With the Holidays over and things starting to get back to normal, it's time for me to get back to the woods. Every year we try to plan a family camping trip, and this year is no exception. It's a great time to unplug and reflect on what we take for granted in todays modern life. It is always great to get back to basics, and now that my kids are getting older, it's a great time to teach them the "skills" that have all but been forgotten. This year for Christmas, my wife got me a flint and steel set fire starting set. For those of you who don't know what that is, it is simply a cave man's lighter. It's a beautful set that consists of a forged steel striker, flint stones, and the basic tinders needed to start a fire. The abilty to start a fire is something we most definitely take for granted almost on a daily basis, but in reality, people today have a hard time starting a an actual fire even with a lighter. It is understandable why the thought of doing it with stone age technology is off putting to most. For those who do try it, often get frustrated before they find success, so how is it we managed to claw our way to the top of food chain, but lost sight of how we even got there?
So where to start? We decided on the back yard, or in my case the back porch. I never imagined it would be as difficult as it was to get that first flame. My wife a little anxious to see that I chose the back porch to "start" this fire slowly made her way out with a pitcher of water, the fire extingusher from the kitchen, and a first aid kit complete with burn cream. As it turns out though, I was not going to need any of it. The first goal with a flint and steel is to get a spark, which involves hitting the two together. It sounds simple, but try it before you judge. About 5 min into beating these two items together, along with some youtube instruction we got sparks. That,it turns out, is the easy part, you then have to get that spark to catch on something and smolder, in this case we used char cloth. Char cloth is cotton cloth that has been burned without oxygen, think of it as fabric char-coal.
So after digging down deep and getting in touch with my Inner cave man I finally managed to turn that spark into a flame. A flame which I extinguished as I added too much wood too fast, but for those 2 or 3 seconds I felt the raw testosterone rush, for I, Man had created fire!
In the end, this is a skill that you have to learn and keep at until you get right, but like other outdoor skills you will be better off for it, at least that's what I tell myself. We try to live our life with the idea of becoming completely self reliant, this is something that is easier said than done. We are better at some things than others and everything is a learning experience. Living this way, the simplicity of what you need to survive really starts to come into focus. It has been said that "You are born with every thing you need." the most important being the abilty to learn. I must say that there is something very liberating about being able to start a fire like our ancestors did .