It has been three years since the west virginia campers went to bed in tents, but the fire has only started to grow.
Campers have also been allowed to sleep outside on fire pits, where they can catch and cook fire, but are not allowed to bring their own food.
“We are lucky we live in the forest and have been able to get the fire started,” says the camp’s cook, Andrew Woodwind.
The camp was established in June 2017 and is home to about 50 people.
Woodwind is an experienced camp cook and he is not alone in his enthusiasm for the fire, as well as the fact it is one of the few places in the world where camping is legal.
He is one among hundreds of people who have been invited to camp for the first time in the park in the last three years.
They are the campers who have become a key part of the park’s population growth.
In 2016, 1.5 million people visited the park.
By 2019, the park had more than 50,000 people, with the majority of the camp visitors arriving from Western Australia, and the rest from overseas.
A total of about 3,000 campers are now living in the campground, according to the West Virginian Forest Authority.
That number is expected to rise in the coming years, as more campers return home from the bush and the park continues to attract new visitors.
There is also growing interest in the idea of setting up a permanent camp, and Woodwind and others have been exploring ways to make that happen.
‘The fire is alive’For the last four years, the camp has been in the process of creating its own food and clothing.
It is currently selling locally sourced organic goods such as local cheese and beans, as opposed to the processed goods the camp was previously producing.
And with the arrival of warmer weather, Woodwind says the fire is thriving.
Over the past few weeks, the fire’s population has grown to about 10 people, which he says is good news for the camp and for the forest.
“[Campers] are getting into it, they are starting to get to know the fire more,” he said.
As the camp cooks, Woodwing helps to ensure the camp is prepared for its guests’ arrival.
Since the camp began in 2017, he says the number of guests has increased from about 5 to about 20, with around 20 people coming from overseas each day.
“People are enjoying the campsite a lot more, they enjoy the fire and the camper,” he says.
With warmer weather forecast to arrive in the next two months, Woodwick hopes the fire will be able to keep going, and will continue to grow until the next major event in the region, a rain event.
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