Archives for posts with tag: Coffee

I love fire. Not in the pyromaniac sense, but in the appreciation for how valuable fire is to this earth’s existence. Fire has played a role in shaping our landscape and society since the beginning of time. Today, in our modern, post-industrialized society we actually take fire for granted. In fact, some members of our species have abused fire.

My first encounter with an actual fire was when I was about 4 years old. Our family would head into the woods on camping trips. I remember my dad, joking around, telling me and my 2 y.o. brother he was going to show me the best way to start a fire. He carefully built this mound of wood, then poured something on top. Then he threw a match and WHOOOSH!!!

I was standing a bit close and it scared me. I have no idea how my brother reacted, but somehow I could tell that my mother wasn’t impressed. The opposite, actually.

I often wonder if my respect for fire began that evening when the smell of fossil fuel immediately combusting became ingrained in my brain. Despite that explosive moment, my father really was a decent outdoorsman and taught us to be vigilant when it came to campfires. Over the years we’d go into the forests and he’d show us how to build the proper base, then gradually add larger and larger pieces of wood until you had a sustainable flame.

Then, the family moved to Colorado. My dad met a commercial hunting outfitter and took on as a lead guide. My mom helped out as the camp cook. Some of the greatest meals I’ve ever had were in those camps. But that’s another story.

My dad was always a very early riser…so am I, come to think of it. Sleeping in was an opulent luxury and when enjoyed, meant sleeping until 8 or 9a.m. Anyway, hunting camps get very early starts, like 6am or earlier. My dad would always get up before the other hunters, stir my brother or I, and we’d make a fire. The paying hunters would always start to come alive as the big, military GP tent would start to get toasty. My mom had coffee and breakfast ready too.

Today, I love fire for myriad reasons. I love to cook over an open flame and coals. There really is a nuance to it, you don’t just stick a piece of meat over a roaring flame, and you have to pay attention to what kind of fuel you’re using. Pine wood is horrible for grilling because it’s so damned pitchy. Your food will taste like pine-char.

I also love fire because of what it has meant to the human race. I saw this movie when I was a kid, called Quest for Fire. It was the story of this population of prehistoric humans (why are they prehistoric; like there was no history for them?) and how hard they worked to collect and protect the ability to make a fire. There was this one scene where the guy tasked with carrying and caring for the ember fell into the water. The ember died, and you could see the absoluteness of the situation in the faces of those affected.

Camping is almost synonymous with campfire. It’s one of the most important thing to some campers. I’ve met more than one person who’s evening would have been ruined if we couldn’t have a fire to sit around.

When I sit around a fire with friends, I’m always struck by the depth of the conversations that emanate from those circles. It’s as if the light of the fire, contrasted with the backdrop of “the wild”, conjures up serious conversations. There’s also that sense of entertainment when I sit by the fire. When I talk to people I usually try to look them in the eye when we converse. However, when I’m fireside I invariably stare into the flames.

Bluebird & Flame

Not a Caveman

Caveman TV.

The best part of Caveman TV is that it also smells great. Everyone’s got their opinion as to the best wood for a campfire and if you don’t think Juniper/Cedar is the best then you’re working off Fake News…i.e. you’re wrong. J/K – pine smells pretty good too. It’s the most common wood in my fire-rings if only because it’s usually the most prolific in the areas I camp. But when I have cedar or juniper I generally bathe in the smoke.

That would make a great cologne – Juniper Fire!

Smoky BearThe problem with fire is when people don’t respect the flame. Sure, we all know about Smokey Bear. He started off as a real bear when a cub was saved by a forest dude, then turned into an anthropomorphic Ursidae to warn people about the dangers of fire. Unfortunately not everyone is as careful or knowledgeable about how long a campfire will remain dangerous.

I’ve seen many people be surprised at how hot the embers are the morning after, when they invariably didn’t actually extinguish the coals. Shit, I’ve been guilty of going to bed w/o properly dealing with the fireplace. Today, I’m far more cognizant about the dangers.

While I’m out here playing the part of homeless gypsy I met the Fire Prevention Supervisor for Coconino County. What I take for granted, fire safety, he has to constantly deal with. Mostly in the summers though, when things are warm and dry. I spoke with him just the other day and apparently there were 34 fires during the fire-ban. One of them was left unattended and it started a small fire. Luckily the fire-crews are on top of shit right now.

And that’s just from some idiots that didn’t respect the potential for fire. The result of this apathy and ignorance is forest fires. Some are easily contained, others aren’t; in fact, sometimes they cost people their lives and property. All because of someone not giving enough of a shit.

I still love fire though. Most, if not all, of the national forests have fire restrictions in place. I don’t mind though. As much as I love a fire, it isn’t just about the flame. It’s about what a campfire does – it brings people together, to cook and communicate.

See you outside.

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I have this coffee pot.  Well, it’s no longer, technically, a coffee pot.  By that, I mean, it doesn’t have its guts.  The percolator and coffee basket are long gone.  But, from the outside, it looks just like one of those old Coleman coffee pots your dad used to have.  I still make coffee with it, only now I am far more sophisticated…I use a French press (insert snobby-nasal “hoh hoh hoh” here).

