Campfires in California?
In this new California, where wildfires affect so many of us every year, is it really a good idea to have a campfire? With the polar ice caps melting, is it really a good idea to add more CO2 to our atmosphere? I would say yes... if the conditions are right (which is about half the time), you maybe don't have one every night, and you keep it small. There is truly nothing better for group bonding. And girls really love roasting marshmallows.
What are those fire-safe conditions?
Check if they are allowed in your park or forest, at your elevation, in your location. In the Los Padres National Forest, fires are usually allowed in the backcountry winter through spring; current regulations can be found on the National Forest website. In the Sierras, fires are often not allowed in high use or high elevation areas.
In most places, you’ll need to carry your California Campfire Permit with you. This requires watching a video and taking a quiz online - a good troop activity. Again, check your local requirements.
Bring fire gear. I bring a water bucket (an empty milk jug with the top cut off) and keep a bucket of water by the fire. I don’t have a fire if there is not a creek nearby. Leave No Trace principles, in most areas, require that you use existing fire rings so you don’t scar a new patch of ground. You may need to clear dry weeds away.
Finally, abort your campfire plans if the weather turns windy!
What do you do in place of your traditional campfire?
Night Hike - It's fun to hike at night and it will keep you warm. Stop for stargazing midway.
Charades or Other Group Games - This is best in the spring/summer when the sun sets late.
Tent Party - Consider bringing a larger tent (4-person) so several girls can play cards in the tent or just be their silly selves.
Marin leads Girl Scout backpacking trips and troop leader trainings for Girl Scouts of California's Central Coast.