Saturday, February 11, 2017

Pitchwood: Mother Nature's Magical Fire Tinder

"Farewell, Frodo Baggins. I give you the light of Eärendil, our most beloved star. May it be a light for you in dark places, when all other lights go out." - The Lord of the Rings

(A Douglas Fir Pitchwood Torch burns furiously, illuminating the walls of an old mining cave high in the Rocky Mountains. ©2011 Rocky Mountain Bushcraft)

RMB NOTE: This article is an unfinished draft from 2011. It was intended to be an introduction to Fatwood/Pitchwood Tinder using 'The Hobbit' and 'The Lord of the Rings' for its theme. I decided not to publish it and instead, went with a two part series which you can read here and hereThese photos were taken inside an old mining cave high in the Rocky Mountains. The cave reminded me of the "Mines of Moria" from Tolkien's books, so I thought you might enjoy seeing the photos I took of it. Cheers, Jason

In J.R.R. Tolkien's magnificent literary fantasy "The Lord of the Rings," the Elven queen Galadriel gives Frodo Baggins a star contained within a glass vial with the blessing that it be "a light in dark places when all other lights go out." 

To me, the real life flammable wood found in the knots and stumps of dead conifer trees known as "pitchwood" reminds me of Tolkien's Light of EärendilPitchwood burns so furious and bright when ignited, it seems almost to have a magical power. 

Pitchwood's other magical quality is that it is completely impervious to weather. Pieces of pitchwood have been found that were completely submerged in lakes and ponds for decades, yet would still ignite immediately after being pulled from the water.

In this sense, a piece of pitchwood could be like a real life "Light of Eärendil" for a hiker lost and alone deep in the wilderness.

Below: Beautifully colored pitchwood harvested from Douglas Fir Trees:

Below is a graphic illustration of how a piece of Douglas Fir pitchwood can be used to illuminate dark places. Dave and I enter an old mining cave high in the Rocky Mountains, using only a piece of burning pitchwood to light the way.

The entrance to the cave:


Did dwarves leave this mark to point the way to the Mines of Moria?

Could these sparkly rocks be the ore of the legendary Mithril?!

 Searching for more clues:

Here is what our Douglas Fir pitchwood torch looked like after it burnt out. Amazingly, it burned for nearly an hour! Truly magical stuff.


Jason and Dave

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