Camping without campfires

It’s Leave-No-Trace Tuesday and it seems appropriate to talk about campfires since they are banned across BC right now.

I’m firmly of the opinion that camping does not need a campfire. I prefer it because I get to see the night sky, and there are no concerns about anything catching fire or melting from stray sparks, or finding firewood, plus there’s no messy, stinky fire ring which in turn means no scar on the landscape. Also with a campfire, everyone huddles around it looking inwards. Why not sit and look out at the landscape?

So here’s our tent, lit by a headlamp inside and the full moon outside. What you can’t see in this photo is that we had to dodge two (!) fire rings to pitch our tent, despite the fact that campfires are forbidden here.

Strangely, most of the articles and posts I’ve seen about the current campfire ban use pictures of roaring campfires to make the point. I think the various news organizations and public bodies should invest in some alternative stock photos that either show campfires being extinguished or have campers enjoying a campfire-free life! It is possible!

And I’ve finally found a hashtag that no one has used yet: #campingwithoutcampfires Try it 🙂

It's #LeaveNoTraceTuesday and it seems appropriate to talk about campfires since they are banned across BC right now. I'm firmly of the opinion that camping does not need a campfire. I prefer it because I get to see the night sky, and there are no concerns about anything catching fire or melting from stray sparks, or finding firewood, plus there's no messy, stinky fire ring which in turn means no scar on the landscape. Also with a campfire, everyone huddles around it looking inwards. Why not sit and look out at the landscape? So here's our tent, lit by a headlamp inside and the full moon outside. What you can't see in this photo is that we had to dodge two (!) fire rings to pitch our tent, despite the fact that campfires are forbidden here. Strangely, most of the articles and posts I've seen about the current campfire ban use pictures of roaring campfires to make the point. I think the various news organizations and public bodies should invest in some alternative stock photos that either show campfires being extinguished or have campers enjoying a campfire-free life! It is possible! And I've finally found a hashtag that no one has used yet: #campingwithoutcampfires Try it 🙂 #leavenotrace #lnt #ge_rlparks #goldenears #goldenearsprovincialpark #nocampfires #bcparks #explorebc #backpacking #hiking #hikebc #bchiking #beautifulbc #bigagnes #beautifulbritishcolumbia #ifttt

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The obsession with campfires remains one of my biggest pet peeves when in the backcountry. Here in Canada (and probably elsewhere too), camping is intimately linked to having a campfire, be it for cooking, warmth, or as a TV substitute. They’re in all manner of adverts for camping and spending time in the great outdoors. And so it perhaps no great surprise that when people raised on this message venture into the backcountry to camp, they immediately feel some primal need for a campfire.

The thing is that they are completely unnecessary, borderline useless for cooking (I’ve tried), and damage the fragile backcountry environment to an extent that takes decades to restore. A portable gas stove is so much more efficient, and modern setups weigh very little. It’s the damage and mess that bugs me the most, especially when people don’t reuse an existing scar. As I mention above, there were two fire scars right next to where we pitched our tent, barely 2 metres apart. And when a place looks trashed, people are less inclined to take care and not trash it some more.

And so I do my best to leave places as I find them – or better. If I can walk away from a campsite and see no evidence I was there, I’m happy. That includes campfires. In many places we hike, they’re forbidden anyway (although that doesn’t stop people since enforcement is sadly minimal). And despite my fascination with fire as a youth, I never developed the camping-campfire association.

I’ll admit, then, that I find it easy to not bother with campfires. But I look at what I gain from not having one: no mess, no damage, no smell, no risks, and a clear view. A crackling fire is fine in a log cabin; in the backcountry, I want to hear the sounds around me. A fire draws my eye to its flames: without it, I have the entire landscape to admire. A bright fire accentuates the difference between light and dark: the night is rarely as dark as you think. In the backcountry, I accept there may be mosquitoes, and it may be chilly. I have warm clothing, plus bug wipes and a net if necessary.

I am quite happy to camp without a campfire.

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Mountains at sea

A view of Golden Ears from the entrance to Active Pass on our ferry ride home.

I’m sure I’ve said this before, but I love being out on deck as the ferry goes through Active Pass. I’ve seen killer whales here several times, seals most times, eagles, and the occasional sea lion. On our outward journey on Friday, I saw a couple of deer feeding in one of the meadows on Mayne Island.

As usual, I was up at the bow, primed to get take a picture of the other ferry coming towards us, only to be reminded of the glorious view of Golden Ears framed between headlands on Galiano (left) and Mayne Islands. Since it caught me by surprise, I was a little late in taking the photo, and as a result, it’s not as well framed as I feel it could have been; I would like the headlands to be a little closer together. I’ll have to make sure I get it right next time! Maybe the light will be more favourable too?

