WHILE RESTING DURING an afternoon hike with the dogs, I spent time with my back against a huge Norway pine a couple days ago, while the warm rays of the sun quickly worked its way through my light jacket. As I sat there, I thought a thought that was probably as deep and profound as any thought any person has ever had.

Put simply, my thought was that every doctor or so-called doctor who calls himself or herself a counselor of one kind or another should be required to include campfires in the wild as a major part of their mental-health treatment regimen.

Some of the best moments of my life have been spent around campfires. There have been ordinary campfires in the backyard during warm summer evenings, and campfires along shorelines of lakes and streams from here to New Mexico to northern Ontario to several remote state forests and parks I have had the good fortune to visit.

There have been campfires shared around deer stands, on the ice of many lakes to ward off the chills of a subzero day, and warming body and soul while telling tales of fishing, hunting and other outdoor adventures with kindred souls.

Those shared with friends are special, but for me, quite often the most treasured of all campfires are those I have had all to myself. The only friends around those campfires have been the moon, stars, trees, wind rustling through topmost tree branches and water lapping on the shore of a backwoods lake.

There has been music and laughter around many of my campfires, while others have been marked by silence and inner reflection. A few have been built in a driving rain, some in a snowstorm.

Whether sending sparks and spirals of smoke into the air during the dog days of August or fending off chills on a February afternoon, each has brought a little extra warmth to my heart and when others were present, to those sharing the warmth with me.

There is something extra special about watching a tiny flicker of flame and the first little swirl of smoke come from a small bundle of kindling and maybe a little birch bark come to life, then growing in strength as larger chunks of wood are added to turn the flame into a genuine campfire.

It seems as though there are never bad thoughts or words around a campfire and that is the way it should be.

Some campfires are made to cook grand shore lunches, while others bring the best out of a T-bone steak. In fact, some of the best campfires share such steaks with lowly hot dogs and hamburgers, all of them tasting better than anything ever cooked on a kitchen stove.

There is a little bit of the innocent child in everyone who sits around a campfire when marshmallows are transformed from soft white lumps of sugar into browned, sometimes blackened, treats fit for a king or queen.

Even if one doesn’t believe in ghosts or goblins, such things seem to come closer to reality every time someone starts telling scary stories around a campfire on an inky black night.

Mostly, I like campfires built back in the woods, away from roads, houses and all the other trappings of civilization. Excuse me for my rather hermit-like moments, but I find that hoot owls, yipping and yapping coyotes, and singing whippoorwills make much better companions around a campfire than most people.

Some of my campfires have been works of art. Some campfires, which were regular features of a siblings and parents shared camping weekend, brought oohs and ahs for colored flames which erupted from a hollow log chimney. When melted, colored wax was poured onto the flames.

Maybe the best of all my campfires have been those tiny ones I built along the banks of pristine trout streams, whether in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, the Bighorn Mountains of Wyoming, the vast forest country of northern Minnesota or along the banks of Wisconsin’s famed Bois Brule River. Such campfires have had a distinct purpose: that of frying fresh-caught native brook trout to a state of crispy deliciousness.

Your clothes might be filled with the smell of wood smoke and your nose might be smudged, but your heart is always a little cleaner and purer for having spent time in quiet reflection next to a campfire.

Campfires are a thing of beauty and life, and campfires are a tonic for the soul. They are a place of peace and contentment that everyone needs at one time or another.

Finally, some day when it’s my turn to explore that great trout stream in the sky, I can only hope that those who have gone before have a campfire going and trout on the grill.