Drama at Campsite #74

Camping in a national park? Cooking food in the outdoors? Packing appropriate gear to stay warm and comfortable? No problem! We weren’t concerned about any of these issues. My boyfriend and I reserved a campsite at Yosemite National Park and considered ourselves better prepared and more hardcore than the average camper. That all changed the first night we set up camp at Site #74 in the Upper Pines Region.

Although it was dark by the time we started to pitch the tent, our headlamps provided enough light to get set up for the night. After a full day of hiking the Upper Yosemite Falls trail, we were exhausted and ready to kick back around a campfire and put our newly purchased Jetboil Sol Stove to use for dinner.

Earlier that day, we picked up some firewood and a book of matches at the Curry Village Shop and collected a few newspapers to provide kindling for the fire. It was around 8:30 and the temperatures seemed to be dropping by the minute. The cashier at the village shop warned us that it was supposed to get down to thirty-five degrees that night, so getting a campfire started was essential.

One by one, my boyfriend struck a match, lit a piece of newspaper, and tried to get the wood to catch a flame. One by one, each attempt failed. Gusts of wind seemed to mock him with each strike of the match.

Without offering much of my own assistance, I looked around at all of the happy campers nearby with fires blazing. “How can all of them get their fires started and we can’t?” I whined.

These unsuccessful attempts and whining remarks continued for another half hour. Eventually, I reached my breaking point and stomped off towards a neighboring campsite with a blazing campfire. I heard my boyfriend’s footsteps shuffling behind me, as he shivered and cursed under his breath.

I mustered up my friendliest tone of voice and introduced us to a young couple reclining in comfortable chairs and roasting smores over their campfire. They greeted us with a friendly handshake and introduced themselves as Jen and David from Denver. After a slightly awkward pause, I got to the point and asked them how they got their fire going so well. David reached over to hand me a bottle of lighter fluid and told us to go give it a try.

With cautious optimism, we walked back to our campsite, poured the remaining lighter fluid on the wood, and took a step back. Withing seconds, the entire pit was ablaze! We screamed with delight, hugging and high-fiving each other as we danced around the fire pit with little regard for “quiet hours”.

We skipped back over to Jen and David’s campsite with the empty can of lighter fluid to thank them for helping us not freeze to death. They replied that they were happy to help and we we wished them a good night’s sleep. We were so excited to be able to use our new camp cookware and made a romantic gourmet dinner over the tiny propane tank. Ramen noodles and cinnamon oatmeal had never tasted as good as they did that night.

After spending the day next day exploring the the Vernal and Nevada Falls trails, we stopped by the valley shop with a renewed sense of confidence in our fire starting abilities. Much to our disappointment, the store had no lighter fluid in stock! We decided to try out some fire sticks as an alternative.

The fire sticks worked perfectly and we had a fire blazing with hardly any frustration! We roasted Italian sausages on the grill, polished off a six-pack of local beer, and roasted marshmallows over the flames for dessert.  Even though it was still thirty-five degrees outside, we didn’t really that night. We pulled our tent pulled up next to the fire (our fire!), held each other close, and fell into a deep restful sleep.

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