One of my favorite chores of childhood was collecting tinder and kindling for campfires. My brother and I used to scour the Adirondack forest floor for just the right mix of twigs, leaves, and sticks to start our blaze. As we got older, we learned more about how to assemble those materials and manage the fire itself, but I always loved the simple but profound task of gathering fuel.
So I was delighted last month when I had a chance to introduce my daughter to this rite of camping. We were on a late summer trip to Tully Lake, staying at a walk-in campground managed by The Trustees of Reservations. Wood was available for purchase and fire pits were already built at each site, so it wasn’t quite the backcountry experience of my own childhood, but then, the growing awareness of Leave No Trace principles has made backcountry campfires more rare.
My daughter, who will soon turn 3, suggested we use her beach pail to carry our kindling back to the fire pit. And quickly, she began to express opinions about what was appropriate to put in the pail: “Too big,” she told me, rejecting a stick I offered. Since I had just moments earlier taught her about choosing small twigs to help the fire start, I had to laugh. I haven’t yet explained how to build the fire itself, but I won’t be surprised if she has opinions on whether it should be in the shape of a tepee or a log cabin.
TIPS FOR SAFE CAMPFIRES
If you want to introduce your kids to campfires, remember to do so safely. Here are a few tips, adapted from Smokey Bear, mascot of the United States Forest Service. Check out Smokey’s website for more details.
Photo by Heather Stephenson.
Great Kids, Great Outdoors is an AMC Outdoors blog written by Heather Stephenson.