Should there be a campfire?

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Re: Should there be a campfire?

Post by Wandering Daisy » Tue Sep 30, 2014 10:30 am

Campfires ARE a lot of work and unless you are willing to do this work to build and put out the fire properly and ATTEND the fire at all times, you should not have a campfire. I personally started a fire in the 1970's. Thankfully others who stayed in camp while my group climbed were able to quickly put it out. Although I had doused the fire, the wind was fierce, and reignited the larger embers, blowing them out of the fire pit and onto duff. Large embers need to be doused, cooled, crushed or broken so that no heat remains, even in their interior.

Campfires have probably saved me from hypothermia a few times too. In those conditions, it is actually hard to get a fire started so fire danger is low. Both the fire, and the physical effort gathering wood warmed me up. One can dry clothes by a campfire. In the Sierra it is rare to have a week's steady rain with no sun to dry things; but in other mountain ranges with these conditions I consider the skill to build a campfires even with wet wood, is essential. If you have only backpacked in the Sierra, you really do not know what bad weather is all about.








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Re: Should there be a campfire?

Post by markskor » Tue Sep 30, 2014 11:37 am

AlmostThere wrote:I think everyone who is blasé about their bad campfire habits should go out with a trail crew decimating illegal campsites. I belong to one such nonprofit crew that has removed 74 bad campsites and more illegal fire rings from Dinkey Wilderness... unless we sink 50-60 pound boulders with tall sharp points in the campsites, people will come right back and build another six foot wide ring. It can take a day and a half to rehab a single large site...
Not at all blase about campfire habits and fairly experienced in backcountry morals...but also concerned here about the habits of those who go out with the intent of "decimating illegal campsites"...BTW, who decides what is illegal? If one ring is good, are two that bad? Yes, in many areas, too many fire rings are erected needlessly. I commend those who go out with the intention of cleaning these up but, too many times I have seen every ring gone where IMHO some (which were legal) should be just left alone. Just clean up the ring trash but let some of the rings stay. As mentioned, immediately afterwards someone will come along and re-erect another ring just feet from where the origional ring once stood...you come back and destroy the new ring...etc. Soon countless scars mark the well-established site where only a few rings once stood. How is this improving the landscape? Both sides should share part of the blame here.

While I commend you for sifting through and cleaning rings of trash - the glass chards and alumunum scraps...(I wish more well-meaning individuals would be so concerned...I too sift through and collect aluminum and glass into my trash bag after any fire made)...stop there. The fact remains that many volunteer "Trail crews" don't stop there...often all rings get tossed into nearby brush and waters.

The places I have been to after being "cleaned" are well-used...often at destination lakes where there may be only one or two good areas to camp. Now instead of just one or two rings which may be somewhat too large but the rest of the site looked clean, now there are countless black scars and fire remnants scattered all about the site, the benefit of the cleaning crew. How does this coincide with LNT?
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Should there be a campfire?

Post by AlmostThere » Tue Sep 30, 2014 11:56 am

If a ring is less than 100 feet from the water's edge, it doesn't belong. Most of the ones removed were less than 10 feet from water.

Part of the process involves naturalizing the site so there is no scar.

The Rangers who go out with us determine what is legal. don't imagine that any trail crew could do anything without a special permit... Not going to happen.

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Re: Should there be a campfire?

Post by balzaccom » Tue Sep 30, 2014 12:00 pm

My understanding of the volunteer work crews that AT is describing is that they are directed by USFS staff. They are not free-lancing to do whatever they like.

So the decisions are part of the USFS resource management process. Not something to be taken lightly, or "overruled" by enthusiastic hikers who might think they know better...
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Re: Should there be a campfire?

Post by markskor » Tue Sep 30, 2014 12:08 pm

AlmostThere wrote: Part of the process involves naturalizing the site so there is no scar.

The Rangers who go out with us determine what is legal. don't imagine that any trail crew could do anything without a special permit... Not going to happen.
Sorry, Seen too many cleaned sites where pits removed were legal. (Even at Dinkey Lakes.)
As to "naturalizing" - no scar left to be seen...I call BS.
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Re: Should there be a campfire?

