Camp Fires Correctly

Campfire Community

kill your television

Camp Fires
The internet seems to be the modern day campfire – wild stories with good friends and strangers. The heat source, the light source, the cook source, the sock drier, the center stage for all entertainment.

Since the beginning of time humans have gathered around the campfire at night. This nightly ritual is built into us on the deepest level. We miss this today. We miss the real conversations, the community, the bonding, the stories, the soul searching. We miss the connection with nature, the fresh air and the great outdoors. The night sky filled with stars and maybe a meteor shower, a hot drink and the glow of the campfire coals. Total Escape is dedicated to those who yearn to camp, often.

In Certain Circles

photo – Charlie Sweeney 2010

Some folks cannot imagine camping without a campfire, but we better get used to it here on the West Coast. Weather patterns swing from years of super-dry drought to deluge and drenching – as we’ve seen of recent in California. Dry conditions means high wildfire dangers, tight camp stove and strict campfire restrictions.

Each California region, National Forests and State Parks have their own fire restrictions, so call ahead to rangers for current fire conditions on the place you wish to visit. Certain mountain locations will ban fires in the back country, fires on the back roads and sometimes in extreme conditions, no fires allowed even inside a developed campground.

Campfire Basics

Campfire Restrictions

fire

California is well known for its unforgiving drought conditions and its seasonal wildfire danger. Always know the fire conditions in the area you plan to camp. Most Southern California regions have banned ‘open campfires’ in forested areas, due to wildfire threat and population density. Call ahead to get an update on road closures and current campfire restrictions. Find California BLM offices & NFS ranger stations

Campfire Permits

If you plan on camping outside of a developed campground, you will need to get a free “camp fire permit”, which can be obtained at the local rangers office.

Find more on FREE camp fire permits

DSCN3700

California Camp Fires

  • RULE # 1 – Never leave a campfire unattended
  • Build campfires in designated rings. Always try to use an existing ring when possible. If you must build a new rock fire ring, follow the guide on FireSafe
  • You will need a water bucket & a decent shovel for building, maintaining and controlling a campfire. PLUS a water source.
  • A ten foot clearance – all around, down to the bare dirt is the best practice. No brush close by.
  • You might need to clean trash outta the fire pit, so bring heavy duty trash bags/spare box.
  • Kindling is key to getting a good fire going fast, so gather more of the small stuff. Wood gathering away from camp is usually better pickens.
  • Use environmentally friendly fire starters (with damp wood, if you must); not the BBQ lighter fluid or gasoline
  • Building fires up against a big boulder scars them w/ black soot, and although it can reflect heat back to you, it is seldom worth the unsightly damage
  • Bring chainsaws or hand saws for cutting your own campfire wood in the forest
  • Gathering wood for fuel — use only dead and down wood
  • A ranger issued “wood cutting permit” is required if you plan on cutting a full cord
  • Firewood page – buying locally, in California
  • Never burn plastics or other toxic materials in campfires
  • Tossing beer bottle caps into a campfire only litters the site for future campers
  • While glass bottle smelting is a real treat among boys at night, which one is actually gonna get their hands dirty & clean up broken glass outta the campfire the following morning?
  • Do not leave any hot coals during the day (if you are away). Winds could pick up.
  • Always douse campfire with water completely when breaking camp. Stir it, feel for heat, and drown it more if you hear sizzling or see bubbling.
  • Read more fire info on our FireSafe page

Drown Fires

Last Final Step

The Last Final Step

 

Campfire Pits & Fire Containers

Campfire Pits & Fire Containers

Stormproof LIghters

Stormproof Lighters

Reyes Peak

CA 33 N
Ojai Camping
North of Ojai, CA

Camp out among tall pines, well above the coastal fog.
Los Padres National Forest Road #6N06

Ojai, CA – NORTH on HWY 33
a very scenic drive, in North Los Angeles County

Coastal Foothills

Near the Pine Mountain Summit (elev 5080′) on California Highway 33, the small sign only reads PINE MTN and points east, to a rugged side road. By far one of the worst paved roads around.

