I am a day late with this posting because time just got away from me this week. Well kind of, anyway. It was Spring break for our boys and they had asked to go backpacking out in the desert before it gets to hot. I took a couple days off from work and we headed out to Joshua Tree National Park to spend a night out under the moon and stars.
In most of the wilderness areas that I have traveled to, open campfires are not allowed. This is sad, but at the same time it makes some sense and it got me thinking about just what a campfire really means to me. I still use a simple map and compass to navigate off trail (I’m a relic according to my kids). When I can have an open fire on the trail, I keep it small, build a fire mound and then bury my ashes. This prevents the soil from being sterilized and it doesn’t scar the land as badly as an “open pit” type of campfire. Sadly, I think most people don’t have a clue. They carry a GPS (which I have nothing against except that batteries die), an ePRB (the modern version of 911 in the wilderness, and invaluable if you travel alone), cell phones, and off they go. Unfortunately all too often these things create a false sense of security (if you feel totally secure in the wilderness…. well you just shouldn’t) and people do dumb things. Wind blows, people start bonfires, and the next thing you know the whole wilderness is going up in smoke. Which brings me to …...
A tradition that I learned about as a Boy Scout leader - keeping an ash jar. Mine is just a non-descript pickle jar that I started when my kids were already about 10 years old. My memory was just a little more intact back then and so remembering all the campouts and campfires was just a little easier. (insert from wife: wow! Imagine what another four years might do to your memory!)
It works like this. Each campfire I have with either of my boys gets a sprinkle of the ashes in that jar. In the morning after it cools, I put a scoop back in. The jar remains full. I have a small journal that lists the where and when of it all and someday I’ll pass half of the jar to each of my boys to continue the tradition with their kids. They can figure out how to divide the journal. For those who know something about Boy Scouts, I was lucky enough to have shared a campfire with somebody who had ashes in their jar that had been passed around from a campfire that Lord Baden Powell (founder of the BSA) had attended. That’s the kind of neat connections that can be formed by keeping the jar. It’s a great idea for parents that love to camp, or grandparents too. Start the jar when they are young and just pass it along.