It was a sweltering day outside. It reminded me of the early scene in Albert Camus' "L'Etranger" on the beach where Mersault becomes overwhelmed in the glare of the sun. Yes, it was that sort of a day. Except that it ended a whole lot better than that, and I was under a canopy of trees, so that mostly kept the sun off of me.
Preparing for my hike, I hoisted my canvas bag onto my shoulder. It contained the following:
- Mora carbon steel knife and sheath, with paracord necklace
- Aluminum Kettle
- A 1-liter Nalgene bottle full of water
- 500 mL stainless steel cup with handle
- Steel Striker & Flint kit in a tin, containing also a small amount of charcloth
- A wooden spoon
- A zip lock bag containing dry fat-free milk powder, instant coffee and table sugar, all mixed together - enough for 2 portions and a zip lock bag containing 4 oatmeal and chocolate chip cookies.
- A length of string in case I needed to help tie a brace to hold the kettle over the fire with.
- My digital camera
The river was high and running fast when I got down into the valley. It might have been nice to wade around - maybe another day.
Once I found a spot in the woods, I sat down and opened my bag. I arranged my kettle, my mug, my Nalgene bottle and hat beside my bag and took a picture.
The area of the forest in which I was sitting looked as though some homeless folks had made a bivouac in it over the past few years. I found a metal grill half-buried in leaf litter, and grabbed it. This would eliminate my need to make a pot hanger.
I scratched the forest litter away from where I was to make my fire, and using a stick dug down a little into the soil.
Then I made a base of sticks - this helps keep the fire going at the beginning and makes a good bed of coals for cooking later (which I didn't actually use).
I removed my flint and steel kit with charcloth from the tin container and laid them down ready to go.
Nearby in a clearing I found some dried weeds and some old vine that had climbed an old apple tree and died off in the winter. I roughed this up in my hands and formed a nest shape, into which I would put the glowing charcloth.
It took only two hits of the steel against the flint to get a spark that caught on the charcloth. I dropped it into the tinder bundle.
I then blew it into a glowing ember and held it high above my head. I find that this way the smoke does not blow back into my face (where I would pull in a whole lung full of smoke). This way the smoke just drifts up and away.
Within seconds the tinder bundle erupted into flames.
I dropped the flames onto the bed of sticks, and covered it with a couple of handfuls of pencil-thin kindling to get the fire going.
After laying on a few larger sticks, in no time I had a nice, smokeless fire going. The heat had dried out the pine twigs and kindling keeping it from smoking very much.
Then on to business: I poured the milk powder, instant coffee and sugar into my mug, and took out two cookies.
The cookies were looking pretty good by this time - the walk into the valley had made me hungry.
I lay the grill over the fire, and put the kettle on top. Soon I had boiling water, and poured it into the mug.
Then I sat on the forest floor and listened to a bird scolding me, and watched around the woods for a while while I enjoyed my coffee and cookies.
It was a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon in the woods.