build fires. Eagle Scouts build impressive fires. Most of the time (I won’t go into the “log cabin” incident). In no time they can construct blazing fires from even damp branches & leaves. And when they have the foundation set Stephen breathes life into the fire, fanning the flames with oxygen. Last time we camped in this spot, there was a steady rain & the guys still managed to build a fire strong enough to blaze all night… and melt the glass bottles they tossed into it. As well as the bottoms of their boots, whilst they rested freezing feet a little too close to the flames. They also devised an overhang, tying a tarp between 3 trees so we could sit next to the fire without getting drenched. And there we sat, all night long – talking, laughing, and reminiscing – dry & warm.
Look at that beard.