I've seen a couple of posts in the last few months with pictures around big campfires that make me feel I'd like to throw something out for discussion.
I've built my share of big campfires in the distant past, but with the increasing regulation of campfires as a result of use (at least in California) I think we need to consider that a minimalist fire is better. (If you're in an area with tons of wood or an area that is very rarely used, this rant probable doesn't apply. I also realize some of the regulation is a result of drought and overall dry weather fire hazard.) A campfire is one of the real pleasures of camping, but several areas in California have banned campfires in recent years. We go to Emmigrant a lot since there were no restrictions on campfires, but this year they restricted fires to below 9000 ft. Even with a group of three or four people, we don't build a fire at all until it gets dark and even then it is rarely more than a foot in diameter. If it's not cold I often don't build a fire at all if going solo. We keep the fire small and try to use a minimum of wood. If there is a big campfire ring we try to make it smaller. If it is not an established site and has a campfire ring, we destroy the campfire ring.
I recently went to one of my favorite, relatively remote lakes in Emmigrant with only one decent campsite to find that someone had build a huge campfire ring right in the middle of the sleeping area making it essentially unusable as a tent site. In addition someone had sawed all the branches off the really cool, gnarled cedar trees next to the campsite for firewood. Needless to say it took a bit away from the outdoor experience.
I guess I'd just like to encourage everyone to consider a minimalist fire, if appropriate, as part of the UL ethic and maybe to try to encourage others in the mountains to do the same.