This Reyes Pine Mountain, should not to be mistaken for the golf course community of Pine Mountain Club, many miles north of here, around the other side of Mount Abel.

This is Reyes Peak, also known as Pine Mountain Ridge “north of Ojai”, on the sorta paved Pine Mountain Road. (Los Padres National Forest Rd # 6N06)

overozena
The view above is from one huge dirt pull out, on the left – over looking Ozena Valley, on the west end of Lockwood Valley Rd. Motorhomes, trailers, off-roaders and hunters like this as a last minute camp site, very close to the highway.

If your vehicle can endure 9 long miles of poor pavement, pot-holed roads, then maybe you can find seclusion back in the woods around here.

Six or more primitive campsites, spread out along a forested ridge line (around 5000′ elevation). Tables and fire rings only. No fees, no toilets. Bring a shovel and plenty water. No pipes, no running water up here.

The scattered camp sites are located far enough away from each other, that the location provides some privacy and still relatively close to town. Some sites are in forested settings, while others have big boulders, but are exposed to wind and sun. Although these few sky view camps are perfect for the stargazers.

Dark night skies can be okay, if the coastal fog stays low. Neighboring Mount Pinos is all paved – usually best choice for RV campers w/ telescopes, who need large areas of flat level ground.

reyespeakcamp

One particular camp site is located at a very decent view spot. Boulders, pine trees and mountain views to the south. Click the image above to expand.

PRIMITIVE CAMPGROUNDS
Campfire permits are required.

Launch Spot

The end of the road is a top destination LAUNCH spot for hang gliders & para-sailers. Watch them jump on YouTube compliments of DanaMite.

Youtube

 

The hiking Trailhead for Reyes Peak and the Chorro Grande Trail #23W05 are also at the end of this dead end road #6N06. Reyes Peak Trail leads east, out to 7510′ elevation, overlooking the whole lower Los Padres region – Lockwood Valley, Ozena, Piedra Blanca, Sespe Gorge, Potrero Seco.

reyespeaktrail

Get outside this weekend. There are no more excuses!

MAPS: Los Padres National Forest Map

NEAREST TOWNS:

Camping Near Yosemite

Yosemite Lake View Camp Sites

Camp Near Yosemite National Park

Yosemite is a top destination, all year long. California masses converge on the sacred valley each summer, so expect more as the buses keep rolling in. Plan a Yosemite trip before Memorial Day weekend – or after Labor Day weekend, for less people.

Camping close to Yosemite National Park without being inside the park boundaries. The scenery and wildness doesn’t stop in the back country. There are numerous National Forests surrounding the popular National Park, so much public land has been set aside for these recreation purposes. Granite-lined mountain meadows, dense forests, raging creeks, wildlife and real seclusion. Plenty of great paved back roads, dirt roads and camping options in the Sierra Nevada.

CAMP OUTSIDE YOSEMITE NP, WHY?

No campground reservations needed, cheap or free, less crowds, less noise. More freedom, more privacy, more nature.

Hundreds of developed, small campgrounds can be found around Yosemite. A few private RV resorts, cabin rentals, lodging on the main highways. Primitive style camping is considered “camping outside of developed campgrounds”. USDA National Forests usually allows open-camping within the forest boundary – with a required camp fire permit. Sometimes wildfire danger is too extreme, so they often ban campfires in dry conditions.

YOSEMITE: SOUTH HWY 41

SIERRA NF @ Fish Camp, CA

East side of Highway 41:

West side of Highway 41:

Lakes West of Yosemite NP:
Stanislaus National Forest

all Lakes near Yosemite

Gold Country @ Mariposa, CA

Gold Country Foothills – listed below are valley reservoirs. Oaks, dry hills, which can can be super hot in summer.

