Put It Out

My home is on fire. Two days ago, a human caused forest fire started in the Columbia River Gorge, and it is has only grown bigger and stronger since then. Thousands of people have been forced out of their homes and the damage to historic areas and structures will be extensive. I have spent all morning seeing pictures and videos of places I found delight, joy and purpose go up in flames. In my head, I know that forest fires are a natural part of our ecosystem and that the Gorge will recover. But I hold a special place of disgust in my heart for human caused forest fires.

About four weeks ago I starting getting a lot of reservation cancelations. The air was filled with smoke from other massive fires throughout the state. Sunlight filtered red through the smokey air and turned the bright summer days into an eerily endless sunset. The temperature was regularly flirting with one hundred degrees, and the risk for starting a new forest fire was getting higher every day so we had implemented a burn ban.

Burn bans make logical sense. Minimize the amount of flame and sparks flying around and hopefully nothing gets dangerous. Try explaining that to a six year old (or a sixty year old!) who wants to roast a s’more. Every cancellation request I received was accompanied by the phrase, “Its just not camping without a campfire.” As someone who was never that good at building fires to begin with, I am astounded that people will pass up a camping trip just because they cant have a fire.

There are so many fun, not-on-fire options! Why not string up christmas lights, for example? Its a great way to use them more than once a year and besides, everyone on Instagram is doing it. I promise it will only make things more magical. You can even get really cute solar-powered paper lanterns that don’t need an outlet! Or better yet, lay back and stargaze. Stars shine brighter when there’s less light around to compete with them.

Most burn bans are implemented when the temperatures are high, so getting cold shouldn’t be an issue. Its easy to be prepared with a warm jacket, which you should always do anyway. Marshmallows cook the same over the relative safety of a camp stove’s flame. There’s no need to deprive yourselves of s’mores and you get a bonus chance to talk to any accompanying kids (or other folks) about being responsible with fire. 

What is camping without a campfire? Its the fun of sleeping in fresh air all night and waking to a world that is taken for granted in our everyday routines. Its spending time with people you love, or being alone, in places that matter to you. Food tastes better when you eat it outside and its a joy to have time to be still in a beautiful place. At the heart of anyone’s desire to camp is a love for being out in the natural world. If you love something, it is a simple request that you respect it enough to not to tempt its destruction.

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