Wonders of the Wilds: Campfires & Wild Myths

By Scott A. Yeager for GANT News

Every season is a good season for campfires in the Pennsylvania Wilds.  The sun often sets upon skies of copper, ruby and lavender in the Northwoods, giving way to the melodic dance of the fireflies, the din of bullfrogs and peepers, as well as the sweet smell of warm campfires.

Being fireside is a special place for all people, a reminder of the Titan Prometheus and his selfless sacrifice to bring our kind out of the terror of nightfall.

Around the fire is where life’s most important lessons are learned, where relationships among the generations find a common ground and where comforting foods are shared along with myth and legend.

There are those who take the position that myths and local lore are made up, fictional, not real – or, worse yet, out and out lies.

Think of any myth or legend the same way that you would the fire before you, and you’ll come to respect them for the treasures that they are; there is power in campfire stories, there is significant value in metaphor and simile.

Myths and regional folklore are – and have been for millennia – powerful vehicles for communication, perhaps they are some of the most potent known to our species.

In every myth, there rests a kernel of truth, a most elusive thing, to be sure, in a world so often shaded in grey; and legends are as alive as you are – they are infectious and represent the spirit of something more than that of a single age or human epoch.

Gathered around the various campfires, hearths and bonfires of the Pennsylvania Wilds, you may hear tales regarding human feats, accomplishments as worthy as any ever uttered by Homer or Herodotus, secrets to help ease one’s burdens in this life and a myriad of fortean tales, regarding encounters with cryptids, lycans, ghosts and flying objects from far above.

With all of that being said, what these tales, myths and tidbits of folklore do not represent is a falsehood or fiction.  They hold a far greater significance than that – suspend your judgement for a moment.  You may just learn something.

Campfires and the myths that often accompany them are a shared experience.  Think about that for a moment.  How many places in this day and age offer people the opportunity to gather as strangers and depart as friends?

Better yet, can you think of another place so primal, so essential to the wellbeing of our kind that affords a seat of equity and a voice to all who are gathered there?  Don’t strain on that.

Gathering by the fireside is a unique and beneficial act.  The myths and folklore shared, the “true tales” of human beings pitting their wits one to another and within the natural world and the very space itself is no relic of our collective past – being fireside is a return of sorts to a shared origin, a sacred place for us all.

As the days of summer begin to give way to the nuclear explosion of color that autumn brings, you may feel a familiar yearning, one that beckons you towards the cool earth and warm glow of the firelight.

Whether you find yourself in a cabin near Tionesta, a river lodge near Clarion, a state park near the Moshannon Forest or in a creek-side gathering near Benezette, the Pennsylvania Wilds is an ideal spot to gather oak, hemlock, cherry and maple.

Bring your food, your beverage of choice and a comfortable chair; but above all else, bring an open mind and ears eager to listen.

Share something special with one another.  Share your favorite myth, story, adventure or twice-told tale.  The experience will transform your world from ordinary to something quite extraordinary.

Like the fire before you, your “truth” will come to burn brighter and warmer to those around you.  Shared experiences are powerful, indeed.  The myth you share will echo for generations.

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