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Graffiti in backcountry


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I spent a weekend in Monongahela National Forest. Some of the greatest views I found had grafitti all over the nearby rocks. It really ruins it for me. I seek the wilderness to get away from things like this.

 

I was looking to cache a small part of the Appalacian Trail in my local area. As I read through the various caches I heard complaints of graffiti also. This was in the section around Hamburg, PA.

 

Do you see graffiti in your backcountry? What part of the world are you in?

 

Also can anyone up in the Hamburg area recommend a good weekend (one night) hike in/out caching segment of the AT?

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I was in the Mon National Forest this weekend at Spruce Knob and Seneca Rocks. At Seneca, the Eastern Leave No Trace team was conducting some training and they had a display set up with LNT materials. Through conversation they asked why I was in the area and I mentioned I wasn't there to climb but to go geocaching at Spruce.

 

The young man of the team told me they met a person not long ago while on a trail. He was swinging his hiking stick at a bush - really beating it to pieces. They asked what he was doing and he replied, "There's a geocache in there and I'm trying to get it out." That was their first encounter with a geocacher. I guess he planned to leave no trace of the bush.

 

To me, graffiti takes several forms. Leaving marks like these on an object to which they don't belong is usually pretty noticeable and in some cases quite damaging. I don't want to hike 10 miles into the woods to know that "Jim loves Amy" or that "Billy was here in 1972". I also would like to have the native flora and fauna there to experience as well. I've seen more graffiti in remote locations than I thought possible. On rocks, in caves, carved into trees, painted on boulders and fire towers ... on national, state and local community properties.

 

I'm not a tree-hugging extremist. I know that to build a road you have to cut down some trees and some animals will be displaced or killed in the process. But when areas are set said to enjoy, why can't people do just that - just enjoy them for what they are and take care of them for the next group to come through. I've never understood the graffiti mentality. I guess you just can't fix stupid.

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Some people live like animals.They have to mark their territory with spray paint or destruction.I personally don't get it.Carving trees never bothered me too much.I did it stupidly when I was a kid but had enough sense to stop.Some people never grow up I spose.

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I remember seeing that a lot when I lived in New England, it’s always surprising how far into the forest someone will walk with a can of spray paint. I don’t recall ever seeing that here in Washington. Now, it’s really hard to get ‘lost’ in Connecticut, just keep walking and within a few minutes you’ll find a road. Here in WA, however, you can get lost in a few minutes and never find a road. That may be keeping the graffiti types out of the woods.

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Leave No Trace is a relatively new phenomenon. Back in the 70's that mantra was non-existent and you are talking about the free love generation where the mantra was live and let live.

 

That being said, nobody knew that painting a rock in the wilderness would have such an unsightly long lasting effect 30 years later thus today's education to LNT and tread lightly as much as possible. Even today, with this education prevalent everywhere you walk, you will end up with people who think the damage they do will quickly recover, or they think their banana peel will be eaten by the wildlife thus no harm no foul.

 

One anecdotal observation I do have is most grafitti is in easily accessible areas. Kids are typically lazy. When a trail goes to moderate or difficult or there is some distance involved, you will see less of that sort of thng.

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I've found it on a rock near one of my back country caches. But grafitti is nothing new, while hikiing to some Indian Ruins way back in the Superstitions we found some names on the ruins from around 1890.

Why is it that if someone spray paints a rock it's grafitti, but if an Indian draws a stick figure on a rock it's a historic artifact. Do you think way back when the indians mom grounded the kid for writing on the cave walls?

hmmmmmmmmmm.

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I've found it on a rock near one of my back country caches. But grafitti is nothing new, while hikiing to some Indian Ruins way back in the Superstitions we found some names on the ruins from around 1890.

Why is it that if someone spray paints a rock it's grafitti, but if an Indian draws a stick figure on a rock it's a historic artifact. Do you think way back when the indians mom grounded the kid for writing on the cave walls?

hmmmmmmmmmm.

