Tag Archives: camping

What an adventure to hike with Jamling Norgay! Photo by Madelyn Given.

Campfire Stories, Part 3

On trips with the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and family, our campfires were for fun. At the end of a day in pleasant weather, we would gather dry sticks to add to dry wood we usually brought from home. Everyone was cheerful as we waited for the fire to die down to red-hot coals, and then we would toast marshmallows and make s’mores. We still do enjoy these great campfires with family and friends.

But I remember on Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa, and later in the Himalayas on Mt. Kanchenjunga, the third highest mountain in the world, our only campfires were for our cooks to make our meals and to boil and purify water for our tea, which we poured from a big tea kettle into our water bottles each day. Our porters and sherpas would then sit by the small fire to keep warm. I would take my water bottle and put it in my sleeping bag to keep my feet warm at night. By morning, the water would be cold even inside my bag, but if it had been unprotected in my tent, it would have been frozen. Sometimes a small fire was built in the morning for hot milk or hot cereal, but usually only once a day. At 15,000 or 16,000 feet, we were above the tree line and could not collect wood, so bundles of wood had to be carried up with us. As we went higher, we had no campfires at all and only used small mountaineering stoves.

One day on Kilimanjaro, we climbed from dawn until it was time for a break for lunch. We had been climbing in clouds all the way and we were wet. We stopped at a cave and went inside to sit down and dry out for a few minutes. The porters started a fire. It was dreadful! It only took a few minutes to drive everyone outside to sit on a rock. My eyes were stinging, and everyone was crying, choking, and coughing from the smoke. You couldn’t see a thing, but we felt our way to the opening. To make matters worse, one of our porters had twisted his ankle and it was badly swollen. They discussed who would carry him down and who would stay, and all would now carry extra in their already heavy loads.

Using only our campfire, our amazing cook managed to make a birthday cake for Jamling Norgay! Photo by Madelyn Given.

Using only our campfire, our amazing cook made a birthday cake for Jamling Norgay!

Each night on Kanchenjunga, our cook made a hearty meal of soap, a main dish of meat, vegetables, and rice, and hot tea. We sat and ate our meal and then listened to Jamling Norgay tell amazing stories of his expedition on Everest and mountaineering and rescuing people in thin air. His father, Tanzing Norgay, was the first to summit Everest with Sir Edmund Hilary. He led the Swiss team first, then two years later the German team, and then two years later the British team, and finally conquered the tallest mountain in the world. One night our cook made a birthday cake to celebrated Jamling’s birthday. Imagine: high in the Himalayas, on the most primitive campfire with no camp oven, our cook made a birthday cake!

[posted July 12, 2016]

A rare campfire on Madelyn Given's thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail.

Campfire Stories, Part 2: Appalachian Trail

There is nothing like a campfire to bring comfort to the body and soul when you are far from home.

A few years ago, I hiked the Appalachian Trail from Springer Mountain, Georgia to Mt Katahdin, Maine. It was a grand, never-to-be-forgotten adventure, all 2,175 miles. There were highs and lows every day: it was a strenuous feat but a grand experience. Every day, I hiked from dawn to dusk, rarely stopping except to purify water or to take a breather. Before dusk, I would be hurrying to find a place to set up my tent or reach the nearest lean-to shelter. I would set up my tent pronto to get out of the wind, rain, or cold. Then I would unpack my pack, find something to eat, and get off my weary feet. I had no added energy to build a campfire.

What an adventure it is to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail! Photo by Madelyn Given.

What an adventure it is to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail!

During my four months on the trail, there were very few campfires built by thru-hikers. My son offered to hike with me early on, and one night we were hiking along the AT on the Tennessee-North Carolina border. On this clear, pleasant night, we set up camp and enjoyed a campfire. No one else was around and it was a peaceful moment in time.

