BY JEFF LUND. Hot dogs are synonymous with summer cuisine, and though there are plenty of hot dogs – gourmet dogs, foot-long dogs, ball park dogs, nitrate-free dogs, kosher dogs – I don’t get too picky. I know what I am getting when I buy or order them so I do not worry much about the health stats because it’s not foods’ fault, I’m the one that chose to eat it. That’s why I stay away from fast food and only indulge in dogs half a dozen times a year.
Anyway, few things taste better than a hot dog during summer. Better yet, few things are better than cooking them over a fire while camping.
My buddy Steve picked me up one morning last week, and we were fishing just before noon. It rained a little, but was otherwise calm and the fishing was outrageous. To be completely honest, Steve was catching fish on nearly every cast. This is because Steve is a fishy dude. I caught my share, but he was dialed in.
We stayed at that spot for four hours, laughing and talking a little smack then drove a mile down river, caught more fish then moved three more miles. The water was high and fast, but we landed a few, then moved another mile to our camping spot.
After seven hours of swinging flies and drifting nymphs at hundreds of trout and snobby sockeye salmon, Steve and I settled onto an elevated spot that looks down on the Thorne River. We set up our tents, built a fire, fished a little more, then carved sticks, stabbed dinner and roasted it over orange coals.
Of course the first hot dog jumped off my roasting stick and into the flames because those sort of stupid little things happen to me just as I am about to make claims about the perfection of a moment.
Steve laughed, I got another.
We toasted pieces of our gas station bread loaf on a two-pronged roasting stick, wrapped it around the dog, added chili and leaned back against spruce trees to devour.
I stretched my tired legs forward and even closed my eyes as I chewed. The soft peaty forest floor was comfortable, and the spruce behind me seemed to arc back a bit for the purpose of helping campers untangle their spines and minds.
Outside of wind being forced through the feathers of bald eagles as they floated above the river, a few crows, some invisible song birds, water sneaking over rocks and the popping of fire coals, it was completely quiet.
Twilight was still hanging on when we went to bed. It does that up here. The sun will set around 9:45, but it’s still light enough to drive without headlights for awhile longer. Morning came before the sun as usual which can be problematic.
It’s light outside so you think it’s time to fish, but then realize it’s 3:45 and the sun won’t officially be up until something like 4:09. This can work for a few days for those that are solar powered, or really excited to fish, but bodies get tired so I have an unofficial “three turn” rule when camping at home. Each turn is usually around 45 minutes, which adds up to a more reasonable fishing start.
I relit the fire, Steve cooked another hot dog and I cut up a cube of spam with a knife Steve found in the river and let it cook next to the flames while the coffee warmed.
Steve didn’t have a cup for his coffee, so he cut a water bottle in half and wrapped it in paper to insulate.
Reminding myself what it is to live simply could be my favorite part of summer. There is no need to get wound up about what was forgotten back home, cell phone signals, to-do lists, a little dirt on a dropped chip, or whatever else we’ve been taught to worry about.
You just make things work, and are happy and content through self-sufficiency and industriousness.
I bet a lot of societies ills could be solved with a couple of sharp sticks, some hot dogs, and a campfire.
"Its the coming back, the return which gives meaning to the going forth. We really don't know where we've been until we've come back to where we were. Only, where we were may not be as it was, because of whom we've become. Which, after all, is why we left." – Bernard Stevens Northern Exposure