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  • Text and Photos by Jeremy Marley

Tales, Trails and Fails: Misadventures in Wilderness

Updated: Dec 16, 2020

ATV's were everywhere, music playing in campsites where I was based, I've been in this situation before, and I know just what to do. I loaded my backpack with the bare essentials, sleeping bag,

pad, warm base layer, the French press loaded with fresh coffee. (priorities), a pot to boil water, pot for myself and my little backpack stove. I've already eaten dinner in base camp, I'm just gonna walk about 20 minutes away to the viewpoint I discovered earlier, close yet miles away from the lazy ATV'ers who only go where the road goes (lucky for me) sleep, wake and bake with my Santa Cruz Roaster coffee and enjoy the quiet peaceful morning.


I get to the camp spot, set up and realize I forgot one essential thing, fuel for my stove. I have about 30 minutes before dark, so I could walk back to camp, get and return, but I would miss the beautiful sunset time. I realize in the time it would take me to get the fuel, I can just gather enough wood for a small fire to boil water in the morning, and do so while enjoying the sunset.


Now, I'm not one for campfires, I don't need smores and I usually prefer to hike around at night, and when solo I can't do that with a fire. NEVER LEAVE FIRE unattended. But, I do like to know that I can still build one, so I make my little piles of duff, tender, kindling, and fuel and went to sleep. That's the key, btw, collecting enough of the the small stuff, and start with a tiny fire, then build it up. Ever see those idiots trying to take a match to a log? Yea, doesn't work.


I impressed even myself as I awoke and built this little morning glow of warm. I gathered rocks to make a deep well, they hold in the heat like an over and the water boils faster, also less likely for any wind to blow embers around. It wasn't windy, I should add, if its windy, DON'T BUILD A FIRE, ever. One match (ok 2) and my water was boiling in about 5 minutes, I was left with a "friendly fire" as Edward Abby, describes, to 'keep me company' as the sun rose, sipping my fresh French pressed coffee, the first of many such mornings to come, in this year of Covid-19 inspired wilderness journeys. --Happy Trails


Note: Have a fire permit and always check regulations before building a fire. If it's not cold, ask yourself, do you really need it? Are you prepared for the responsibly? If you do build it, build it small, keep water near by, never leave it unattended, and make sure its out when you leave.

CLUE: If you can't comfortably place your hands on the ashes, its not out!


Photo by Envirocation: Overlooking Bowman Lake, Tahoe National Forest, California.

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