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Should there be a campfire?

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Re: Should there be a campfire?

Postby dave54 » Tue Sep 30, 2014 9:45 pm

I think we all have seen those campsites that look like a battlefield pockmarked with bomb craters. They are ugly no matter how much you like a fire.

I have not had a fire in years, except when camping with the grandkids and s'mores are required by law when camping with your grandkids. :D S'mores over a stove is just morally wrong, indecent, and a crime against nature.

As the years pass I like campfires less and less, and last weekend, while in a campground with our RV, I found the campfire smell wafting from the neighbors was quite objectionable. I realized I just do not like the smell anymore. I am getting old, curmudgeonly, and cantankerous (and proud of it!).

Now I prefer to camp away from everybody else, with solitude, quiet, and no campfire smog in the early morning. I will intentionally choose a less desirable site if that is the only way to be alone.

As a side note.. I recall a research paper some years ago that measured elevated early morning CO levels in popular wilderness campsites, from the multitude of fires left smoldering overnight. Not at a level of significant health risk, but elevated nevertheless.
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Re: Should there be a campfire?

Postby bluefintu » Tue Sep 30, 2014 11:21 pm

This another great topic. For me personally, I don't like fires but, my Scouts do.

In July, I took a bunch of scouts to our local mountain by Wrightwood. The sign said no campfire allowed. There was one group of Scouts that had a big fire in a fire ring. My boys wanted a fire too, but, I said no. I checked the fire ring the next morning and it was still hot. We stirred it up a little and left. Made sure it was out.

I love being above 10,000', but, the trees above that height are very old. Some maybe 2,000 years or older. Just think if everyone has a fire and taking down these old growth, my kids won't be able to appreciate what was once there.

A fire for camping is great, but the responsibility comes down on me. If legal, I can deal with a very small campfire. Car camping included.

With the "LNT", I try to cover where I stayed. You won't know where I put my tent up, most of the time. My Scouts and I are the vacuum cleaners where ever we go. So, in a way, "LNT" is cleaning up after yourselves, so I don't have to do it.

See ya in the mountain,
Don
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Re: Should there be a campfire?

Postby balzaccom » Wed Oct 01, 2014 8:53 am

bluefintu wrote:
With the "LNT", I try to cover where I stayed. You won't know where I put my tent up, most of the time. My Scouts and I are the vacuum cleaners where ever we go. So, in a way, "LNT" is cleaning up after yourselves, so I don't have to do it.

See ya in the mountain,
Don


nice
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Re: Should there be a campfire?

Postby SSSdave » Fri Oct 03, 2014 9:34 am

WD posed the issue well. Of course the topic always receives lots of input on backpacking boards because the status quo leaves many of us angry and frustrated. Am another one that rarely has fires. When we do they are really small down at forest elevations in remote areas. And tend to camp well away from usual camp zones if possible. There are times and places a campfire is ok and others when it is not. I don't really care about fire rings in legal areas and leave them alone. However in general I believe there is value in discouraging fires because a significant segment of visitors have a behavior issue of making fires every place they go, every night.

Again the problem I have as someone that has been backpacking in the Sierra for decades, is illegal fire rings continue to be built in illegal places in this era apparently by a sizeable percentage of backcountry users. As a landscape photographer I tend to ramble about considerable areas of terrain away from trails and camp zone areas that others don't have reason to. Doing so I often see numbers of camp spots where groups purposely apparently select such out of the way less visible spots in order that they can make campfires without being noticed by others. Many of those doing so have obviously been at it for many years because they also tend to make elaborate constructions just for watching a fire at night. Things like moving around logs and large rocks to sit on. Making huge rockwork fire rings. Those that make fire ring against the side of large boulders. A characteristic is usually a large leftover woodpile usually with those huge logs that eventually make lots of smoke. People that spend a lot of time and effort to reach areas in the backcountry and then spend most of their time as lazy camp busybodies apparently without much interest in getting to know their destinations. And yeah some leave broken wine bottle glass in each pit.

And then there are the many about legal elevation areas for making campfires that measure the distance from water sources to their campsites with the shoe size of dwarfs. The numbers of illegal campsites too close to timberline lake edges is and has been epidemic. Primarily the results of lack of enforcement due to elimination of backcountry rangers since the Reagan years when James Watt killed funding that never returned. And yeah I rip and kick dozens of the illegal fire rings up every summer. And no I don't do a thorough job of it like AlmostThere's fine teams do because I don't have the time. My efforts leave illegal campsites looking like an ugly MESS with an intent to discourage and send an obvious message to the next group with weak behaviors that see it. Black rocks and ashes scattered all about where people tent.

I totally agree with arguments balzaccom related as it applies to timberline and alpine areas. One would think in an alpine area with just scattered whitebark pines like the East Fork Basin of Bear Creek (Vee Lake etc) where horses cannot travel, a long ways from trailheads, and only cross country backpackers and climbers visit that there would be few fire rings. But no, I ripped up and tossed around black rocks at maybe a dozen spots, and most were well hidden in small groves of the stunted pines.