 

camping

YOSEMITE WEST Highway 120

Camping near Highway 120

  • Sweetwater Campground
  • Lost Claim Campground
  • The Pines Campground

North side of Highway:

  • Lumsden Campground
  • Lumsden Bridge Camp
  • Middle Fork Campground
  • Cherry Lake Campground
  • Hetch Hetchy Reservoir (NPS)

camping

highmeadows

See all Lakes near Yosemite Park

lakes near Yosemite hiking

YOSEMITE: EAST Highway 120

Tioga Pass on Hwy 120 (elevation 9410′) is only open during summer months. Generally June through October. Always check road conditions before your trip.

Lakes @ Tioga Pass
High elevation meadows, aspen groves, snowmelt lakes. Just east of Yosemite National Park border. Inyo National Forest

leeviningcamps

Lee Vining Canyon @ US 395
Inyo National Forest

  • Cattleguard Campground
  • Moraine Campground
  • Boulder Campground
  • Aspen Grove Campground
  • Big Bend Campground

 

Mono Maloy

MONO LAKE, CALIFORNIA

Bear in California

California Black Bears

California Black Bears

Although the grizzly bear image graces the state flag, grizzlies were killed off during the gold rush days. Black bears are found in California mountains and foothills, down to lowest elevations in NorCal. The black bears come in more than one color –  light brown, dark brown, and of course, black. For the most part, bears usually stay away from people.

Some areas are more prone to bear problems due in large part to the overpopulation of tourists and abundance of food provided by them. Certain California National Parks are particularly notorious for their brazen bear populations. Concentrated bear problems are sometimes posted so be very aware.

Bear Habitat

Follow some simple rules:

  • Keep a very clean campsite
  • Clean up all dirty dishes & beverage containers (especially before bedtime)
  • Keep clothing & sleeping bags free of food odors or heavy scents
  • Never leave any type of food garbage outside of a cabin or mountain home
  • Store garbage properly inside a locked, sturdy container inside garage or a shed
  • Stay away from bear cubs, there is sure to be a mother in close proximity
  • Try not to hike alone. Make noise & sing on trails to scare away any unwanted animals.
  • Bear storage canisters are available at sporting good stores & at stores in most National Parks.

Proper Food Storage Outdoors:

Bear Boxes @ Campground

Store food in closed up automobile, not visible. Store food correctly: in trunk of your car, or hidden from sight; in campground food lockers when available.

Lock all food, beverages and coolers in the provided metal bear boxes or bear lockers where available.

Toothpaste, deodorant & anything that has a scent should be thought of as food and stored accordingly.

Bears are so strong they can rip your car door open (in places like Yosemite, where bears are problem and you can get cited for not storing food items properly)

Bears are so strong they can break open a garage door to get to the smelly trash inside, so make sure you utilize the curbside pickup service available in some mountain communities or take a trip to the dump once per week.

carcampers

DO NOT LEAVE FOOD OUT, UNATTENDED, outdoors…
during a picnic lunch, during a barbeque, or dinner at the campfire.
(Birds, dogs, squirrels and wild animals can move in quickly.)

Backpackers should hang food in nylon bag & drape over weak branch in high in tree: hang your food using the counterbalance method. Ranger who issues your wilderness permit can explain the hanging procedure;

2 stuff sacks (with drawstrings) for your food items, and 60 feet of medium weight cord. 2 carabiners make hanging much easier.

Bear Canisters

Bear Canisters

for your food
when exploring the wilderness

hikers tent campers mountains rivers picnic lakes

Bear Repellent / Bear Mace
Bear Pepper Spray

 

Additional Storage Tip

As for storing food inside cars:

If I am primitive car camping on a dirt road area that does not have campgrounds or bear lockers, I store food in my SUV convertible vehicle on the front floorboards with towel over it – with the car alarm set. Any large animal trying to break in will get blasted with alarm noise & possibly run away, plus the noise will wake us up to deal with the intruder.

