Steeves/Trail Mix: Don’t transport firewood

It may not seem dangerous, but you can't transport firewood over the border, so make sure you leave it behind when you travel.

Campfires are a must when you're camping

Everyone who goes camping likes to have a fire, whether to warm up, to roast a few wieners or marshmallows, or just for that nostalgic fascination with the flames and the smell of wood smoke.

So, it’s not surprising when friends travelled to Montana this summer to visit some parks there, they bought some firewood and tucked the remainder into their RV for later.

Well, they headed out again last month for a bit of camping south of the border, and encountered a lengthy lineup at the international boundary, so they decided to stop and pick up some duty-free booze.

When they finally arrived at U.S. customs, they answered all the questions politely, but were asked to pull over for customs officials to have a look-through.

And, that’s when they started to have difficulties.

The remainder of that package of firewood they’d bought in Montana was still in the RV and they were told they couldn’t take it across the border because it could contain pests that might infest U.S. trees.

Despite the explanation that it came from the U.S., they didn’t have a receipt to prove it, and they were turned away from the border, banned from entering the U.S. until they’d taken the offending firewood back into Canada and gotten rid of it.

In order to take firewood into the U.S. it must first have been treated by heating it at 71.1 C for 75 minutes, and documentation is required.

They headed back to Canadian Customs, now with what would be deemed an illegal couple of bottles of liquor, since they hadn’t been in the U.S. for the required 48 hours.

After waiting in another lineup they were a little nervous by the time they got to the booth.

Luckily, after a lengthy explanation, the customs officer permitted them to return to Canada with a promise they would turn right around and go back across the border.

Since they’d paid ahead of time for reservations where they were headed, they assured the agent they would take those bottles right back over the border.

Then they drove up the road, dumped the firewood over a cement divider at the side of the highway, and got into the now-even-longer lineup to head back down to the U.S.

On their return home after their holiday, they stopped to see if their firewood was by any chance still by the side of the road. It was, so they picked it up and took it home.

I do hope they use it before their next trip south. Little did they know, it was also illegal to bring it across the Canadian border.

The take-home message in this story is to make sure before you try to cross the border that you jettison any firewood you might have on board.

It’s all very well to make sure you’re not taking over any fresh fruits or vegetables and some meats that are not acceptable, but now you know that you also need to be vigilant about firewood.

Firewood should be burned where it is bought or found to prevent the transportation of insects and disease.

And, that’s exactly what’s planned by the Nordic Cross Country Ski Club, who invite everyone to help them to cut and stack some firewood for the winter this Sunday beginning at 9:30 a.m. at the main cabin near the intersection of Highway 33 and McCulloch Road.

You can meet to car pool from the Apple Bowl parking lot on the Burtch Road side, at 8:30 a.m. but bring your axes, chain saws, safety equipment, gloves, lunch and water.

Consider it part of your pre-ski-season exercise program.

Incidentally, membership forms for the club are available to download from the website at:

Early bird fees apply until the end of November. Forms are also available from Fresh Air Experience, A.G. Superstore and the Parkinson Rec Centre.

Across the lake, Telemark Cross Country Ski Club is holding its annual Ski Swap and agm this Sunday, with the drop-off of items at 10 a.m. in the upper chalet. The meeting begins at 11 a.m. in the lower chalet and the swap is at noon.

For membership forms, go to the website at:

Judie Steeves writes about outdoors issues for the Capital News.


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