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The Thing Is, I Try and I Learn

This was what I said to my boyfriend after he commented on the utter mess I was –covered in soot and smoke. Typically, we have unspoken roles during our morning routine. For example, I always get out of bed first and drink warm water (an “Eastern” practice that’s supposed to be great for digestive health) and bring him a cup in bed. I make the coffee and do my email correspondence. He will, at some point, venture out into the kitchen and start a fire in the wood stove–bottom line, he’s very good at it and there’s always a roaring fire within minutes. So yesterday when it was pretty chilly, I decided I was going to take matters into my own hands.

Let’s be clear, I’m not a great fire-maker. Sure, as a kid I joined the Brownies, Blue Birds and eventually graduated to the Girl Scouts. I can’t speak for all charters, but we spent most of our time doing arts and crafts, and selling a fair amount of cookies or whatever the current pyramid scheme was at that time, to fundraise for “said” group. While I don’t spend a whole lot of time crafting these days, give me a hot glue gun, some glitter and a Bedazzler, and I’m your girl, to add sparkle to any accoutrement!! I digress… The point is, what I’ve learned about starting fires and “survival” in the outdoors has mostly been picked up from now, years of river trips. I don’t get “grossed out” by groovers…we all poop…and dirt is Mama Earth as far as I’m concerned. I’m fine with river showers (aka skinny dipping in butt-ass cold water). In fact, I actually love it.

Was my comfort in the outdoors always the case? Nope. If you’ve followed this blog from day one, you know that I was raised by two parents who’d moved out to Oregon from inner city Chicago. They both loved the outdoors but hadn’t truly spent any time in wilderness. With that said, I learned how to manage my shit–literally and figuratively, along the way. My “education” really began with an ex-boyfriend who got me into camping. Not RV camping. Not cabins (although we stayed in those too). Not Glamping but…well, ok, CAR camping. In the sense that, save three or four experiences of hiking miles in, we had the ability to bring our gear in a car.

Later, I learned the art of multi-day river trips which, if you’ve rafted is really just glorified car camping. I’m not exaggerating AT ALL when I say we brought an entire large-sized Bills Bag for our pillows alone, when we paddled the Middle Fork of the Salmon. Because why not? You’ve got this huge tub, for lack of a better word, that thrives on (some) weight. I’ve compared our raft, in some cases, to the last scene of the Grinch, when he’s got all the gifts and right before his heart grows three times bigger! Again, I digress…

My point is this: none of this stuff is actually rocket science. It’s a matter of having experiences, observing, asking questions and DOING. Repetition helps. I’m not talking about mountaineering, or self-supported whitewater paddling or climbing etc. There definitely IS a learning curve with these sports, that takes skill and dedication. I’m talking about learning how to “leave no trace”, “know before you go” and, well building a frickin’ fire! These are all good skills to learn and know.

For the record, this morning I tried again (and miserably failed) to start the fire which was frustrating, because after a lot of time and determination I got a great fire going the day before. Sam asked “do you want me to show you how?” to which I answered YES!! And now, I think tomorrow is going to go a lot better.

Thanks for listening…see ya out there on the frisky ripples!

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