The Lingering Effect

Message From The Director

The smell of smoke from a campfire is one of those smells that lingers for days on your clothes and hair, and it seems even in your nose.  I have camped for years, and the properties of campfire smoke and its ability to linger have seemed to defy every logical explanation.  A change of clothes into something that was nowhere near the fire? Nope, still smell it. Launder everything that went camping and take a shower?  Still there. Sleep and go to work two days later? Somehow, I can still catch the scent of woodsmoke in the hallways of the Edgar Brown Building! The lingering scent, though not unpleasant, seems to be like the smoke coming out of a fire itself. It has a mind of its own and seems to follow you no matter where you go.

               I was reminded of this unique quality after spending some time around a fire with some incredible people a few weeks ago at Sesquicentennial's annual Palmetto Campout. This event brings people who have never camped together with people who love camping (mostly park rangers) to have a great time. I have been lucky enough to participate in this event almost every year since it started, and I know I have written about it before. No apology though, because it is one of the highlights of my year.  Let me tell you why.

               First, there is the staff. This event brings in employees and sometimes their families, from around the state.  Rangers, managers, interpreters, maintenance employees, administrative staff and more, all show up to help make this a great weekend.  From tie dying and games, to set up, clean up, guiding activities, teaching skills and more, these park people get it.  They are an inspiration to our participants and certainly for me. It is at events like this where our visitors make the frequent you must love your job!  And it is here, at events like this, where you will typically here a resounding...YES, I DO....because helping people enjoy the outdoors is why most of us got into this work.

               Second, is the volunteers.  These are the people who come during their free time from outfitters, camping organizations and just people who have had great past experiences.  They jump in and cook, clean and share stories. They help with crafts and classes and share our passion.  One group, the Palmetto State Hangers, (a hammock camping club) have not only been involved since year two, they now fundraise to help us keep it going! The volunteers at this event are as passionate as our staff about helping people experience the outdoors.

               Finally, and most importantly, are the attendees themselves. This event brings people from all walks of life and experience who are ready to try camping. I met a younger duo who love the outdoors but in their early 20’s had never camped. They were so excited. Then there was the family who were “cabin campers” ready to try tent camping but wanted the safety of some experienced campers guiding them. We cooked, played, ate, told stories, ate some more and in general camped like a group of friends.

               At the end of this weekend of work, I felt more energized and excited about what we do in parks than I had in months (And for a guy who loves his job that’s saying something.). I saw faces glow in the campfire, but also faces glowing because of the experience.  Strangers at the start of the day, had grown into friends, if only for a night, as they sat around a campfire making mountain pies and telling stories one sentence at a time. We each got to share in a fleeting moment, where the world is reduced to the beam of a flashlight, the glow of a fire or the light form a lantern. Like the smoke that follows us or the smell of wood smoke that lingers for a few days, that feeling may fade but the memory remains strong.

               Our Park Service mission starts with “To encourage people to discover South Carolina’s State Parks”. This program, like so many we offer around the state, do that so well that people come back year after year. If you need encouragement to explore, jump into a guided hike, a talk or a tour. Whether it is the smoke from a fire, or the passion you feel during a tour of one of our historic sites, I promise our programs will leave a lingering effect on you.  They will have you sitting at your desk, wishing you were in a park and looking forward to your next adventure.


October 2023