Something about a campfire, in Arches National Park

Campfire in Arches National Park, by John Dale, photographer, 2013

Photographer John Dale wrote: “We rolled in to Arches National Park to a beautiful sunset and got to our campsite just as it got dark, but that left us with a clear sky, plenty of stars, and a fire to warm up next to. Here’s a photo from the timelapse I took that night.”

From a photographer named John Dale, via Arches National Park’s Facebook page.


Map of Arches National Park, Utah, United Stat...

Map of Arches National Park, Utah, United States showing predominant features such as arches, peaks, rivers and streams, mines, and roads. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

7 Responses to Something about a campfire, in Arches National Park

  1. […] Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub: Something About A Campfire In Arches National Park […]


  2. Ed Darrell says:

    I never was a Scoutmaster — Cubmaster once, but not Scoutmaster. Those guys have a lot more patience than I do.


  3. […] ++ Something about a campfire, in Arches National Park […]


  4. Jude says:

    Your response reveals why you were probably an amazing scoutmaster, which I accept in spite of the fact that we could never agree on campfires. I haven’t group camped that much, although at one cub scout camp my sons were proud of me because ours was the only dry tent after a downpour (and I was the only single mother). When my sons and I went camping when they were kids, the camaraderie took place in the tent, where we read and told stories and sang. A vegetarian doesn’t need a campfire for cooking. :)


  5. Ed Darrell says:

    Jude, I think campfires are learning and social occasions. I’m not one for unnecessary campfires, and I share completely your dislike of lugging wood to an isolated spot to burn it. The demise of the Yosemite NP “firefall” is not to be lamented much (we have photos; there are more spectacular natural “firefalls” in Yosemite, not to mention parks with active volcanoes).

    But, still, there is something about a campfire.

    First, kids like to “play” with fire, poke sticks in, shuffle the coals, see what it takes to get a particular kind of stick to burn. These curiosities deserve to be explored, I think, especially in the relative safety of a campfire built in a safe fire pit with due concern given to local fire hazards (we’ve been under an open fire burn at the Scout camp three miles from here for most of the last decade). My experience is that boy or girl who has been put in charge of getting the coals ready from wood — not charcoal, which is a different teaching moment — and who has witnessed fires do things they did not expect, and who has felt the warmer glow of the coals suitable for Dutch oven wizardry, and who has mastered the art of golden marshmallows in a true, self-made s’more, is a kid who will not play with fire in hazardous conditions. We’re coming on the season where we start to see house fires started by kids old enough to know better, but who don’t, by playing with fires, or just candles; we come on the season where whole families are made ill, or killed, by unsafe use of charcoal in keeping an apartment or house warm. Rarely will you see that happen in a household where people are experienced at camping, and experienced in firebuilding and fire care.

    You don’t need to sit under Delicate Arch with a bonfire to learn that — and if you know fire safety and good use of fire, Delicate Arch is among the last places on Earth you’d ever put a fire.

    Second, a campfire is, above all else, a social gathering, done right. It’s a meeting place for generations, it’s a meeting place for friends, it’s a meeting place where strangers become friends, where enemies can become friends. S’mores, again. And hotdogs — every kid should have the experience of trying to heat a hotdog on a stick; I think every kid should lose a hotdog in a fire, at least once.

    Among my fondest memories was a course we used to teach at Conservation Training Camp in the Utah National Parks Council, in utensil-less cooking at a campfire. Digging the pit, building the fire, putting the potatoes in, covering them up; building the fire, putting on the unhusked corn (and onions — onions that slice like butter when cooked this way), covering them up; building the fire, getting the coals just right, and cooking a perfect steak on bare coals, no grill . . . it’s an art.

    Our kids got that, in YMCA Guides, in Scouting, and family camping. Some of the best and longest-lasting friendships I have, that literally span the globe, came together and were cemented over campfires.

    Smoke? Well, don’t we learn that better combustion makes less smoke? Don’t we learn where to put the fire so it’s safe, and so the smoke doesn’t blow on everyone all the time — so those sensitive to it can get out of the smoke, enjoy the heat, use the camaraderie?

    A couple years ago we got a portable fire pit from L. L. Bean; this being Texas, it’s rare to get a night cold enough, in a period when it’s wet enough to be safe, to have fires — but they sure are great. We’ve learned to keep some graham crackers, marshmallows and milk chocolate hidden away just for such occasions, especially when the boys are home.

    A campfire isn’t the thing to have on top of Mt. Timpanogos — if you’re there and it’s time for a fire, you want a good WhisperJet (and don’t even try to boil an egg at that elevation); some of the best foot trails, down through the Subway in Zion, or to the Wave at Paria Canyon, or along the Continental Divide, or Pacific Trail, or Appalachian Trail . . . not good places for campfires. Don’t build them there.

    But when your trek crew meets up with the other trek crew at Philmont? When your canoe-and-portage tour of the Saranac Lakes ends, when it’s Friday night at Camp Rising Sun-Red Hook . . . well, you get the idea. It’s not the fire, it’s the people.

    (And the dogs; I added the photo you linked to, to your comment. Great shot.)


  6. Jude says:

    Pretty photo, but I’ve never enjoyed campfires, so I’ve never built one in all the years I’ve stayed at Arches. I did build one in the back yard once so I could show my sons how to make a SAFE campfire. They’re fun to build, but the smoke? No thanks. And hauling wood into Arches? Even when I camp in the mountains near my home, I don’t have a campfire. It seems somehow cruel to light a fire on a mountain that hasn’t received enough rainfall for over a decade. Fire = forest fire in my mind, because every summer climate change seems to bring more fires. Besides, although I could carry firewood or gather wood in the mountains near my home, for me the true joy in camping is minimalism. I don’t haul a stove along with me–I purchase and prepare stuff that doesn’t have to be cooked, because I want to minimize the amount of time I spend cooking and cleaning and instead enjoy being outside. Similarly, I can’t imagine camping in a vehicle–for me, it has to be a tent. A thin tent wall doesn’t protect one from much except rain and mosquitoes. When my daughter was 4 years old (she’s now 32), we camped at Arches during a thunderstorm, with lightning striking nearby. It was terrifying but I’ll always remember our conversation (about God, in part) and those 30 minutes of terror. Even when you minimize camping chores, it still takes time to set up and strike a tent and pack supplies, but I figure it saves me over an hour on either end of the day to go naked–campfire free–not hauling wood into Arches, where campfires make a pretty glow, but really don’t belong. When I strike my tent and pack it up, there’s no evidence left behind that I was ever there, and to me, that’s the best way to camp.

    Evey looking out the tent window - Jude Crook photo


Please play nice in the Bathtub -- splash no soap in anyone's eyes. While your e-mail will not show with comments, note that it is our policy not to allow false e-mail addresses. Comments with non-working e-mail addresses may be deleted.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: