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Re: Campfires in Yosemite Valley Campgrounds

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avatar Campfires in Yosemite Valley Campgrounds
May 01, 2008 03:41PM
OK, so maybe I won't get much support here, but I'm curious.

I think that campfires ought to be banned in Yosemite Valley. Period.

My wife and I were just there and the day would start out nice, then people would get up and start their campfires. Many were producing tons of smoke. My wife and I were coughing, and vistas were severely damaged from considerable smoke. This happened each of the three days that we were there. In the evening we'd try to enjoy some time in camp, but again found ourselves gagging from the smoke and ended up with headaches.

I know that for many people, camping and campfires go together like beer & pizza, like hot dogs and ketchup; but the smoke that SO MANY fires produce has such a detrimental effect on the atmosphere (both in a literal and symbolic way) that I think the damage done far outweighs the pleasures.

avatar Re: Campfires in Yosemite Valley Campgrounds
May 01, 2008 06:55PM
They've already restricted the hours during which campfires are allowed. But I agree that, as much as I love a good campfire, the Valley isn't quite the place for them.

avatar Re: Campfires in Yosemite Valley Campgrounds
May 01, 2008 07:10PM
What do you think of this: Cabela's Propane Campfire Ring

Ski resorts use these in the common areas, I think they're great!
Re: Campfires in Yosemite Valley Campgrounds
May 01, 2008 07:43PM
Sierranomad,

I doubt you reside in any minority ... seems more and more people every year voice the same complaints .. and justifibaly so.

It was way back about 15 years ago .. when my wfe and I suffered similarly.
I think(?) the valley accomodated even more camp sites back then too ... geez, talk about getting asphyxiated! It was unbearable.

I thought (?) there had been much improvement to the problem from the N.P.S. instituting some guidelines about campfire use ... maybe I'm wrong ...

But, yeah ... many folks share your sentiments ... and dissappointingly, your (cough, cough ...) physical recation.
Re: Campfires in Yosemite Valley Campgrounds
May 01, 2008 08:05PM
I'm all for it, Jon. The air in the back end of the valley gets ridiculously bad whenever there are many campers; the valley just isn't a good location for fires.

They do restrict the hours starting in May to evenings only, but it gets bad there quickly in evenings. And the rest of the year, people get up and light a fire the first thing, and quite often it smolders off and on all morning. If you hike up above that end of the valley, you often see the ugly haze just sitting there, lingering.

The tough part is the readjustment of people's thinking. Camping=campfire, is how it was when I was a kid, but I seldom use fires even in other places now; I don't like breathing it, or coming home smelling like a chimney. Folks automatically light a fire when they go camping, and admittedly if you sit around the camp a lot, it adds to the atmosphere...unfortunately, in more ways than one.

Many times I've come back from the valley intending to write just what you've written; it's really a shame to do this to the valley or anywhere. If they could even have just one central fire ring for the whole camp, at least that would be an improvement.





Gary
Yosemite Photo Galleries: http://www.pbase.com/roberthouse/yo
avatar Re: Campfires in Yosemite Valley Campgrounds
May 02, 2008 12:49AM
We saw one "macho" man drag a tree into camp. We were irritated, knowing that dead wood needs to be allowed to decompose. But then I noticed that his trophy had roots...he actually pulled the small tree out of the ground!! I about blew a gasket.

Re: Campfires in Yosemite Valley Campgrounds
May 02, 2008 02:49AM
Jon, you have my vote. While I too remember the good old days with a nice campfire back in the midwest, I'd prefer going to Yosemite without the heavy smoke during the night.

But one battle at a time. I'm still waiting for the year when I don't see people with their dogs at Vernal Falls, Nevada Falls or beyond. I've never understood why the Yosemite Park Rangers don't do something about that. They'll give some thru hiker on the JMT a citation for no Wilderness permit who is 20 miles from anything (which is fine), but they won't do anything about pets on the heavily-traveled Mist and JMT trails to Nevada Falls. I'd really like to know if they've ever written a citation for that. When people see other people getting by with it, then they think it's okay to do the same.

Sorry, I had to vent on that. As I've said before, people think policies are meant for everyone else but them. That ruins the experience for others.

But you do have my vote to limit campfires in the Valley and I'd almost bet that would be a majority opinion of people who go more than once.





Bill
avatar Re: Campfires in Yosemite Valley Campgrounds
May 02, 2008 10:08AM
A couple of years ago I visited Zion NP. I went to the Watchman Campground for a ranger "campfire program". The campfire consisted of a stylized image of a stack of burning logs from a slide projector. The superintendent had banned wood fires in the campgrounds because of fire danger as well as air quality issues. I guess they could have made a single exception for the official program, but they were probably trying to set an example. A shame too, since on the same trip one ranger at Grand Teton took great pride in properly starting and maintaining a campfire, and kids had brought marshmallows to roast over the open fire.

The problem with Yosemite is that it's just too crowded. It might be better in some areas where the density of campgrounds isn't as high as the Pines Campgrounds.

Last summer I was trying to dry my clothes at the Valley backpackers campground. It didn't dry well, and the wet clothes just soaked in the smoke from the neighbors' wood fires.

Re: Campfires in Yosemite Valley Campgrounds
May 02, 2008 11:24AM
y_p_w wrote:


> The problem with Yosemite is that it's just too crowded. It
> might be better in some areas where the density of campgrounds
> isn't as high as the Pines Campgrounds.

This is part of the problem, to be sure, but the topography and meterology of the Valley is as big an issue. The evening comes, and diluting breezes tend to shut down - the generally westerly airflow, coupled with the easterly downslope flow of cooling air at night, tend to cancel each other out and the air stagnates. On top of this, the Valley develops a strong inversion, which shuts off vertical air movement and mixing. These build up the smoke significantly until the westerly airflow can resume with daytime heating after the next sunrise.

These problems do not occur in areas with better ventilation overall. I can see why Zion Canyon would experience this, and why the Teton campsites would not *usually* have this problem.

I love a campfire too, - but in YV I cannot see that it is a good thing. Smoke is very carcinogenic, and that's bad for everyone, animals as well as humans.





Wilderness forever,
Bruce Jensen
avatar Re: Campfires in Yosemite Valley Campgrounds
May 02, 2008 10:24PM
bpnjensen wrote:

> These problems do not occur in areas with better ventilation
> overall. I can see why Zion Canyon would experience this, and
> why the Teton campsites would not *usually* have this problem.

Well - the program at the Watchman campground was in an amphitheater set up in the campground. I suppose a narrow canyon could be a reason, but I think the dry conditions were probably the primary reason for the superintendent's campfire directive. They were worried about sparks possibly setting off dry brush. What I saw at the Tetons was at the Colter Bay amphitheater, which is just a stone's throw away from Colter Bay and Jackson Lake. In any case, I don't think the campgrounds had fire restrictions.

http://www.nps.gov/archive/zion/pr/2006/06-09FireRestrictions.htm
http://www.nps.gov/zion/parknews/fire-restrictions-to-be-implemented-in-zion.htm

> I love a campfire too, - but in YV I cannot see that it is a
> good thing. Smoke is very carcinogenic, and that's bad for
> everyone, animals as well as humans.

Some cities in the Bay Area have a ban on restaurant wood-fired ovens. The only ones left were grandfathered in, like the Pizza oven at Chez Panisse.

How about a Duraflame style log then? Those burn a lot cleaner than firewood. I remember a night at the Roosevelt Lodge cabins in Yellowstone. They had no heater, it was about 40 degrees outside, and the only heating source was a 1930's era stove. They wanted us to use these treated pressed-sawdust logs (not quite as waxy as Duraflame) and you could ask for more if you needed them. I had a hard time keeping them burning; I used alcohol gel when my last pieces of starter block burned away). The room smelled like smoke in a few hours. I nearly though we would succumb to carbon monoxide poisoning.

I don't mind some sort of communal campfire system, if air quality is the problem and not fire danger. It works pretty well at Little Yosemite Valley.

Re: Campfires in Yosemite Valley Campgrounds
May 04, 2008 01:32PM
y_p_w wrote:

> bpnjensen wrote:
>
> > These problems do not occur in areas with better ventilation
> > overall. I can see why Zion Canyon would experience this,
> and
> > why the Teton campsites would not *usually* have this
> problem.
>
> Well - the program at the Watchman campground was in an
> amphitheater set up in the campground. I suppose a narrow
> canyon could be a reason, but I think the dry conditions were
> probably the primary reason for the superintendent's campfire
> directive. They were worried about sparks possibly setting off
> dry brush. What I saw at the Tetons was at the Colter Bay
> amphitheater, which is just a stone's throw away from Colter
> Bay and Jackson Lake. In any case, I don't think the
> campgrounds had fire restrictions.
>
> http://www.nps.gov/archive/zion/pr/2006/06-09FireRestrictions.htm
> http://www.nps.gov/zion/parknews/fire-restrictions-to-be-implemented-in-zion.htm

I'll buy that. Zion is pretty dry most of the year...although it can be a water wonderland in the winter...think Red Rock Yosemite, complete with waterfalls :-)





Wilderness forever,
Bruce Jensen
avatar Re: Campfires in Yosemite Valley Campgrounds
May 02, 2008 10:36AM
avatar Re: Campfires in Yosemite Valley Campgrounds
May 02, 2008 09:13PM
When I began this thread I kind of expected to be berated because most of my friends would feel very much deprived at the very thought of not having a campfire; but I can see that I'm not the first person to come to this conclusion.

Re: Campfires in Yosemite Valley Campgrounds
May 03, 2008 11:02AM
My thoughts on campfires changed over time; a few years ago, we camped at the beach often, and one time we had a neighbor who just loved a campfire...morning until night, despite it being warm weather. Unfortunately the wind was going in our direction. So we ended up with tent, sleeping gear, car, clothes, bodies and probably inside of lungs that just reeked of smoke, so they could look at the pretty fire, which you're supposed to have when you're "camping".

There are small propane catalytic heaters that work well for handwarmers on cold mornings.

Having an area for a communal fire may help with other issues too. The occasional noisy late-night partiers generally sit around a big fire, and if it's a communal fire it would go out at 10, so maybe they'd get the idea. Of course they'd probably all go in and start up their auxiliaries...8^)

There might be more opposition to banning campfires than you see here. I've noticed two general categories of visitors at the campground: those who go to Yosemite to take in what it offers and be part of it, and those who want to bring their home environment with them so they are as close as possible being at home, only in Yosemite. Some of them are probably less likely to be willing to make adjustments to their behavior because of say, the stagnancy of air around that end of the valley, and the effect of the smoke on everyone. They'd be more likely to protest a ban on campfires, even if there's good reason for it. Or ignore the ban, like they do with the limits on auxiliaries...

We attend a music festival each year that in past years allowed fires at campsites, but extreme fire danger changed that. At first there was grumbling and folks saying it would ruin the fun, because nighttime jams around campfires were common. But it worked out fine after all, and now it's just an accepted fact that they can't have fires, not a big deal at all, and the air is cleaner to boot.





Gary
Yosemite Photo Galleries: http://www.pbase.com/roberthouse/yo
avatar Re: Campfires in Yosemite Valley Campgrounds
May 04, 2008 06:21PM
i must be the minority here, i love having a campfire, that's one reason why i like to go. love to sit around a fire at night and talk.
avatar Re: Campfires in Yosemite Valley Campgrounds
May 04, 2008 06:55PM
forrestranger wrote:

> i must be the minority here, i love having a campfire, that's
> one reason why i like to go. love to sit around a fire at night
> and talk.

I love a campfire too. But in the Valley the smoke gets really bad sometimes.

avatar Re: Campfires in Yosemite Valley Campgrounds
May 05, 2008 09:23AM
eeek wrote:

> forrestranger wrote:
>
> > i must be the minority here, i love having a campfire, that's
> > one reason why i like to go. love to sit around a fire at
> night
> > and talk.
>
> I love a campfire too. But in the Valley the smoke gets really
> bad sometimes.
>



I agree with both eeek and forrestranger!





Dan
Re: Campfires in Yosemite Valley Campgrounds
May 05, 2008 11:24AM
forrestranger wrote:
> i must be the minority here, i love having a campfire, that's
> one reason why i like to go. love to sit around a fire at night
> and talk.

From a quick look at the campground maps, there are over 400 campsites at the east end of the valley, not counting the backpacker campground which has at least 50, and Camp 4, which is not fully at the east end.

How many fires can the valley support, and still have air that won't kill off, or make miserable, the people that are enjoying their fires (and their neighbors) a few years early? 400? 200? 10?

I'm sure some small, well tended and dry wood fires would not have an enourmous impact on the air, maybe even 50 of them. But there are the guys like Sierranomad mentioned, dragging a tree into camp. Then there are the others, who, despite the rule of burning NOTHING from the forest floor, will be adding cones and needles and wet twigs or deadwood. So instead of the theoretical 50 clean fires it could support, that would cut it down to half that, to allow for a few abusers.

Now, how do you decide who gets to have the 25 fires? A lottery? And who volunteers to police them so no one else starts one?

I understand, and I think a lot of folks agree, that a nighttime campfire can be a pleasant experience socially. In a wide-open-spaces environment, maybe it's a good thing. But in a closed end of a valley, where campsites are packed in very close together, you have to take that into account, rather than simply look at how nice it is to have a campfire and sit around and talk.

There are plenty of campgrounds all around the state, in more open areas, more suited to "recreational camping" where everyone has a fire, the air isn't quite as severely affected, and people are more spread out. The valley doesn't have any of those.