 

This is a known (and joked about) thing with the archaeologists that I work with. Given long engouh, todays grafitti is tomorrows revered petroglyphs. There are locations where people have put their names in the rocks for generations. It's historic and protected. Thus it's not ok if you "vandalize it" by putting your name in the rocks too, but once you have done so the Cultural Tradtion itself is protected and so your name is now protected and someone who tries to remove it would be a vandal. Ironic.

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Not much in the way of true backcountry here in NJ, but you do have places where you can hike for 10 or so miles without hitting a road. You see graffiti pretty much anywhere.

 

In the Catskills in NY where there is what you might call backcountry I've encountered some really neat graffiti. Carvings in rocks going back to the 1800's. The earliest I found was from 1833.

 

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I wonder why this guy stopped coming <_<

 

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Based on years of observation of trail heads and backcountry areas in California, I've come to the following conclusion:

 

"Scum Don't Walk Far"

 

Most of the trash/debris/garbage and graffiti are usually around the trail head, places the purveyors of this nonsense can go without much effort.

 

The bad news: It's risky to leave a car at a trailhead.

 

The good news: You only need to walk/hike a short distance to start getting back to nature the way it (nature) was originally made!

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Based on years of observation of trail heads and backcountry areas in California, I've come to the following conclusion:

"Scum Don't Walk Far"

Alas, the last time I went to Summit Rock (off Hwy 35, SF Bay Area), it was completely covered in graffiti. It takes anywhere from 25 min to 45 min to get there, depending on where you park (there is no easy parking at the shorter route).

 

I don't see it as art or any kind or a potential future historic find. I see it as vandalism and would like it to be treated as such by park authorities.

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yeah... and how about those cavemen marring up the walls of their caverns?

You really fail to see the difference?

 

The only difference is time. Somehow time makes it so yeserdays grafitti is important and treasured history. The cultural practice has been around virtually as long as man. The tools change. Most of todays markings won't survive the trip that would make it history.

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The only difference is time. Somehow time makes it so yeserdays grafitti is important and treasured history. The cultural practice has been around virtually as long as man. The tools change. Most of todays markings won't survive the trip that would make it history.

No, the differences are at least two:

 

1. The art you showed was done by men living in that cavern. The hooligans do not live in that cavern.

2. The ancient cave art was just that - art - an expression of fears and joys and perhaps even storytelling of everyday life. Graffiti as we see it in parks is like urinating by animals to mark territory. There is no other purpose to it.

 

So, a hooligan goes to a park owned by the public and urinates (but in a much more permanent way) all over the place. And you want to call it art? :o

 

What is wrong with people that they want to justify vandalism? Don't our cities already look like garbage dumps? You want our parks to look the same?

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Old cave paintings/carvings= we hunted here, good game in area, raised family, battles fought here, ...more like a log or information board for whomever may follow.

 

1700's -1800's name carving= probably wishing they had TVs. But yeah true, they lived there. It might even be the last thing they did before a battle of something and it was the only marker they would have.

 

Modern spray painters = "dude, I got so stoned here"

anyone who supports them..well I guess if I went by your house or car, and thought "this would look better with my name on it" that would be OK? If they are caught, strip them, the rest of the paint should be used to mark them, un-cerimoniously cram the empty can in a body opening, then send them on thier way, naked spray painted and crying. And dont start that non-sense about "freedom of expression" and "artistic blah blah blah" get a sketch pad! or buy your own building and you can paint it however you like.

 

As you might guess I feel about "taggers" the same way Cartman feels about hippies.

Edited by KidRipley
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Based on years of observation of trail heads and backcountry areas in California, I've come to the following conclusion:

"Scum Don't Walk Far"

Alas, the last time I went to Summit Rock (off Hwy 35, SF Bay Area), it was completely covered in graffiti. It takes anywhere from 25 min to 45 min to get there, depending on where you park (there is no easy parking at the shorter route).

 

I don't see it as art or any kind or a potential future historic find. I see it as vandalism and would like it to be treated as such by park authorities.

