Most of those fallen monsters are gone now, rotted back to the soil by the combined effects of time, weather, and the ravine's moist embrace. Just upstream from Beechy Crash is a flat spot where an old logging road once passed. This is the spot where our food cache was waiting, where there was plenty of firewood, and a fire circle of stones I'd gathered a few years earlier.
Halfway down the hillside, Liam and I met with the girls and Chet Baker, who initially barked at us gamely, as if he did not recognize us as a part of his roaming pack.
By the time Liam, Phoebe, Julie, and Chet arrived, I had this cooking fire going—at least slightly. The kindling on the ground was still a tad moist from recent rains, but with some newspaper we got things burning soon enough.
Out came the hamburgers, onions, frying pan, beans, cook pot, utensils, and we were cooking caveman style!
When I was a kid, growing up in tiny Pella, Iowa, sunny fall Saturdays when my dad was home, we'd load up the station wagon and drive a few miles out into the country for a picnic. Sometimes we'd invite another family along. We'd toss a football, or perhaps hike or fish a little. But the highlight was building a fire and cooking out. Hotdogs were a staple, but we'd sometimes add other dishes like corn on the cob, or my mom's potato salad. And always there were the s'mores.
Now I find it particularly gratifying to try to make some of this same kind of memory with my kids. Julie and I were laughing about my caveman like tendencies, loving the challenge of cooking a meal in some remote spot. She said "My dad used to take us out for long country rides in the car all the time. But we never got out of the car much, and if we did we certainly never cooked a campfire meal. This is WAY more fun!"
Caveman not able leave fire alone. Must poke it to make flame big. Fire good!
Liam, I do believe, has caught the bug, too. He loved stirring the beans. And his cooking "jones" has been documented before by his mom.
Of course we had to share our food with Chet Baker, who behaved like a perfect gentleman even though we were far from civilization.
Everyone agreed that the burgers and onions tasted fine (even without ketchup!) and the beans were nicely smoky. The s'mores were pleasingly gooey and messy.
After the meal was consumed, the paper plates burned, the gear washed and re-packed, the fire put out (by the Hotdog Brothers with an assist from the stream), we headed for home, stopping only once, to say hello to our old friend, the beech we call OK 1902.
This old tree has done well for itself in the 107 years since it felt the bite of a farm boy's pocketknife.
The sun was sagging behind the western hills now. It was time to get home and savor a day well spent.