What is it about a campfire? When it’s a good one, I could sit around it for hours. If it’s a “bad” one I’ll be there even longer, fighting to get it started, and laboring tirelessly to keep it going, getting smoke in my eyes every time the wind shifts in my direction. It’s a treat when I’m not alone in this task.
The fire brings a group of adults together; some of them have known each other for more than a decade, while others are meeting for the first time, on their first camping trip together. They sit in a sloppy circle, on mini-camping chairs, logs, and the edge of picnic tables that have been dragged just close enough to the fire. The conversation flows from simplistic to comical to philosophical.
Something is keeping the group close together; it’s a need for warmth, after a long day on two wheels, but this fire is also filling a need for connection, however temporary. There’s a chance some of these campers will never meet around the same campfire again, and that’s okay. They can still swap stories, recount the experiences of the day, and breathe a collective sigh, full of contentment.
The longing to be outdoors is brought under control by the tree branches overhead, and the creek that runs along the campsite, twisting and burbling. The fire burns in the center of the group. It needs to be tended from time to time, and there’s always someone to toss on another log, stoke the flames, or let you know when there’s white ash collecting in your hair.
I love the smell of the campfire, especially the next morning, when it’s in my hair and on my clothes, and apparently planning on coming home with me, as a reminder of time well spent.
Drinks are shared – beer and wine are poured into metal camp mugs, and a flask is passed around the circle. There are marshmallows for s’mores, bags of trail mix, and someone is cooking ramen noodles over a PocketRocket2 camp stove, which was folded up and tucked away in a rather small bag.
It won’t be a late night, because it was an early morning, and there’s likely to be another early morning ahead. Good intentions of sleeping in are typically thwarted by small birds chirping at sunrise, the “knock, knock, knock” of a woodpecker, or the hushed whispers of the first two campers to crawl out of tents.
We’ll be sleeping on the ground, in 1 and 2-man tents and pyramid tarps, as camping ought to be done. We rode our bikes 45 miles to get here, so every effort was made to keep the weight of the equipment to a minimum. As tents were being set up there was a lot of comparison between riders, and discussion of strategies to keep gear weight down and comfort level up.
It was discovered that one air mattress was missing, which meant one chivalrous cyclist would be sleeping on nothing but his sleeping bag and the tent floor. It would be a cold, wet, lumpy arrangement; this is spring in Ohio, not summer in Arizona.
Preparing for this adventure, I learned about S24O. That’s Sub-24 Hour Bikepacking, shorter overnight routes that don’t require taking time off work, and make fewer demands on what needs to be brought along. Perhaps I’ll attempt that next, but I likely won’t ride 45 miles to get there.
“The theory behind the S240 – or Sub-24 hour Overnighter – is that some of the best escapes are in your own backyard. Especially when these local adventures are enjoyed on ‘school nights’. On the whole, these routes aim to propel you relatively quickly to a sublime camspot, leaving only an easy ride back in the morning before work. Here’s our growing list of overnight rides that will help keep you sane.” (Bikepacking.com)
The next morning another fire is built, and leftover slices of cheese and peperoni pizza are skewered on the charred wooden sticks that were used for marshmallows the night before. It’s a primitive attempt at reheating, and it works well. Wait. . . why was there cold, leftover pizza at a camp ground? Well, Lazy River Campground delivers to your campsite, via golf cart. I didn’t mean to imply that we were “roughing it.”
On these shorter bikecamping trips, is it okay if you forget something? Well, it truly depends on what gets left behind. Ask the guy who slept without an air mattress, only to discover later that I had overlooked it, at the bottom of a borrowed pannier, under the rolled up pair of jeans that I’d brought along, and which never came out the bag.
Is it a royal pain the butt, packing up all of your gear, searching for ways to make it all fit onto the frame of your bike, spending money you didn’t plan to spend on new equipment that might be a little lighter or smaller, all just for one night of camping? Perhaps. This defines the “weekend warrior,” who is back in the office come Monday morning, shuffling papers to earn a paycheck, to support this bikecamping habit.
But is it worth it? The Bear Bones Bikepacking article “Bikepacking. . . Just Say No” is dripping with sarcasm. . .
“Life’s too short, the pain too real and the sacrifices just too great. Contrary to what the glossy adverts and articles would have you believe, becoming a bikepacker will negatively impact every facet of your life … it’s a high price to pay.” (Bear Bones Bikepacking)
It’s worth it, and I can’t wait to do it again!
Join me on my next adventure,
Lazy River Campground: https://lazyriveratgranville.com/