 

OK, there are some areas in California where the scum have evolved a bit and can walk a short distance (Darwin: What is going on?). :D But it's really short, and not likely to be much more than than 25 to 45 minutes, especially if it's up hill, or rough, or hot...(thus, another good reason to go for longer walks, over longer periods, over rougher terrain, at places further away...to get us away from these sorts...).

 

And SF? That's a subject big enough for an entirely new topic!

 

Graffiti is not art. It's a sign of urban and social decay. The markings have no potential to become art. The perpetrators of this assualt have no potential.

Edited by Jeepergeo
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1700's -1800's name carving= probably wishing they had TVs. But yeah true, they lived there. It might even be the last thing they did before a battle of something and it was the only marker they would have.

 

Modern spray painters = "dude, I got so stoned here"

 

It's all man's way of saying "I was here". It's part of human nature to want to be remembered, if only by initials carved in stone, painted in cave or on the side of a cliff.

 

Today it's considered vandalism, but in 100 years it will be history. The carvings that I had shown in my earlier post were near the long gone Catskill Mountain House, a popular hotel and tourist destination in the 1800's. Hundreds of people carved their names in the rocks, yet if the owner at the time caught anyone doing it, they would be thrown out of the hotel. In the 1800's it was considered vandalism. Today it's considered history and the spot is famous for its carvings.

 

Graffiti is similar to litter, yet archaeology is, in part, a study of litter. It doesn't have to be 200 or 2,000 years old either. I do trail work and often that includes cleanup of trails. There were a few abandoned cars we wanted to get rid of. The state said no. Why? They were considered an "archaeological site" because they were more than 40 years old.

 

I'm not defending graffiti, but to glamorize the vandalism of 100 years ago and not realize the future historical value of today's vandalism is somewhat short sighted.

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It's all man's way of saying "I was here". It's part of human nature to want to be remembered, if only by initials carved in stone, painted in cave or on the side of a cliff.

 

Today it's considered vandalism, but in 100 years it will be history. The carvings that I had shown in my earlier post were near the long gone Catskill Mountain House, a popular hotel and tourist destination in the 1800's. Hundreds of people carved their names in the rocks, yet if the owner at the time caught anyone doing it, they would be thrown out of the hotel. In the 1800's it was considered vandalism. Today it's considered history and the spot is famous for its carvings.

 

Graffiti is similar to litter, yet archaeology is, in part, a study of litter. It doesn't have to be 200 or 2,000 years old either. I do trail work and often that includes cleanup of trails. There were a few abandoned cars we wanted to get rid of. The state said no. Why? They were considered an "archaeological site" because they were more than 40 years old.

 

I'm not defending graffiti, but to glamorize the vandalism of 100 years ago and not realize the future historical value of today's vandalism is somewhat short sighted.

 

Yeah what he said.

 

Can't you see some cavewoman smacking her cavekid around for drawing on the walls. :laughing:

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I'm not defending graffiti, but to glamorize the vandalism of 100 years ago and not realize the future historical value of today's vandalism is somewhat short sighted.

You're not defending graffiti? Could have fooled me. So, what exactly are you saying? Answer me this:

 

Do you want to allow people spray paint rocks in public parks?

 

Yes or no. No meandering.

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Love it or hate it, it is a recognized form of artwork. Google it... I dare you. I just visited a park that has a wall set up for the sole purpose of spray painting graffiti. The kids have fun expressing themselves the same way caveman and the name carvers did.

 

To quote a line from a movie... One man's trash, is another man's treasure. - Penguin in Batman Returns 1992.

 

Treasured artifacts today was nothing more than litter left yesterday and now there are laws protecting such litter errr artifacts.

 

No, I wouldn't like to see indiscriminate spray painting, but no, I wouldn't be one to tell the person they don't have a right to express themselves. Do like the park I visited and provide a format for it to happen.

 

=-=-Edited to fix a spelling error-=-=

Edited by TotemLake
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Love it or hate it, it is a recognized form of artwork. Google it... I dare you. I just visited a park that has a wall set up for the sole purpose of spray painting graffiti. The kids have fun expressing themselves the same way caveman and the name carvers did.

