I didn’t make actual lemonade this week, however plans went awry and I had to adapt and make the best of things. I haven’t spent a night in the woods since November and Winter Camping is one of the things I wanted to work on for 13Skills. The weather was going to be decent this weekend in the Lost Creek Wilderness, highs in the 50s, lows in the 30s so I decided to head up there Friday afternoon with my son. Knowing how long it would take to drive, I decided to camp close to the road at Goose Creek Campground, but I didn’t think to check if it was a Forest Service campground or not. Turns out it is and it was closed. We probably could have gotten away with pitching a tent, but I knew it wasn’t right and it was definitely not a good example for my son. We did check it out and it’s a nice campground. Beautifully wooded, right next to the cold waters of Goose Creek, and a first-come-first-served campground.
To make matters worse, it was getting late, the wind was picking up, and rain clouds were on the horizon. We looked at a couple of spots and I decided to just make a fire to cook some hotdogs on and we would drive home in the dark.
Wanting to get things going quickly, I pulled out one of the fire straws I keep in my fire kit. These are really simple to make:
- Cuts a straw to the length you want. Mine fit in the tin I keep with my knife.
- Melt one end of the straw using needle nose pliers and a lighter.
- Mix a small amount of petroleum jelly with some cotton balls in a plastic bag. Maybe one cotton ball sized dab of PJ to about 6 cotton balls. Too much makes it hard for the cotton to catch a spark.
- Knead the bag to distribute the petroleum jelly.
- Stuff PJ soaked cotton ball into straw with needle nose pliers.
- Seal the other end of the straw.
These are really handy and never go bad. When you need them, just cut one open and pull the cotton ball out. Pull it apart some to increase the surface area available to catch a spark and put it in your tinder bundle.
Unfortunately for us, I didn’t build enough of a wind break and the wood never really caught fire. PJ soaked cotton balls burn hot for several minutes so there was no other excuse for the fire to not start. It was a good thing I had already planned to cook breakfast on the Coleman stove or I would have had to listen to a hungry boy until we got back to town! Always have a Plan B, I even had a Plan C available in the form of the alcohol stove I keep in my day pack!
Here’s where the lemonade part comes in. Having been defeated by a “Closed” sign, we decided to go to Palmer Park here in town and do some hiking. We saw more people, dogs, and mountain bikers than I really cared for, but at least we were out in the sun and “doing something”. I was able to show my son how the local yucca can be used to make cordage and even as a sewing needle with built in thread (thanks Dual Survivor!). I also demonstrated how to use a sighting compass and a map to determine your location, but I think he was getting tired at that point!