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What to know before you light campfires in the Highland Lakes

A campsite is not complete without toasting marshmallows over a fire. Check the rules of our campground before lighting a fire. Photo by Ronnie Madrid/Divine Radiance Photography

A campfire creates community. After a day of swimming, hiking, fishing, and general play around the campsite, a lighted fire at dusk recenters your disparate team of travelers around its dancing flames and promise of warmth, food, and companionship.

In the Highland Lakes, most campgrounds, including state and Lower Colorado River Authority parks, allow — and often provide — pits for campsite fires. You can always bring your own firepit. The best practice is to check the rules at your chosen campsite when you make the reservation.

In Inks Lake State Park, fires may be built only in campsite grills, fire rings, or fireplaces. Most developed campsites have fire rings, and some have waist-high grills. Campfires are not allowed at most primitive campsites.

In Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, which straddles Gillespie and Llano counties, fires are prohibited in the primitive camping areas. The walk-in campsites with water provide a fire ring and an outdoor grill.

LCRA Parks only allow campfires in established fire rings, contained camp stoves, raised firepits with no wood, and grills. Check individual park pages for rules.

Campfires are strictly prohibited when burn bans are in place, which are enacted by county and city officials.

Firewood is usually available at convenience stores near parks, but it never hurts to bring your own to be sure you have what you need to end a perfect day in the Highland Lakes around the cozy comfort of a campfire. Don’t forget the graham crackers, chocolate, and marshmallows.

suzanne@thepicayune.com

Step-by-step pit campfires

In the dry climate of the Texas Hill Country, the safest way to contain and enjoy a campfire is by using a firepit. Many Highland Lakes campsites provide metal firepits. At others, campers need to bring their own.

Here’s how to start a comforting campfire inside a woodburning firepit.

  1. Gather three types of flammable material: tinder, kindling, and larger chunks of firewood. Tinder can be pine needles, birch or cedar bark shavings, cattail fluff, or even cotton balls or dryer lint. For kindling, gather small pieces of wood up to about 1 inch in diameter. The firewood should be short so it doesn’t stick outside of the firepit.
  2. Make a generous pile of tinder directly in the middle of your firepit.
  3. Stack the kindling over the top into a pyramid. Use only the smallest pieces, saving the larger kindling for after you light the tinder. Leave enough room under your pyramid to get to the tinder to light it.
  4. Use a long-stemmed match to light the tinder.
  5. Add the larger pieces of kindling as the fire grows until you have a nice blaze.
  6. Once you have a steady flame, but before it burns up the kindling, add chunks of firewood as needed.

How to properly put out a firepit

  1. If possible, let the fire in the pit burn down completely until the wood turns almost fully to ash.
  2. Spread out the remaining wood or coals with a shovel or stick.
  3. Douse the fire with a bucket of water.

GIVE US S’MORE!

Girl Scouts get the credit for inventing s’mores, which they originally called “some mores,” according to a news article printed in the Sept. 9, 1925, issue of The Norwalk Hour.

In “Patrol Leaders Have Outing: Fall Plans Discussed And ‘Camp Andrew Dishes’ Introduced,” ingredients for what was then called Some-mores were graham crackers, Hershey’s chocolate, and toasted marshmallows. These Girl Scouts used two pieces of chocolate, layering their sweet sandwich snack thusly: graham cracker, chocolate, toasted marshmallow, and another layer of chocolate topped with a second graham cracker.

Since that fateful day, fans and fanatics have altered and added ingredients. Here are a few suggestions from smorescout.com, a s’mores-focused website.

  • Use white or dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate.
  • Switch out the graham crackers with cookies.
  • Add thin slices of apples, pears, or bananas or berries.
  • Replace the chocolate bar with a spread such as peanut butter, jam, or Nutella.

'The Silver Dollar'

Campfire story adapted by professional storyteller Donna Ingham of Spicewood

This could have happened in the Texas Hill Country ...

Back in the olden days, a man and his wife were traveling home by wagon on a lonely stretch of road when it started getting dark. Off in the woods, they spotted a small cabin with a light in the window and decided to stop and ask for a night’s lodging.

They knocked at the cabin door and were invited in, fed a good supper, and offered a bed for the night. The guests tried to pay the hospitable couple, but the cabin owners said no.

The next morning, the travelers got up early to continue their journey, and they decided to leave a silver dollar on the kitchen table as a way of saying thanks.

When they reached the next town, they stopped to have breakfast at a small café. They told the café owner what a pleasant evening they’d spent with the kind couple in the cabin in the woods.

The café owner looked surprised and asked them to describe the cabin and the people living there. When they did, he said, “No, that cannot be! That’s the Foster place. It burned down two years ago, and the Fosters died in the fire.”

“Well, they were alive last night,” the traveler said.

So, they all three climbed in the wagon and drove out to the cabin, surrounded as it was by thick underbrush, and, sure enough, only a few burned timbers marked where the cabin once stood. As the wife moved closer, however, she screamed and fainted dead away in her husband’s arms. The men looked to see what had alarmed her, and there on the charred remains of the kitchen table lay a silver dollar.

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