 

To quote a line from a movie... One man's trash, is another man's treasure. - Penguin in Batman Returns 1992.

 

Treasured artifacts today was nothing more than litter left yesterday and now there are laws protecting such litter errr artifacts.

 

No, I wouldn't like to see indiscriminate spray painting, but no, I wouldn't be one to tell the person they don't have a right to express themselves. Do like the park I visited and provide a format for it to happen.

 

=-=-Edited to fix a spelling error-=-=

 

I agree that some of these "kids" are really talented.

 

However, there is a definite difference between expressing one's self on their own notepad, wall, or a public wall set up for that purpose and tagging private and public property.

 

Why should I have to be subjected to illegal "artistic" expressions and pay to have them removed?

 

BTW, I live behind a freeway noise wall so I have experience with these jerks.

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There is a road here that goes under a highway. For years someone spray painted some large and incredibly good artwork on the concrete abuttment walls. Once or twice a year the town would paint over it with flat grey, and then several months later new artwork would appear.

 

While I don't support spray painting stuff up, I have to admit that at least whoever did it was creative, talented, and tasteful in their art. I haven't seen any new artwork there in years now, just the occasional lame attempts at spray paint humor, tagging, or profanity. Kinda too bad.

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I'm not defending graffiti, but to glamorize the vandalism of 100 years ago and not realize the future historical value of today's vandalism is somewhat short sighted.

You're not defending graffiti? Could have fooled me. So, what exactly are you saying? Answer me this:

 

Do you want to allow people spray paint rocks in public parks?

 

Yes or no. No meandering.

 

No I'm not defending graffiti . Talk about missing the point.

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Graffiti is similar to litter, yet archaeology is, in part, a study of litter. It doesn't have to be 200 or 2,000 years old either. I do trail work and often that includes cleanup of trails. There were a few abandoned cars we wanted to get rid of. The state said no. Why? They were considered an "archaeological site" because they were more than 40 years old.

 

I'm not defending graffiti, but to glamorize the vandalism of 100 years ago and not realize the future historical value of today's vandalism is somewhat short sighted.

 

"Graffiti is similar to litter, yet archaeology is, in part, a study of litter."

OK, so no one should flush as doing so would be a senseless and insensitive destruction of data that may be critical to the future understanding of the history of our civilization.

 

"There were a few abandoned cars we wanted to get rid of. The state said no. Why? They were considered an "archaeological site" because they were more than 40 years old."

An organization becomes a bureaucracy when the few intelligent people in its employ can no longer understand or effectively carry out the founding principles of the organization.

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...No, the differences are at least two:

 

1. The art you showed was done by men living in that cavern. The hooligans do not live in that cavern.

2. The ancient cave art was just that - art - an expression of fears and joys and perhaps even storytelling of everyday life. Graffiti as we see it in parks is like urinating by animals to mark territory. There is no other purpose to it….

 

You understand what graffiti is. But you don't understand that ancient graffiti is what you are looking at when you look at the cave. Graffiti and Art are related. Good graffiti is art and not all art is worthy of the name. Regardless graffiti tells a story of the time it’s created within. Humans have a natural inclination to do art. The fridge of many a parent is living testimony to that. The only real difference is that “Art” is sanctioned. Then, you just needed to have the time. Now it would take a permit and probably an act of Congress.

 

You are assuming it was done by men living in the cavern as opposed to men who had just killed the old occupants, by the men’s kids as an ancient version of refrigerator art, the neighboring clans for spite, ancient hooligans, or by the first to say “I’m sick of looking at that blank wall”. The simple fact is you really don't know a whole heck of a lot beyond men then, like now, liked marking up their world using the tools at hand. You have no way to know if it was unsanctioned graffiti or sanctioned art. You just know that whatever it was then, you like it now.