Post by caddis » Tue Sep 30, 2014 12:12 pm

I personally avoid any established campsites for the simple fact they are filthy with scattered ash and charcoal. Also, I rarely every build a fire for the reason that AlmostThere stated...they're too much work.

But I have started my own fire "rings" and I disagree with the OP: " There is no way you can have a fire in the wilderness and not leave a trace—even if it is only the barren dirt around your campsite, where you collected all the wood to burn."

You can, I have, it just takes care and effort
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Re: Should there be a campfire?

Post by rlown » Tue Sep 30, 2014 12:27 pm

getting a bit heady here. A campfire is a primitive experience, and a cooking experience. It was used for millennium before we ever lived. or at least a few. I love my fish cooked in coals when possible. I've rearranged legal pits for my cooking desires (rectangular pits), and then after they took out my fish with the nets and didn't tell me, i removed the pits.

I'm ok with removing "illegal" pits according to the current rules.

If fires are legal at certain altitudes and certain areas at a given point at time, then let it be.

I can say, I'm not fond of the smell of smoke on all my stuff, unless it helps with the skeeters.

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Should there be a campfire?

Post by AlmostThere » Tue Sep 30, 2014 12:39 pm

markskor wrote:
AlmostThere wrote: Part of the process involves naturalizing the site so there is no scar.

The Rangers who go out with us determine what is legal. don't imagine that any trail crew could do anything without a special permit... Not going to happen.
Sorry, Seen too many cleaned sites where pits removed were legal. (Even at Dinkey Lakes.)
As to "naturalizing" - no scar left to be seen...I call BS.
You can do that all you like... I have seen scars as well, but not caused by trail crew.

You can also pretend a pit is legal yet removed, but my experience is the opposite - I thought a pit within 20 feet of a removed site should go, the ranger said no. People do pit removal without being on trail crew - this, too, I have witnessed first hand. Many strong opinions exist on this matter. Doing it the wrong way happens.

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Re: Should there be a campfire?

Post by oldranger » Tue Sep 30, 2014 12:55 pm

Actually, mark, you can remove fire scars. it is a tedious process involving oven cleaner and wire brushes. Some people can't resist rebuilding a fire ring even when the site is clearly illegal especially when there is a when there is a fire scared rock visible. So would not remove rings unless I could remove all evidence of them. One of my pet peeves is a broken up fie ring with fire blackend rock in evidence all around, even less appealing than the original fire ring. If you are going to do a job do it right!

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Re: Should there be a campfire?

Post by RoguePhotonic » Tue Sep 30, 2014 1:17 pm

Although the regulations state you cannot build any new fire rings I have quite often done so. I perfectly understand the reasoning for the regulation because I have seen plenty of areas littered with fire pits that are not even any good every 20 yards for half a mile.

Since I spend so much time off trail I naturally go to areas that just don't have established camp sites. One could argue that they would like it just that way to maintain a sense of remoteness but when I arrive at say a lake well within the fire line and there is not a single fire pit on the entire lake then I just build one. I however take pride in many of the sites I establish. I take great care in picking a good camp that others will want to use and very carefully pick where the fire pit will be located in both safety and if possible the existence of natural seats so that no one has to build anything.

I have talked to some Rangers about this regulation and what they suggest in these situations. The woman working at Lodgepole this year suggested I should practice the leave no trail of digging a hole and then covering it up. It's a thought for sure especially if I am lazy.

Some new pits I have established this year:

Goddard Creek in the forest where the Enchanted Gorge dumps you out.
Cunningham Creek in the flat area around 9800F
Long Meadow / Ferguson Creek Although there is a pit next to the creek at the very start of this meadow on the Northern end about a quarter mile South I established a new site in a location that has an old rusted bucket and some trees that were hacked on for no reason I could understand.
Box Canyon at the larger upper lake.

I also broke up several illegal pits as I tend to do when I find them in remote areas the Rangers just wont get to. My judgement of what is legal or should be broken up is based on either altitude restriction (but not always the case) or just pits built in ridiculous locations.

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This is one thing I don't understand sometimes either. Back in 2011 when I built a pit at the main camping location of Upper Tent Meadow I noticed evidence of other pits having been broken up. When I went by this year I noticed my pit was gone. Considering this area is legal I'm not sure why they are being destroyed.

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