I swear, you can smell a good campsite even before you lay eyes on it.
On Friday, a group of us — our number would eventually total 14, plus two dogs — left Albuquerque and headed north. Our destination: a lovely piece of land near the small town of Youngsville, New Mexico, where a couple of the guys had camped previously. We more or less knew where we were going.
We found our site a little after dark (we had left later than planned, but hey, it was Friday, a day for tardiness if ever there was one). I liked it as soon as I saw it in the headlights. A big clearing. Trees. Grass. Cool temperatures. A little stream that we could hear gurgling nearby. Yup, we were in northern New Mexico, all right.
As soon as everyone got their respective tents pitched, we turned our attention to the focal point of the weekend, meaning, of course, the campfire. If you live or have lived in New Mexico, or anywhere in the Southwest, you know what a valuable and rare commodity a campfire can be in the summertime. This time of year, fire restrictions bloom across the land faster than a red wine stain on a white shirt.
We had taken care to select an area which did not forbid campfires, and soon ours was glowing and crackling beautifully. Note: if you do not yet have an expert campfire builder in your circle of friends, recruit one immediately. We pulled up chairs, passed around brownies in celebration of my birthday earlier that week — is there a better place than a campfire to hear “Happy Birthday” sung to you? — and, quite simply, relaxed.
The next morning, we slept in as late as the sun would allow (not very late, given how quickly a tent heats up). After savoring instant coffee and stuffing our faces with delicious, freshly-made breakfast burritos, the day opened before us like a marvelous present. No errands to run, no schedule to keep. I love camping.
We went for a hike up a gravel road that turned into a trail, winding through tall pines. We played an impressively well-organized cornhole tournament, complete with team names and brackets. The boys, unsurprisingly, had brought a few firearms, which led to — at a safe distance from camp — spirited target practice. There were long, idle conversations under the shade of tarps. That night, again, there was the campfire.
Saturday’s dinner was mouth-watering elk fajitas a la Robin Hood, with s’mores for dessert. When was the last time you toasted marshmallows over a campfire? If you can’t remember (I certainly couldn’t), get out there as soon as possible. It may just be the greatest dessert in the world; not to mention the lively debate that usually ensues: light the marshmallow on fire, or just slow-roast it?
Sunday morning was a lot like Saturday, only with breakfast sandwiches instead of burritos. Again, delicious. What is it about eating outside that makes great food taste even better?
After the dismantling of tents and packing of gear (tinged with a little sadness, as always), we all headed home. Several hours later, I showered, did laundry, and relished indoor plumbing.
But I can’t wait for my clothes to smell like a campfire again.