Beach fires are a great way to blow off steam in an ever-cooling economic climate.
Thursday, March 5, 2009
There were once days when the news was just the news. It was bad normally, rife with woe typically, yet somehow bearable, tempered by experience and the notion that things swing back around eventually.
Then there are these days, when the emphysemic waves of god-awful news come at you like so many guided train wrecks: crashes and dives and axes flying, human failure brought on by failed humans, life forsaking terror, vast, wicked seas of distrust and ire.
It’s enough at times to test the mettle of the most resilient partakers and party makers. So what to do? Well, go get your head straight. If ever there was an antidote to rattled nerves of the modern age, it has to be the simple bonfire. Mesmerizing to all of the senses (fire licks), legal, calmingly mellifluous and, most importantly, free – ingredients consisting of driftwood, a little paper, and a pack of matches from any of our fine local restaurants – the beach fire further differentiates itself as a tremendous option for having a little fun when the Peninsula is cash poor.
Surfers have long stoked their souls by gathering around the flickering tangerine heat of a post-session driftwood fire, trading grand lies for unbelievable truths along the crisp beauty of Carmel City Beach, Monastery Beach and both Asilomar and Carmel State Beaches. And in these trying times, if any one culture has a line on a sure-fire method of blocking out the negative vibes, it is the watermen. So unplug the weary mind for a spell, ditch your shoes, grab a seat in the sand, and spark up a tidy fire when the sun starts to fade. Your quaking psyche will be glad that you do. And if you do, be sure to practice common sense, says California State Park Ranger Chuck Bancroft, one of the most respected voices of the local park system.
“Be responsible. If you pack it in – food, beverages, or anything else – then pack it out!” Bancroft says. “You can have a warming fire [defined as 2 feet in diameter] right up until 10pm. There are beaches to the north where the snowy plover bird is endangered, so fires up there are illegal for that reason. But there are plenty of places around Carmel and Monterey.”
Restraint is a common theme when it comes to hot flames and sailing embers, especially after the disastrous fires that nearly consumed our beloved Sur last summer. “Keep your fire small enough to manage – I got a call for a large bonfire on Monastery Beach. These guys had a 10-foot-by-5-foot pyramid of wood and Champaign flutes and were going to cremate their cat. Now, I can write a citation for up to $1,000 for that. Do I want to do that? Is it necessary? Sometimes it is,” Bancroft says. “Mostly we talk to people; we educate them.”
Driftwood is the natural fuel for a beach fire. If you can find it, gather an armful and find a pre-existing pit, bunch up some newspaper at the bottom (this article, for example, makes for excellent fire starter), then build a small pyramid, making sure to give some space for a waft of air to make it through to stoke the flames up and into the long-traveled wood. If you cannot find ample amounts of dry driftwood, then regular old pine or oak from your backyard stash or the Wal-Mart/Ace Hardware crowd will burn just fine.
For pointed reasons, shipping pallets are not welcome guests to beach parties, and the same goes for glass. Anyone who has ever taken a rusty nail through the plantar will be quick to tell you that a barrage of tetanus shots is almost worse than getting a jelly caught in your shorts.
Ah, but what satisfied glory to ease the rattletrap mind around a nice fire, down in the sand, the waves crashing all down the coast, misting the air with salt, the birds silently streaming overhead and offshore! A bottle of wine or whiskey, cold to the touch, warm to the gullet, makes its circuitous rounds. That cute thing of your waking dreams, the one who makes all struggle worthwhile and simultaneously forgotten, tucked into a swell beanie cap, your arm patting down the blanket around appreciative shoulders…
Marina’s Shawn Hovis knows well the restorative powers of a beach fire gathering, where he and his wife Angie get fired up at the sight of dolphins riding shore breaks by the dozen while seals bob and hover in the golden waters of the setting sun.
“This economy isn’t like anything that I’ve seen before. And, while there isn’t as much work for a film freelancer like myself, the flip side is that it has also been an opportunity for my wife and me and all of our friends to reconnect a bit. The beaches around here are great places to chill out. We drink beers and tell stories to keep ourselves entertained, while the fire reminds us that things haven’t yet gotten so bad that we have to warm ourselves by burning our own furniture.”
What to Remember When It Comes to a Beach Fire:
• Dress warm and stay out of the water.
• No glass bottles or wood with nails.
• Warming fires are legal on Carmel City Beach, Bird and Seal Rock Beaches in Pebble Beach, and at Asilomar and Carmel State Beaches (no fires west of the river mouth) until 10pm. Fire should be no larger than 2 feet x 2 feet x 2 feet in diameter.
• Pack it in, pack it out.
• Cat, dog, or any other form of cremation may result in a severe reprimand from Ranger Chuck.