Ring of fire

Doesn’t look like much, does it? This is the fire ring near the shady tarp overlooking the frozen lake. As you can tell, we haven’t used it for a long time. At our original site, we built a fire ring (still there) that is about ten feet in diameter. That was dumb. First of all, what was I thinking I needed that much space for, a signal fire? Second, when I spread the ashes after the first couple of fires, I realized that I had made a great circle of soot that I had to step through to tend any fire I had burning.

The ring you see above is our second attempt. It’s smaller, and it’s made with those formed blocks that my good friend Todd gave me when he cleaned out his garden shed prior to moving to some place he calls Nevada. (Really, what’s with these wacky-sounding place names? It’s not like anyone believes they actually exist!) I had high hopes for this fire ring. I was inspired by a ring I saw at a Scout camp several years ago. The wall around the fire was more than three feet tall. It had been built up over the decades as the ash accumulated. I loved the idea of the continuity, of the perhaps thousands of fires the people gathered around for fellowship and warmth.

The trouble is that the ground around this site slopes too much. You can’t put a table on it and expect anything to stay in place. Even chairs will tip you out of them if they’re not positioned exactly right. The ground is also uneven, with rocks and holes lurking in the leaves to twist your ankle.

The fire spot we have at our new camp is much smaller. In fact, it is small enuf to allow a steel cooking grate to span the fire. I find this much more manageable — a cooking fire doesn’t have to be all that big, and we’re so rarely at our woods after dark that we don’t have much need for a campfire site.

So this fire ring sits idle. The scrub is reconquering the area, and I expect we’ll never use it again. That’s fine though. Fire in the forest scares me too much for me to enjoy it.


There is a poll and a conversation going on about using your blog to earn money over at Nature Blog Network. I have a strong opinion about the matter, which you can read about if you go over there. Consider leaving your own thoughts too. They have to be more coherent than mine.

Missouri calendar:

  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day (observed)
  • Watch for mourning cloak and comma butterflies on warm days.

6 Responses to “Ring of fire”

  1. karl Says:

    lonely fire ring… i bet it wishes that even people from that alleged nevada would start a fire there.

  2. Ed Abbey Says:

    I think you spoke for me with your opinion posted on the Nature Blog Network.

    I generally try to discourage fire rings for the one fact that people tend to carry them over as learned behavior to where ever they may be camping, even on public or private land not their own. As a backpacker who enjoys getting away from everything and everyone now and then, nothing ruins that feeling faster than finding the ideal campsite out in the middle of nowhere only to find a sooty fire ring. That wouldn’t be so bad but chances are, the fire ring is filled with tin cans, tin foil, scraps of melted plastic and other “biodegradable” stuff. Even if it was a responsibly built and used fire ring, the scarred rocks stay behind decades after as a “I was here” sign that I would rather not to see. I prefer the leave no trace behind method of building a fire so that perhaps the next hiker in the area can find that ideal camp site and think that they were the first one there.

    With all that said, it is your land and if it were mine and I had the intentions of regular campfires, I would probably build one too. I would just teach my children and those that enjoy it that there are other ways when out beyond the borders of our land.

  3. FC Says:

    One of my goals is to build a “pretty” fire ring with raised walls that you can prop your feet on while enjoying the fire. Apparently this will take cash, so it is on hold.

  4. Beau Says:

    That’s a lot of turtle shells! I like a fire ring if for no other reason than keeping the hot stuff in check for more routine camping at common sites, etc. I have high hopes to build one of those “pretty” fire rings that FC metions someday too. Otherwise, I agree with the scout philosophy of “leave no trace” as Ed says, especially when backpacking.

  5. zilla Says:

    That IS a lot of turtle shells! Land tortoises, something else, a variety of species? Turtle is my totem — interesting surprise here today, those beautiful bones.

    As for the question: “Do I feel like meandering into the town square for organic, evolving, reciprocal conversation and a sense of community, or do I feel like paying a cover charge to see a programmed show?”

    As for fire rings, we stumble upon them on public land frequently in this area, and in this area, more often than not, the non-biodegradable stuff is removed before the campers move on, which demonstrates respect for environment and other people. The house I live in was a vacation rental for years before I bought it, and there was a small ring out back, and, yes, I’m still finding bits and pieces of foil and beer containers. Mildly annoying, that, but, generally, seeing a fire ring calls to mind fellowship and sharing, and those are pleasant thoughts…

  6. Deb Says:

    Comment made on NBN.

    We have a fire ring on our beach. Never used.

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