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#26559 - 10/28/04 02:07 PM Re: Fire-Starting Problem!!

My sister was in college and went on the ROTC camping trip as a guest. Her boyfriend of the time was in and wrangled her the OK to attend somehow. They get to the campsite and setup tents etc. It gets dark and no fire yet. Weather has been wet before the campout and ground wood is wet.

She gets out her flashlight and starts walking around shinning her light up in the trees. Others ask what she is doing. "Gathering firewood" she replies. Lots of laughter and jeers.

She was in a pine forest. She was collecting "Squaw wood". As already mentioned pines often have small branches at the lower levels that are dead but still attached to the trunk. Pine sap/resin is flammable and is stored in dead branches. SInce the branches are above ground, any wind that blows helps them to dry out quickly. Even after rains, the top may be wet but the bottom is often dry. So called Squaw wood because reportedly indian squaw women would collect it. It is available in size from 1/2 a pencil thickness up to about wrist size. Most anyone can easily reach it and break it off the trees. She collects an armload of dry kindling and precedes to lay a fire. Once her kindling was burning well, she added the larger but wet "firewood" that became dried and heated by the fire and eventually burned.

#26560 - 10/28/04 03:35 PM Re: Fire-Starting Problem!!
GoatRider Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 08/28/04
Posts: 835
Loc: Maple Grove, MN
Re: Squaw wood.

I used to do that a lot, it's really easy to get dry wood that way. But then the Rangers made us watch a video before going into the BWCAW, and you're not allowed to take wood from standing trees, even dead wood, even from dead trees!

I used to wonder about that, thinking "what's the harm, it's dead anyways". But as I've gotten more aware of wilderness esthetics, it's just part of what makes campsites and human impact more visible. You can see a campsite from across the lake for many reasons like that.

Actually, more recently I've taken to not even making a campfire when I camp. Tromping around in the woods looking for downed wood causes a lot of impact around the campsites, cooking over a stove doesn't get the pots all black, and my clothes don't come out all stinky. It's better for my lungs too. But most importantly, it turns my attention outwards in the evening. Instead of turned inwards towards the campfire in the evening, we turn the other way, and enjoy the wilderness which we are there to see. It's amazing watching the day animals going home, and the night animals coming out.

I'm glad I have the skills to find the wood and start fires, though. And I still carry a small hatchet, saw, and firestarting gear, just in case. In an emergency, I'll take dry branches from trees, despite the rules.
- Benton

#26561 - 10/28/04 08:44 PM Re: Fire-Starting Problem!!

dead wood is home (or food) for many small animals <img src="/images/graemlins/smile.gif" alt="" />

#26562 - 10/29/04 02:11 AM Re: Fire-Starting Problem!!
brian Offline

Registered: 07/28/04
Posts: 1468
Loc: Texas
I gather wood and make fires probably more than I should and I do it primarily for practice and these days, mostly just when it's wet out or I'm freezing my butt off (or both). I think it is extremely important to practice my skills and keep them up but yes this does bring up many moral dilemas as I have touched on before with other important survival skills such as hunting and more specifically trapping. There's no way to win, your "skills" are nothing (IMHO) if never practiced but it is also wrong (IMHO) to damage the land or it's inhabitants when you are not forced to. But you (or at least me) try to find the balance and deal with it as best you can.
Learn to improvise everything.

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