 

Graffiti as we see it in parks, tells a story though one you don't like to read. You can read the ebb and flow of gang power, you can see who loves who, who lived here. Some few will rise to what we call art. Most will not survive the ravages of time to become revered inscriptions from the past that future people like you will defend as something more than graffiti.

 

The big problem I have is that the same people who like that our ancestors marked up the world, don’t like that we still like to do the same thing today. They don’t support any modern version of a cave wall where we can put forth our best effort to say “I was here” Instead the living cultural force that will not be denied is driven underground to be expressed as the much less desirable graffiti. We live in a world where a rock settlers marked with axle grease, coal, or whatever else they could find, gets called “Register Rock” and gets protected as special. Meanwhile the living are directed to view the laws on vandalism when they find their own rock.

 

We have in common a dislike for graffiti, where we differ is that at least I understand what it really is and I understand that some of it will be worthy of the same veneration we now give to register rocks and petroglyphs. Archaeologists understand the cultural forces and the seeming paradox.

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You can read the ebb and flow of gang power, you can see who loves who, who lived here.

 

Perhaps it has a sociological or anthropological value. However, when it is done in a public park, for which I and others pay our taxes to keep it in pristine condition, I would still like to shove their spray cans up their posteriors and chase them naked through manzanita forests.

 

When they get home, they can spray paint the interiors of their homes to their hearts' delight. They can even mark their territory by urinating in the corners, and then they can wallow in it.

 

Long time ago I used to work in projects. The picture I am painting is actually fairly common, and I don't care how much it offends a few bleeding hearts.

 

I don't want that in a public park.

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You can read the ebb and flow of gang power, you can see who loves who, who lived here.

 

Perhaps it has a sociological or anthropological value. However, when it is done in a public park, for which I and others pay our taxes to keep it in pristine condition, I would still like to shove their spray cans up their posteriors and chase them naked through manzanita forests....

 

No need to disrobe to show your distaste for it. :laughing: I don't like grafitti either.

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OK, so no one should flush as doing so would be a senseless and insensitive destruction of data that may be critical to the future understanding of the history of our civilization.

 

Privies are often the richest sources of archaeological artifacts. For some reason a lot of stuff winds up in them.

Chamber pots, lots of them. I guess someone drops them, then says "I ain't going down there to get it". Liquor bottles, doll parts, you name it.

 

I was digging in a privy of a 1600's farm house and was down about 10 feet and started finding clumps of berry seeds. "What are all these clumps of berry seeds doing all the way down here?" I thought. Then it hit me. Yuk...300 year old poops...all that was left of them was the seeds.

 

So yes, if you want to help out future archaeologists don't flush. Better yet dig a privy in your back yard. :)

 

Perhaps it has a sociological or anthropological value. However, when it is done in a public park, for which I and others pay our taxes to keep it in pristine condition, I would still like to shove their spray cans up their posteriors and chase them naked through manzanita forests.

 

See, we are in agreement. Well except the part about chasing them naked.

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You can read the ebb and flow of gang power, you can see who loves who, who lived here.

 

Perhaps it has a sociological or anthropological value. However, when it is done in a public park, for which I and others pay our taxes to keep it in pristine condition, I would still like to shove their spray cans up their posteriors and chase them naked through manzanita forests.

 

When they get home, they can spray paint the interiors of their homes to their hearts' delight. They can even mark their territory by urinating in the corners, and then they can wallow in it.

 

:unsure: HaHa, very nice! I have never encountered spray paint art-vandalism in the backcountry until last week. I have seen sandstone cliffs with etchings of names and dates before, and it never really bothered me as much as what I seen last week. On my way to a cache site in the Black Hills National Forest in SD, I encountered a ridge of strange rock formations. On the way back we stopped to check them out and there were at least 30 people hanging out in the area. We seen a few rock climbers scaling these huge formations. Then we saw many youths that were spray painting the rock. We then noticed the most of the rock along the east ridge had been painted with weird designs. We also saw allot of garbage left behind. Used cans of paint, fast food debris, beer cans and plastic bottles. There were also numerous fire rings everywhere which is also illegal. Some people just don't have any respect for the environment anymore.