It's my understanding that fires are supposed to go out at 10PM, "quiet time", regardless of time of year in the campgrounds in the valley. And 98% of people, at least in the times I visit, comply, or at least let them burn down by then. Many times I've wished a late hour noisy group would just shut up for a minute and listen, so they could realize that they are in fact the only ones making noise, everyone else is either (trying to be) asleep or quietly relaxing. Even when they talk quietly, the "group laugh" syndrome, where every few minutes there's a loud group laugh, waking you back up from where you almost drifted off, keeps people from sleeping. There's nearly always one woman in these groups who is drunk, has a loud laugh, and everything is outrageously funny. They might as well just talk loud and be noisy, at least you can adjust to that, instead of laying there wondering how on earth you're going to get up at 5 for your Half Dome hike, while waiting for the next group laugh.

The propane fire ring mentioned might be an option for helping the air quality, but then again it might encourage the night partiers to stay out even later.

It would be just as enjoyable to have a friendly campfire when the fire danger somewhere is extreme; but that's not allowed, and people don't argue with it, usually. But the consequences of that are more obvious, quick and devastating if something happens. Killing people by giving them severely polluted air to breathe is not so obvious, it may take a long time, and you can always blame something else or argue that there's no proof it caused anything. Stinking things up and making them ugly from the smoke is a more direct affect, but no one campfire is responsible, so since 'everyone's doing it', it's OK, because why should I not have a fire when they all do.

Nice as it may be, the valley just isn't suited to hosting any large number of campfires, so my suggestion would be to camp in the valley to enjoy what it offers, respect its limitations, and when you're in the mood for the late night campfire chat sessions, camp in a place more suitable for that.





Gary
Yosemite Photo Galleries: http://www.pbase.com/roberthouse/yo
Re: Campfires in Yosemite Valley Campgrounds
May 05, 2008 10:25AM
I have long hoped campfires every morning and evening in Yosemite Valley would eventually be prohibited for the annoying reasons given and others. One of the issues I have staying in public campgrounds anywhere is it is extremely annoying trying to go to sleep after say 10pm when supposedly quiet hours begin, only to have neighboring campfire users continue to talk, laugh, play their music, and generally make noise. It is true that at many campgrounds, such late evening partiers will stop being really loud. However what most do is simply turn things down a notch by playing music at low levels and not talking so loudly. To someone trying to sleep 50 feet away, that is not used to trying to sleep under such conditions, that can still be quite annoying regardless of the use earplugs. Having park authorities go around policing such in campgrounds would only lead to resentment. A better tact would be to require putting OUT campfires at the onset of quiet hours as it would remove the main attraction.

Some of the particles of soot land and darken the great valley's granite walls. At the microscopic level, finer particles have many more irregular locations and tiny holes on any surface into which they can fit, and smoke tends to have a full range of particulates including quite fine particles including those with relatively sticky organics as pine tar. Anyone that has dealt with smoke damage can attest to the impossibility of washing clean many types of contaminated surfaces. The campfires are not the only pollution source contaminating the valley rock as vehicle exaust certainly adds more.

Well a few years ago the NPS took a step in reducing campfire smoke by restricting fire hours and requesting an end to the old bonfire mentality. At the time there were non unexpectantly some protests. Completely banning fires then would have likely caused considerably more protests so that strategy was pragmatic. Today time has continued to change the old attitudes and younger generations are more dominant. Thus it is time to take further steps in reducing smoke in Yosemite Valley. Certainly the completion of the controled burns gives greater overall validity for doing so. For those that insist on campfires they could increase awareness in open forest campground locations outside the valley where such would continue to be allowed. One thing they might do is restrict fires to only half the days of the week that would include Saturday. That way those many car campers that never have experienced fireless camping might learn that it is not that big a loss and there is much one can still do. To offset that, the park might increase evening activities say at meeting areas and have some flashlight hikes during more moonlit periods. Another thing they could do would be to increase quiet hours during evenings on those fireless days and promote rising and hiking about the next morning early by having some organized activities.





http://www.davidsenesac.com
avatar Re: Campfires in Yosemite Valley Campgrounds
May 06, 2008 07:19AM
With (dis)respect to campfires... 3 words:
Leave NO Trace

They should be outlawed in ALL of Yosemite.
The day will not come soon enough.

Seems like everyone that goes backpacking insists on building a
new fire ring even though when you get your permit they say
use an existing fire ring blah blah blah...
I know people would be amazed at how many fire rings there are!
You can go offtrail many miles and you'll still find them.
Jimmeny Cricket... Take a hike up to Inspiration Point.... and crap...
did they need THAT big of a fire... cmon. It's 2 miles from the
trail head. and it sure as heck wasn't there last year.

O well.. the day will come... I pray...
avatar Re: Campfires in Yosemite Valley Campgrounds
May 06, 2008 09:55AM
I agree with Billy. It's not so much the fire but the number of fire rings that are made and left by backpackers. It's kind of disheartening to hike in a few days with a couple of miles cross country added only to find fire rings all over the place. Sort of takes some of the wind out the wilderness experience.





Old Dude
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