Marshmellows and Hot Dogs

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Posted by LeRoy Johnson on July 15, 2002 at 14:12:11:

In July 2000 a large chunk of Death Valley burned; many of you undoubtedly remember the “Happy Fire.” The fire burned Brad Bradford’s cabin that was added to the new park when the Monument’s boundary was expanded. His loss was paltry compared to the natural resources that were lost.

Over ten years ago, the Park Service lit a control burn at Eagle Borax Spring so they could eliminate the tamarisk slash and logs there. The fire escaped and several acres of old—if not ancient—native mesquite trees. These trees over the centuries provided food for the Indians and shade and protection hapless emigrants who spent many days at the spring in winter 1849–50.


If you want to, and are foolish enough to, build a fire on Devils Golf Course there is little question your self-gratifying camp fire will not escape. Fires in wilderness comes down to a system of values and ethics. If you value roasted marshmallows and hot dogs over the strong possibility of setting your surroundings on fire, then you have a warped sense of ethics. I can not fathom a system of values wherein someone would endanger and possibly destroy their wilderness environment just so they can have a pseudo-wilderness experience of roasting marshmallows and hotdogs over a camp fire.

Not long ago I was hiking out of a Sierra Nevada wilderness in the late afternoon and noted a fisherman ahead of me who looked depressed. I asked to him: “How was fishing?” and he snapped back: “It was lousy, I didn’t get a bite all day!” I calmly replied: “That’s not what I asked you.” He stopped and stared at me in utter amazement; then he looked around at the magnificent wilderness he had been in all day and he broke into a smile and said: “Fishing was wonderful.”

If you can’t roast marshmallows and hotdogs in Death Valley National Park and feel you are deprived of a "wilderness experience," open your eyes and look around.


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