The grill ignition button is a reminder of happy summer days

It is 28 degrees Fahrenheit on top of this mountain, before you factor in the wind that’s blowing snow sideways into my face. I’m sitting on a rock with my soda can-sized backpacking stove the size of a soda can trying to make lunch and regretting my decision to go hiking in the middle of February. I press a small button on a pen-size rod that I’m holding over the burner, bringing a spark to life for just an instant. The familiar whoosh of gas igniting means I can start heating up ramen — lucky me.

But wait, how did pressing that button cause a spark? My lighter doesn’t have a flint and steel or any batteries. It’s not even solar powered (not that I remember what sunlight looks like; it’s winter in Washington). So how can it start a…

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