And as I have occasionally related on outdoors boards in the past including this one, I would encourage others that have an ability to communicate calmly without being emotional or personal, to say something to others making fire rings and campfires where such is illegal.
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Re: Should there be a campfire?

Postby ERIC » Mon Oct 06, 2014 7:58 pm

:rolleyes:
It's a figurative campfire.

Can't believe this is even a thread.
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Re: Should there be a campfire?

Postby balzaccom » Tue Oct 07, 2014 8:18 am

ERIC wrote::rolleyes:
It's a figurative campfire.

Can't believe this is even a thread.


It's a figurative thread.
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Re: Should there be a campfire?

Postby richlong8 » Tue Oct 07, 2014 8:27 am

oldranger wrote: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!

Mike

This year, I never bothered with a fire, but it can be a real nice experience. I see more and more places where fire rings have been taken apart and the soot covered rocks in the camping area are very apparent, and an eyesore. Apparently, some folks have never seen a fire ring that they did not feel justified in taking it apart. If the end result of no fire rings is the "herding" of backpackers into regulated and monitored camping areas, that does not seem like a true wilderness experience to me. Might as well camp at a campground....John Muir would be chuckling! O:) And in a survival situation, no one is going to keep me from having a fire.
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Re: Should there be a campfire?

Postby ERIC » Tue Oct 07, 2014 2:25 pm

balzaccom wrote:
It's a figurative thread.


B.S. At its core this is an opinion thread criticizing campfires in general and in conclusion the use of the concept of a campfire for this sub-forum.

Certainly there must be more important things needing to be saved by your morals. :\
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Re: Should there be a campfire?

Postby TahoeJeff » Tue Oct 07, 2014 4:07 pm

ERIC wrote:Certainly there must be more important things needing to be saved by your morals.


Like having anglers file EIRs?
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Re: Should there be a campfire?

Postby Eiprahs » Fri Oct 10, 2014 10:39 am

I am pro campfire. When conditions are adverse they are awfully nice to have, especially 'shoulder season', like right now, when days are short and nights cold. Yes, they are not needed most of the time, pose safety risks, skew the balance of dead material in the ecological cycle, but prohibition??

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?


People like campfires and will build their campfire rings regardless of regs.
So for popular spots, campfire ring removal is futile. At high use sites the end result will be every movable rock is soot stained, large areas of soil are disturbed to bury charcoal and ash, and back country rangers' time has been needlessly expended 'repairing' damage that didn't need fixing.

There is no accepted 'best practice' for camp fires, so each area has its own rules. Here are the policies at places I've been within last two years:

Wind River Range, Wyoming: Fires permitted: pile camp fire ring rocks with sooty side down or to the inside of pile when leaving campsite.

Sawtooth Wilderness, Idaho: Off trail fires not permitted Memorial Day to Labor Day, fires prohibited some drainages, when permitted fires must be built on a fire pan or fire blanket with 3-6" of mineral soil on top of fire pan/blanket. Bury ashes and mineral soil. $250 citation for failure to comply.

Mt Hood Wilderness, Eagle Cap Wilderness, Oregon: Fires permitted except where listed/posted--signs are small wood signs on entry trail (what if you come in x-country or after dark?).

John Muir Wilderness, Inyo National Forest, California: Fires prohibited above 10,400' or 10,000' depending on area, or in areas listed on 'no campfire' list (where I went was listed, but the campsite I used had sooty rocks).

Yes, I want to minimize my impact. To that end I look for pre-existing camp sites no matter how remote the area. I like it when I find a site with cleared sleeping area, a stove rock with sit rock, and yes, maybe even a fire ring. Those who have gone before me had similar needs--proximity to water, wind/precipitation shelter, exposure to morning light--so finding signs of past use suggests I'm on the right track, saves me some trouble, and allows me to minimize my footprint by using an old one.

Due to 150 years of prospecting, timber cruising, hunting/fishing, peak bagging, management inventories and activities, etc. across the West I won't be the first to visit any area. Our wild lands do have a history of human use in which the camp fire figured prominently, and denying that past history is both arrogant and discredits those whose footsteps we follow.

Pragmatism? Honor the past while being aware of and minimizing our impacts on the future.

And thanks to all for the discussion.
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Re: Should there be a campfire?

Postby Cross Country » Sun Oct 12, 2014 11:15 am

The overly used places I visited were somewhat ugly and to me at times offensive. My cross country destinations were almost never like that. I rarely made a campfire but usually made fires to cook my fish because I like BBQ fish. I'm sure some of you will realize what this means a like me less than ever.
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Re: Should there be a campfire?

Postby ERIC » Mon Oct 27, 2014 7:04 pm

TahoeJeff wrote:
ERIC wrote:Certainly there must be more important things needing to be saved by your morals.


Like having anglers file EIRs?


Point taken, but not an ideal comparison IMO.

Anyway, this sub-forum has a history of being warm to hot, and kind of smoky and controversial at times. I think "The Campfire" fits it well. :wink:
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