I was sitting on a park bench in our backyard,
staring into the lovely flames in the permanent
firepit we built many years ago. I had been
burning yard waste, a great deal of it the
results of a couple of bad windstorms. We lost
a tree in the last one, and our 'lawn guy' Teddy
came and cut it up for us. We saved the big stuff
for the fireplace, but that left a lot of limbs
to be disposed of.
So along with the other waste from winter the
fire pit was piled high and was dubbed
the 'muskrat house.' It actually looked like
one...well minus the fact it wasn't sitting
in water. Rain is forecast for the next week
so my husband, Castwell, decided we should burn
it while we had the chance.
I've been appointed the 'official' fire builder
in our house, so in the best Girl Scout manner
I touched the fire off and once I had fed on
the last of the limbs I sat with a cup of coffee
on the bench and enjoyed my work.
I watched the fire, mesmerized by the flames and
patterns in the glowing coals. I thought of the
hundreds of campfires over the years. Different
places, most on rivers, with attendees ranging
from our oldest friends to new folks we just met at
Fish-Ins. I suppose those of us who love the
outdoors have a particular love for campfires
and the comradeship which seems to go naturally
with them. While we have a fireplace in the house,
and I love it, it isn't the same as being outdoors
with a proper fire. A proper fire doesn't burn
one side and freeze the other - it warms all the
Every weekend for two years or so we camped at
Keystone Landing on the Mainstream of the Ausable
River in Michigan during the trout season. We
had a pop-up camper, and it was perfect for that
region. After the evenings fishing and dinner a
group of friends gathered around a campfire,
usually between Castwell and Neils campers. The
group varied, but there were 'house rules' which
everyone adhered to. You could talk about anything
except your job.
When you think about it, our circle of friends is
quite often limited. I read a survey a while back
which stated 75% of our friends are associated
with our work. So being forced to discuss
things not work related did allow people to
think outside a square box and exercise the
other side of their brains. We had some
wonderful discussions, and great humor.
The fishing on the Mainstream was predictable,
most of our friends knew what insects were
hatching when, and since Castwell and Neil
had studied the local insects extensively,
there weren't a lot of surprises. We had
favorite hatches of course - most who have
fished much do - and there were not a lot of
large trout caught, with the exception of night
fishing during the Hex hatch.
We also had to contend with the 'aluminum hatch'
- worse on weekends, but hundreds of canoes
coming downstream from the canoe liveries in
Grayling. Some canoes were manned by people
who actually knew what they were doing, and
they avoided running into fishermen, but more
often it was kids or adults who had far too
much to drink and should not have been in a
canoe under any circumstances. Occasionally
it would be a supervised group, like Boy or
Girls Scouts and that was fun to see. I had
been a Girl Scout leader for many years, and
it was somehow encouraging to see other leaders
make the commitment to teach kids some outdoor
skills. I have no idea if the number of Scouts
is up or down these days, but somehow I suspect
it is down. I hope I'm wrong, but our society
has changed so much we seem to be losing things
which I still feel are important to pass on.
The campground at Keystone Landing has been moved
back away from the river, and you can't camp and
almost fish off your front door any more. I'm
sure it was done to protect the stream bank, but
I did note the last time we were there it was still
a 'landing' for canoe pick-up, so perhaps that
presented a conflict with the campers.
We had also camped at Canoe Harbor on the Mason
Tract, and that campground has also been moved
away from the river (the South Branch of the
Ausable) - so it appears there was an organized
move to relocate the campgrounds. That was also
a canoe pickup place.
It was lovely while it lasted - falling asleep
to the sounds of the river outside your camp was
such a nice thing. Hard to duplicate. But we
have tried, we have one of those 'sound machines'
in our bedroom which replicates the sound of a
mountain stream, frogs, rainstorm and the ocean
on the shore.
Staring into the fire reminded me of so many
places and people. A nice little mental trip.
It didn't hit me until the next day, I really
was playing 'let's pretend.' Just getting
away from my normal work and chores. No fishing
here at the moment. A month from right now we
will be somewhere around Ephrata, Washington at
the Central Washington Fish-In. I'm sure there
will be a campfire at the Oasis Campground,
somewhere around wherever "Z" and Cary are camped.
It was nearly dark before I gave up on my bonfire
and came inside. I was tired from hauling the
branches and piling stuff, but over all, much
less frustrated. In fact, even recharged. Of
course if you've been out fishing you probably
don't understand. ~ DLB
If you would like to comment on this or any other article please feel free to
post your views on the FAOL Bulletin Board!