I got out of the Marine Corp in mid-1991.  I had asked to be stationed in Yuma for my last duty station because it was close to home.  My mom, brother and sister lived in Tempe, or thereabouts.  When I got out, I moved into my mom’s house, until I could get on my feet.  I took various odd-jobs including telemarketing and door-to-door sales.  In fact, one of my favorite post-service jobs was that door-to-door sales.

Fast forward a year or two and I’m staying in a condo in Tempe, working in restaurants and at REI.  I got into camping as a kid on family trips and continued “camping” when in the Marines.  I was hooked.  So it was natural for me to start accumulating camping equipment.  That’s where I purchased this coffee pot.

Most of my first camping trips were car-camping at bike races.  I’d use this pot to make coffee for my teammates.  We were really into coffee…primarily because it suppressed the hunger-pangs.  We were poor and the less we thought about food the easier our days would be.  I remember at one race, I and one of my teammates were coming around this turn and there was Jim Huntley.  He was in a different class so he had some time before his start.

Anyway, he was making a pot of coffee, and the aroma was wafting along the trail for about 50’.  More than a few racers mentioned it later.  “Did you smell that coffee that guy was making?” “Yea man, I almost stopped to have a cup”.

We loved coffee.

Some years later I was on a long, cross-country trip with my future ex-wife.  We decided to drive through California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Colorado and eventually back home to Arizona.  We had stopped at some high-mountain camp in Idaho, right next to a fast running, cold stream.  It was iconic.  I can still see the place in my memories.  I distinctly remember that Idaho was so beautiful that I HAD to come back some day.  I will, someday.

One morning I wanted to rinse out my coffee pot.  I went to the river and dunked it a few times.  At one point I realized that I’d lost the innards of the pot.  I have no recollection of the precise moment they disappeared, but I came to realize it, and I was pissed.  I remember that I threw a bit of a tantrum.  I looked up and down that bank trying to guess how far it might be swept down in the rushing water.

It was gone.

The next trip I took it on was a backpacking trip into the Superstition Mountains.  I was brand-new to “civilian” backpacking and this was my inaugural trip.  We were driving along the AZ-60 and I must have been going too fast because all of the sudden there was a police officer on my tail, lights-a-flashin’.

He saw my wallet and noticed that it had a rasta-marijuana leaf embroidered on it.  He used that as probable cause and asked me if I had any drugs on me.  Instead of lying to him, I volunteered to show him where my meager bag of brown-frown pot was.  His next question was “do you have any meth?”  I immediately said “NO!  I’m going to out there to relax, not clean up the forest.”

Well, he thought I was a good guy, so he wrote me a ticket and sent me on my way.  I was a bit shaken but intent on going backpacking.  We continued on.  I remember this first hike into Angel Basin.  We’d lost the trail at the top of the big descent down into the spot.  We bushwhacked our asses off and arrived at the basin only to find that the Scottsdale Community College Outdoor Club was already there.  The club seemed to be mostly young girls.  Bonanza, right!?  NO – again, I was with my future ex-wife.  The only time I’ve ever encountered a gaggle of girls in the woods was when I was with a girlfriend.

Anyway, it’s not worth dwelling on.

We set up camp, made our (looking back), horrible dinner and retired.  The next morning we awoke to the Girls-Gone-Wild leaving.  We were just getting our day started when a guy walked by, without a pack.  He was one of the chaperones of the trip but had to stay back at the trailhead with a girl that had sprained her ankle early in the trip.  He was trying to catch up to the rest of the party for some reason I can’t remember.

Coffee Pot2I started a pot of coffee.  By now I was going all Cowboy on my Java.  Boil water, add coffee grounds, stir and set; pour a little cold water on the top to sink the grounds and pour gently.  Well, this chaperone came back through and the smell of coffee brought him into our camp.  We shared our magical-black liquid and started chatting.

Within 5 minutes he offered to smoke pot with us.  I looked at Patricia and said “I told you we’d still find a way to get high in the woods!”.

There have been more than one magical moment in my life as a result of this coffee pot.

Today, my backpacking skills have progressed.  I’ve probably walked a couple thousand miles across Arizona’s amazing landscapes.  Deserts, forests, canyons and mountains.  I even tried to do a thru-hike of the AZT.  As part of my learning curve I’ve cut untold pounds out of my pack.

This coffee pot only makes it into a few of my backpacks; it all depends on the trip.  One one annual foray it’s the “water-heater”.  It resides somewhere on the fire heating water for someone.  When you want water, just go fill it up and put it on the flame.

On this sojourn it has taken its place, central on my stovetop.  It sees daily use in making my coffee, oatmeal and evening tea.  It’s a comfortable friend that’s been with me for over 20 years.

Like the Tinman of Oz, it never really needed guts or a heart because it performs its job perfectly as is.

This is my Linus-blanket and I intend to use this pot until I die, or it falls apart, whichever comes first.

Can I pour you a cup?