If a bear does get into your camp area:

  • Make as much noise as possible: yell, bang pots/pans, whistle, air horn and get your bear mace or pepper spray ready in hand
  • Raise your hands up to appear larger
  • Get your entire camp group together, join hands and spread out everyone at the camp should be outside the tents in order to be as effective as possible
  • Throw rocks & small objects
  • If possible, try to get to your car for protection & honk the horn
  • If a bear charges at you, drop to the ground and curl up in a tight ball. Cover your head, face and vital areas. Play dead.

If you encounter a bear on a hiking trail:

  • Make as much noise as possible while walking solo. Hum, sing, talk to the birds. Sing or talk to yourself – out loud.
  • Carry bear spray (mace or pepper) or a weapon for added protection
  • If a bear approaches: stand still, slowly retreat, say a few calming words in a friendly voice and never make eye contact
  • If a bear charges at you, drop to the ground and curl up in a tight ball. Cover your head, face and vital areas. Play dead.

bearcreek

Bureau of Land Management

free desert washes

California BLM

desert figure blythe

Giant figures INTAGLIOS, on desert floor, near Blythe, CA

Camping while traveling. The east-west corridors across the California deserts are well traveled routes. If you plan to camp, get to know areas managed by the California Bureau of Land Management.

All BLM Offices in California BLM CA

  • 4×4
  • Back Roads
  • Car Camping
  • Canyons
  • Deserts
  • Dirt Bike Trails
  • Dunes
  • Hiking
  • Historic Sites
  • Hot Springs
  • Intagios
  • Mountain Bike
  • Off Road
  • Palm Canyons
  • Petroglyhs
  • River Camps
  • RV Camping
  • Slot Canyons
  • Tent Camping
  • Wildflowers

ocotilloBLM

BLM lands in California are often known as the ‘free camping’ option. freeway close campingNo charge camp sites, convenient, in-route locations, many areas along major highways or interstates. Campfire permits are always required for any open fires, BBQs and campfires.

BLM Field Offices in California located in neighboring towns can provide maps, information and campfire permits. 

giantcholla

DESERT WILDFLOWERS can be found annually, February – April in most of these areas. Springtime blooms draw the crowds, but few visitors actually camp out overnight.

When searching out premium camp sites – drive slower than 50 mph & look for the brown recreation signs. Since people like to drive fast in the desert, make sure to put your hazard lights or blinkers on, so traffic knows you are slow poking. Typically dirt roads are only marked with small, thin reflectors, maybe numbers or letters, if you’re lucky.

Traffic noise will be minimal if you camp away from the main drag at least ONE mile or more. Motorhomes may not have the luxury to travel that distance; they often prefer to stay in large, level, flat pull outs, right near the pavement.

If daring to venture more than 2 miles from the pavement, be prepared for rough conditions. 4WD drive may be needed in certain spots, or in the wettest of weather. Wind is always a factor in desert regions, so keep that in mind. Deep sandy washes, tow strap anyone? No facilities, no services, no toilet. Spotty cell phone coverage. Basically – the boonies!

BOONDOCKING
is the latest phrase for “open, free camping”

Palo Verde Washes

 

SEEKING QUIET CANYONS? stay away from the off-roaders. They usually congregate in dunes and specified OHV areas. Trails and dirt roads are for multi-purpose use, so a variety of recreation can be had. Many people use these public lands, so leave them clean and better than you found it. Boulder coves, palm gardens, primitive hot springs. There are plenty of hidden camp spots within the vast desert region of SoCal.

Several BLM lands are near Wilderness Areas. Camping is allowed close by, mountain biking & hiking are usually abundant. Off roading prohibited within Wilderness boundaries.

hikes tent camping 4x4

URLs within the official BLM site keep changing, which is why we are rebuilding our BLM pages. So you can find what you need, easily.

ca.blm.gov
blm.gov/ca

www.blm.gov/ca
https://www.blm.gov/california

road BLM