Are You a Creature of Comfort?

“The secret to a great campfire is in the wood.”

Winter camping brings challenges, as we discovered on our recent trip to Mike Roess Goldhead Branch in northern Florida.

The weather forecasted fifty-degree day time highs for our campout. Herb and I looked forward to this trip, but the thought of spending whole days in the trailer did not appeal to either of us. I am definitely a creature of comfort!

I checked my local Publix for firewood, since the wood they sell always burns well. Unfortunately, the store had none in stock, and an employee could not tell me when a delivery might arrive. (Another supply chain affected by Covid, of course.) Herb checked at Ace Hardware, and also came home empty handed.

I googled “firewood near me” and found a place located twenty miles away. Always the dutiful husband, Herb ventured out to see what the man had to offer. About an hour later he returned with at least thirty logs in the back of the jeep.

I helped Herb move the wood from the car into the trailer. “Great! This is enough wood to keep us warm until the cold snap ends. By the way, how much did it cost?”

“The man didn’t take a credit card.” Herb replied. “I told him all I had in cash was $18.00. He said that’s fine and took it.”

“What a deal!” I stored some of the wood in the shower of the trailer, while Herb stuffed as many logs as he could under the bed.

When we got to the campground, I cooked dinner while Herb positioned a few of the logs in the fire ring. There are two ways to build a fire. You can make the log cabin or the tee-pee. He built the tee-pee.

After dinner, we got ready for the grand lighting. Although Herb used a fire starter, the logs would not ignite. Instead they produced enough smoke to activate the smoke detector in the trailer. Eventually, we gave up trying to get the wood to burn and turned in for the night.

Ugh! This wood is bad.

The next morning we drove to the park entrance to buy more wood.

The park ranger was happy to oblige us. “Sure, we have just what you need.”

“Yes, but will it burn?”

“Our wood is kiln dried, guaranteed to burn.”

“Ok, I’ll take two bags.” Herb handed him $12.00.

After our hike we returned to the campsite to test the new wood. This time Herb built the tee-pee using the kiln dried wood. It burned right away. Success!

Then Herb started introducing the bad wood to the good wood. It too, started to burn. Yay!

The rest of the afternoon we continued to burn baby burn. What else were we to do with all of the bad wood? We were at the height of glory until…

Night fell along with rain. We took cover in our trailer. After a bit there was a knock on the door. I opened it to a park employee who informed me there was a boil water alert for the entire park. Apparently a water main broke and the campground drinking water became contaminated.

Although we’d brought some bottled water with us, I knew we didn’t have enough for the rest of our stay. So I set to work boiling water.

After the rain stopped, the wolf moon arrived along with bitter cold. But we were warm in our trailer as long as we used the propane heater.

After a hot breakfast of bacon and eggs, we decided to tour the park by car and pick up another bundle of wood to get through the day. The ranger was out, but the wood bin was unlocked. Herb dropped $6.00 in the mailbox with a note.

Back at the campsite, we spent the afternoon reading, warmed by the fire and the abundant sunshine.

By sunset we burned every stick of wood we had.

Our last night the temperature dropped to the mid-thirties. Before we we went to bed, Herb turned the thermostat to 65. We were low on propane because of all the water I boiled. I had a hard time sleeping because it was so cold in the trailer.

Some camping trips are remembered for beautiful scenery, others for people we’ve met, but this one deserves dual awards for the most expensive and the least comfortable.

I would be negligent to not mention the scenic features of this park. The property was donated by Mike Roess and developed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930’s. Gold Head Branch ravine, formed by seepage springs, divides the park and has been designated a State Natural Feature Site. The shady, moist, ravine is 65 feet deep and 1.5 miles long. We carried Buddy down the eighty-five steps to the stream. The boardwalk was perfect for a Buddy size hike.

Herb and Buddy strolling the boardwalk along the Gold Head Seep.

I leave you with this…Mike Roess Goldhead Branch sells excellent firewood!