Another campfire was quite different. After beginning with my son, I had continued hiking solo, and I had now reached Pennsylvania, known as the rocky state by the hikers. Every four to six days, hikers are able to get off the trail near a town or other place to get food and supplies. For some reason, I must have been thinking of a campfire, because when I bought my food I bought a package of marshmallows.

By this time it had been over two months of walking every day, and I had had only one campfire. I had made some trail friends along the way and I thought this would be a pleasant surprise. The young fellows were always so hungry. I reached the campsite with a lean-to already full and I looked for a place to set up my tent.

It was the least likely place to set up a tent I had ever encountered. The place was full of brush, on the side of a very steep hill, and muddy. It was dusk and I was exhausted, with no hope of moving on down the trail. Nevertheless, I set up my tent, and then three more of my friends arrived and pitched their tents almost touching each other.

During this time, the mosquitoes decided to invade the place! Only one other night in four months had I been attacked by mosquitoes, and this was one of them.

The hikers decided to have a campfire to rid the place of the mosquitoes, but the pesky creatures had a way of finding me. Bringing my package of marshmallows, I walked from my tent over to the lean-to area in front of the fire, planning to stay by the campfire and chat with my friends for a while, but the mosquitoes got the best of me.

I left the marshmallows (to the delight of the happy campers), hurried to my tent, zipped it up, and called it a night. To my dismay, the mosquitoes had won the battle that night.


(posted June 21, 2016)

Madelyn takes a hike among the Cyprus trees, in Congaree National Park, South Carolina.

Hiking in State and National Parks

This spring on our way north after a few months in Florida I suggested we stop at Congaree National Park in South Carolina. I have been in many of our National Parks but never this one. It does not have the bold colorful beauty of the Grand Canyon or the spectacular peaks of the Grand Tetons but it has its own southern dignity. The large southern swamp Cyprus is a national treasure just as special as what hails in each national park. This small national park has a nice walking path set upon a boardwalk at the park entrance which is very convenient for visitors. This was a perfect highway break that afternoon.

The beauty of our country and all our fifty states is protected by our national parks. Thank goodness for our forefathers who saw the light of day and were able to set aside beautiful places to be used and preserved by the people forever.  I feel the same about state parks. Camping, fishing, hiking, and viewing nature: there is something for all our citizens. Nature brings out the best in us.

Over the years I have been to a large portion of the National Parks in the US and many in foreign countries. Parks are popular in summer but I enjoy going to them in any season. There is so much to do and nature to observe.

In the spring the rivers and streams have enormous energy. I remember on my climb on Aconcagua in Argentina camping with my guide only a few feet away from a raging river descending hundreds of feet from a massif. Rocks, some as big as cars, were sent plummeting and grinding down this raging runoff caused by the melting of snow and ice, eventually ending up in the sea.

Fall is a beautiful time for day hikes in the state parks of New England. One of my favorites is the Gulf Hagas Trail in Maine. It follows a river with its many waterfalls. Just listening to the rushing water go over the falls, and catching glimpses of the water where the rays of sunshine are dancing like diamonds on top of the water, are reasons enough to be there. To top it off, the crisp fall air and all the beauty of the fall foliage makes hiking grand in the fall.

Winter in a park is so quiet and serene on a clear fair day especially after a recent snowstorm. Everything is so pure and clean. Snowshoeing or cross country skiing is a physical activity and a nice meal over a campfire is a great reward.

Summer in state and national parks is the busy season but offers great adventure in the safest weather conditions. I have camped in all seasons but family camping with young children is best in the summer. In Australia summer is too hot of course in certain places like Alice Springs; even in winter it is warm there.

In the summer of 1966, I joined a family of five and we spent three months touring the United States, camping in many national parks and some state parks. I had just graduated from college and this was the first big travel adventure of my life.  We traveled in a station wagon, setting up tents and blowing up our sleeping pads every night. Everyone thought it was quite special–even the family dog.

I suggest that you take time to enjoy our parks. They are grand in all four seasons.

-June 3, 2014