And then I wrote...

by Dick Schilling, "Editor Emeritus"

... that as this is being written, forecasters were saying northeast Iowa could have a high temperature in the low 70s later this week, the last full week of July.

We were due for some relief from the heat, and can probably expect a return to heat and humidity sometime in August.

The thought of atmospheric conditions was perhaps partly prompted by the news of those widespread fires in Yosemite National Park.

I have not heard how that fire started, but it brought back memories.

It was exactly 60 years ago this month, I and five fellow naval aviation officers took advantage of the long July 4 holiday weekend to spend a couple nights camping in Yosemite. It was a fairly long drive, and we arrived after dark. That meant we had to spend the night in the valley area near the headquarters. The ranger warned us about leaving anything around to attract wildlife, including bears. We had sleeping bags, slept fitfully, and awoke with faces fully moisturized by fog or dew.

That morning we had to declare to the ranger where we intended to camp. We said we wanted to go to some elevation, and with his help picked a spot, and were given a map to help us stay on trails. We were also lectured on what not to do and cautioned about the danger of having an open fire.

It took most of the day to reach a spot where we wanted to camp, a trip made longer by having to stop often once we reached an altitude we guessed was between 8000 and 8500 feet judging by our map. The air is thin up there.

We set up camp, and since we had hauled in steaks in a cooler, concocted a little fire pit and got a fire going. With the meal finished, there was some discussion about what to do with embers from the fire, still glowing. Four of my companions were aviators and they had gone through survival training, where they learned the importance of fire to survival at times. So we did not douse it.

Mother Nature did.

It rained most of the night. We manufactured a tent of sorts by attaching the sleeping bag “waterproof outsides to each other, then (illegally) cutting some pine boughs to make a roof to support them.

We slept poorly thanks to leaks in our makeshift tent.

But there was no fire and we had also brought eggs and bacon, so another fire was started.

This one was doused well using survival techniques, to avoid fire danger, and we tied rocks to the illegal pine boughs and sank them in the lake nearby, and after two wet mornings, left and spent that night driving back to the air station, more tired than we wanted to admit and ready for the dry comfort of the bachelor officers’ quarters!

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