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I love the Mon as well. I've backpacked in the Cranberry Wilderness, Dolly Sods, and surrounding areas. Fortunately I've not seen much in the way of grafitti. I hiked up to Lion's Head (Sods Wilderness) and Dragon's Tooth (VA - Jefferson NF and App trail), I suppose lack of grafitti is due to those being long and/or strenous hikes. I've not spent any time in the popular rock climbing areas of Seneca Rocks 'cause I'm not a climber. I agree with other posters that scum doesn't seem to walk too far.

People grow up in terms of decades. Cultures grow up over centuries or millenia. Every culture, no matter how primitive, has its practices and protocols. I understand all the talk about wanting to leave one's mark (a weak and sad argument at best). Responding to primeval urge, however, is an unacceptable answer in a densely populated and politically and culturally diverse society that demands mutual respect and self-control. Consideration for others is one of the hallmark characteristics of a civilized society.

To justify today's grafitti by pointing to ancient 'glyphs, well, it's an error in logic. What was the population density 500 years ago in the US? Who "owned" the land back then anyway? --social-political-environmental context = very important to grasp...

Art has an indispensable place in our society, but any artist who displays contempt for fellow mankind in his work offends me. That includes wilderness graff artists. Artists have a right to display their work in galleries and private venues, I have a right not to look at it if I don't want to. Wilderness grafitti "artists" do not have a right to perform their "art" there. That is my land as well as theirs. I should not have to tolerate it.

Example of progress and adaptation by society: there isn't inherently anything ecologically wrong with building campfires (fire-rings) in the wilderness. When I was growing up in the 70's the leave no trace movement was just getting started. Now, because of population density and number of people using wilderness areas, we have a social agreement that fire-rings are not good because there would be too many, such that nature has not enough time to reclaim and our trails would be junked up with charcoal, smudged rocks, beer and soda cans and litter (in some areas it is a matter of law). Out of respect for our environment, and as a statement of what we want out of the wilderness experience, we therefore use leave no trace practices in backcountry, or in public national forest encourage use of established rings. There is no room for rock writers either, today. Paint the inside of your house or business. Use the bulletin boards of the internet (this one) to post your mark. Use grafitti walls in the parks if you must. Leave our natural resources alone.

We already have social agreement, as far as I'm concerned, that backcountry grafitti is out of order. We have put away the toys of the 70's, we no longer "do it if it feels good." People who do whatever they want with no regard to the impact on others have no place in the backcountry.

I love meeting YOU on the trail; I've no interest in seeing SIGNS of you along the trail!

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Example of progress and adaptation by society: there isn't inherently anything ecologically wrong with building campfires (fire-rings) in the wilderness. When I was growing up in the 70's the leave no trace movement was just getting started. Now, because of population density and number of people using wilderness areas, we have a social agreement that fire-rings are not good because there would be too many, such that nature has not enough time to reclaim and our trails would be junked up with charcoal, smudged rocks, beer and soda cans and litter (in some areas it is a matter of law). Out of respect for our environment, and as a statement of what we want out of the wilderness experience, we therefore use leave no trace practices in backcountry, or in public national forest encourage use of established rings.

 

First I must commend you Kokodoug on a very nice post, words well written. I must also elaborate on my previous post on the fire ring topic as I made a slight error on that statement. When I encountered the graffiti and garbage area I did see numerous fire rings but also saw many fires that had no rings. In these areas the trees were blackened and scorched. I know that you live out east, but out in the upper midwest we have been in a drought for many years and the fire danger is very high around here. Our lakes are low and the streams are drying up. We have had many major fires in the past couple of years that have burned many acres and destroyed homes. I think that when partiers build huge bonfires in the woods where it is against the law and the fire danger is high is just plain wrong and not very smart. I do understand when you say that there isn't anything ecologically wrong with fire rings, as that was the norm years ago when it was not against the law in certain areas.

Happy Hiking!!! <_<

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