Moonrise in motion

Time lapse video of Wednesday’s moonrise over Robie Reid and Golden Ears – made a few mistakes but it worked out well enough 🙂 🏔🌝

OK so I know I posted the full video with the previous post but I couldn’t resist posting it on Instagram too. As I mention above and in that post, I did make a few mistakes that I’ll correct next time. In no particular order I think these were:

  • I didn’t clear the memory card beforehand – the video stops where it filled up, but the timelapse program (and the camera!) kept going and didn’t report any problem
  • I should have used manual focus – the focus hunts a couple of times during the video, which is pretty distracting.
  • Actually I should have used manual everything for the camera – I should have checked my exposure time for my best aperture and just set it accordingly.
  • Next time I’ll shoot a shorter interval – one photo every 10 seconds isn’t enough, so I’ll try 5 seconds to aim for a smoother video.

I think that’s about it. Nevertheless, I’m still quite pleased with how it turned out! A bigger learning curve comes with the video editing software – iMovie doesn’t really think the same way I do, so it’s taking a bit of fiddling to work things out. We’ll see what the next one brings!

Mountain moonrise

A glorious nearly-full moon rise over Robie Reid with the last rays of the sun lighting up Golden Ears

How lucky for us to have clear weather for a January full-moonrise (or nearly full)! For some time I’ve wanted to catch the moon rising over Golden Ears, and when I realized I had a chance to photograph the moonrise, I spent some time using the The Photographer’s Ephemeris, Google Earth and searching for images on Flickr to try and work out the best place to capture this event. I was delighted to find that Deer Lake regional park offered a clear view across to the mountains, a view I hadn’t seen before as I’d only ever been to that park on cloudy days.

I cased out a parking spot along Oakmount Crescent (though I was nearly thwarted by the huge amounts of snow piled up at the roadside!), and jogged down into the snowy park to find my spot. I set up the tripod and camera, and waited. The moon soon rose right over the top of the gigantic block of Robie Reid, so not quite Golden Ears but close enough 🙂 It was fun to see how quickly the moon appeared to rise over the mountains. The sky turned from orange to pink to dusky blue, while the moon turned from orange to yellow to white.

While I was taking photos with the SLR, I had the compact camera (Sony RX100II) shooting a timelapse. I’ve never done any timelapses before so this was a first. I made a few mistakes but it still turned out quite well!

The evening was made all the more enjoyable by watching and listening to the crows as they flew overhead, cawing in pairs that created a stereo-like soundtrack to my ears. Soon after, a small hawk (Cooper’s or sharp-shinned probably) flew barely 10 feet over my head and settled in a tree behind me. Finally as I was getting ready to call it quits, a small movement caught my eye and I looked down to see a tiny vole dart back and forth across the snow before disappearing into a hole created by a patch of tall grass. What a treat!

Vancouver in the Fall

Throwback to a sunny autumn morning from this week 5 years ago. I think it must have been Bike to Work Week.

This week is Bike-to-Work Week, indeed as it was five years ago. But it’s a very different week with barely a hint of sun. I took this photo from Trimble Park in Point Grey, a good place to catch your breath after cycling up the hill on 8th Ave! I loved the soft light on the trees, and of course the view of Golden Ears (which I can now say I’ve climbed – yay!). And then it was onwards and upwards some more…

The joys of camping…

Another photo from the weekend’s beautiful sunrise on Golden Ears. A spectacular place to camp but some people really need to learn that their voices carry way beyond their tent, and that yelling to your buds at 5 am is just not cool. Check out this week’s Leave No Trace Tuesday tip from @happiestoutdoors about being considerate of others in the backcountry.

I love spending time in the backcountry, and one of the things that appeals to me is the peace and quiet. It seems natural that leaving the city behind means leaving city attitudes behind as well (though I must admit, I’d like it if city folk could be a little more courteous of their fellow city-dwellers).

Historically, most of the people venturing into the backcountry were people who really wanted to be there for its own sake. My impression – and this could just be the curmudgeonly view of someone getting older! – is that there is now a significant number of (young) people going into the backcountry because it’s cool to do so. They don’t really love it, they’re not there to leave behind the busyness of life, they’re ticking a box, trying to impress their friends and get that ultimate sick Instagram shot.

I suspect most of them will grow out of hiking, taking up alternative pursuits in the process, and of course it’s not my place to say they shouldn’t be allowed in the backcountry. After all, the more people who get out and hike, the more people there will be who think there is value in protecting those areas. But I do feel that people venturing into an environment should go in with a view of adopting the existing traditions and attitudes, kind of like seeing how things are done before making your mark. Is it too much to ask for a little more respect and humility?

Golden mornings

Edge Peak and Golden Ears summit in early morning light, with the waning moon still hanging in the sky

One of the prime reasons for hauling our camping gear up onto this ridge is to enjoy the sunset once night and the sunrise the following morning. I crawled out of the tent a few minutes before the sun poked over the eastern mountains and set about exploring the ridge for the best photo-ops. I particularly liked this view of both Edge Peak and Golden Ears summit, which I could just fit into the frame with the ultra-wide angle lens on Maria’s camera. And to have the moon hanging over Golden Ears in the clear morning sky was just perfect.