Sunday, October 21, 2007

Turn Out That Fire!

I do a lot of hiking and backpacking in wilderness areas in the Southeastern USA. Mainly, I stick to the limited high country of my native South, but occasionally I will venture into low country or Piedmont wilderness areas.

One of the things that I always liked about the wilderness concept was that of “leaving no trace”. As such, these places always had rules and laws in effect that were to prevent the building of campfires. Campfires consume deadwood, create smoke, and definitely impinge on the wilderness experience for those who don’t wish to see, hear, or smell wood smoke when they’re in wilderness.

Recently, I was appalled to visit the site of a certain (asshole) wilderness writer who posted many photographs of him proudly sitting around his hideous campfires in various wilderness areas in the Southeast. Sitting so smug and arrogant and ignorant while engaging in this destructive practice of bygone days. True, I suspect that it can be a pleasant experience to sit by a campfire and stare dumbly into the flames like a moron. But there are tons of non-wilderness lands in which this can be practiced without shattering the wilderness experience for others.

For myself, I go into wilderness for solitude and to escape from the influences of Mankind (as far as I am able). I don’t want to smell wood burning, and I don’t want to see light in a place where there is not supposed to be any light beyond that cast by the moon or the stars or the bioluminescence of some wild creatures who exist there.

In past years, it was public policy that campfires were not allowed at all in any of the wilderness areas in which I hiked. Now, it seems, the rules have been reinterpreted to merely state “limit campfire impact”, which basically means nothing, save that any moron can now plunge into our wilderness areas and begin dragging deadwood and piling it up to build a stinking campfire. I suspect that such ignorant sub-normals will soon begin to chop live wood from the forests to feed such fires, as the rules that were in place have been relaxed.

Alas, the wild places are dwindling fast. Soon, they will be ruined. I have resigned myself to this very sad fact and have been doing my best to see as much of it as I can before it succumbs to the destruction we’re bringing upon it.

However, if you’re going into wilderness, do it a favor: don’t build any goddamned campfires. And don’t take your dog with you—they spread diseases against which much wildlife has no defense. Just hike in and observe it and try to leave no fucking trace of your passing. I would ask you to destroy the traces of past fire rings, but I fear this would just encourage the idiots who follow you to create newer fire rings.

Basically…please don’t be a rude, arrogant, fire-building moron.

Wilderness campsite: no campfire!


Mark Martin said...

Hey, go back to jabberous now for new link to that WHAT THE #%#@!?!?

I hate to tell you this, but just by BEing in the wilderness you are impacting it. Your human smell, your tent, your urine -

I suppose you don't leave any "impact" that other seekers who go there after you will detect, but you're probably upsetting the little critters.

And that's cool, I'm sure they'll get over it. I'm just saying... You know, don't be so negative about other people. It's not like they're bulldozing if they have a little campfire.

What if some guy (or gal) just happens to be out there, just sitting and BEing, quietly, trying to get away from dumbass people...

and YOU come walking up! With your noisy feet and your breathing and your "oh, hey, didn't see you there" - ???


You can't win.

HemlockMan said...

"I hate to tell you this, but just by BEing in the wilderness you are impacting it. Your human smell, your tent, your urine "

Oh that's a new one! I hadn't heard that before!!!!

There's a "leave no trace" ethic to the establishment of wilderness. A carbonized mass of burnt wood isn't "leaving no trace".

Mark Martin said...

I'm not very good at cheering people up. But I'll try again.

Lightning is perfectly natural and leaves huge masses of carbonized burnt wood in its wake. I hear it's actually good for the forest - or it CAN be.

Hey, I hate urban sprawl and the loss of nature too. I'm just trying to say "Don't sweat the small stuff."

Fuckin developers! Fuckin "housing market indicators"! Fuckin Woodstock! Go Buddhist, aggressive achievers!

HemlockMan said...

Until the wilderness rules were recently changed by the RepubliKKKan administration, campfires weren't even allowed in the wilderness areas I generally use. Now they are, which goes against the "leave no trace" ethic for which these wildernesses were established.

Humans control campfires. Lightning strikes are part of the natural way of things.

At any rate, I find myself bushwhacking more and more which takes me off trail and where I don't encounter people (and their fires and their pets).