If you know anything about California today, it’s that we’ve had a lot of incredibly devastating wildfires recently. You’re perhaps less aware that we’ve also had floods and the kinds of landslide that result when the forests which stabilize slopes during heavy rain have been destroyed by fire. I could wax lyrical about the need for an evidence-based public policy, but we all know how far that’s going to get us in the current faith-based voter climate of battleground states like the state of my birth, so let’s just do a slide show instead, ok? 😊 When I flew home from Bangladesh suddenly in February, in order to be with Mom and (I thought) help nurse her back to strength through that clinical trial, I was trying to give myself enough time here at home in CA to steady my own nerves through my usual recourse to bike trails and tennis courts, while still spending most of my time in NJ with Mom. Thus, between February and April, I was back and forth a few times.
Two years ago I first learned of the big Santa Rosa-area fires when a friend from my local UU congregation called – as I sat in a doctor’s office with Mom – to ask if they could house displaced people in my apartment, since she knew I was away. During my times at home over the intervening two years I’ve tried when possible to keep photos of the natural and human environments I encounter. I’ve watched rains come, trees recover or give up the ghost, rocks recover their envelopes of moss, and I’ve been grateful that the heavy rains haven’t (so far) caused any bad landslides that I know of in my own area.This time, while I was out east, it was more about floods that I learned: one town in my county was reachable only by boat for a couple of days, since the flooded Russian River had risen above all the roads leading to it. And any time there was a long-enough break in the rain for me to hop on the bike and head out, I grabbed camera and/or phone and headed out. Here are the results, below…and after that, some post-fire regrowth and rebuild images as well, which I’ll likely caption and explain when we get to them. Sorry this is a long post…but it’s been a while. Hope you find it interesting.
And moving on the aspect of more obvious post-fire recovery, I’ve been really amazed at how rapidly the scars on the natural landscape have become less visible. A friend said I should find a specific location to watch, so I found my little “fire-line rock” to follow. I posted a gallery last year, showing photos taken over the first twelve months, as the visible burn line on its moss vanished; I also watched the trail uphill from where this rock grows, as the meadows lost their cover of charcoal and trees either regrew or gave up and died. After this text, you will see first a video taken after one of the rainy days earlier, about 2km or 1.5 miles downhill from the fire line rock. After that I’ve copied the same gallery from last October, with the addition of some new photos taken two weeks ago, so 21 months or so after the rock sat on the burning fire line. I can’t even tell which rock it is, any more – did the winters incredibly heavy rains move the rocks or have they just all gone back to their natural dry-season similarity? Not sure…and didn’t get up there when it was wetter, precisely because it was so wet and muddy :-). After that are some other post-fire shots both close up and farther away. Right now, in dry season especially, I have to look closely to see the charring on tree trunks that have already begun to regrow…
In the photo just above we are looking west on the Canyon Trail, which was the fireline when the Nuns fire was stopped before it had a chance to merge with the Tubbs fire, in November 2017. The meadow to the left of the trail burned; to the right, it didn’t. If curious, you can look at photos taken on a hike shortly after this part of the park was reopened, and compare things then and now, in this post from that time: https://somuchworldsolittletime.com/2017/11/13/walking-the-fire-line-in-annadel/
In June I had the great good fortune to spend four nights and most of five days in and around Oslo, at the top of a long and lovely fiord in southeastern Norway. The training which was the purpose of my visit took up all of three days and nights in a small town east of the main road along the twisty-turny fiord, about an hour’s bus ride south of Oslo itself. This I know since I took the bus in twice in order to enjoy Oslo. Photos from Oslo itself went up on this blog first, a few entries ago. This time I’m showing you where I walked each morning and evening, before and after lovely days with colleagues in rather intense and fruitful training. The training site and hotel was just next to a few nature preserves that occupied much of a peninsula jutting out into the fjord, meaning we had many kilometers of walking trails dotted with a few small villages and farms, literally right out our door. Anyone wanting night life would have been deeply disappointed. Myself, urgently needing peace and space to integrate what I was learning and to rest from a few hard months of intense work…well, I took full advantage of the 20 hours of daylight for two long walks each day. I hope the shots give you some sense of how lovely and fun it all was! 🙂
Linger on the photos just above this text, long enough to see all six of my favorite photos taken in & around Freetown, during the eight weeks or so I spent in Sierra Leone between July & September of last year. I’d gone for a short assignment to cover for a friend who took an extended vacation. While there, I ended up working a bit more intensely than expected since my Sierra Leonean friends, colleagues, hosts and interlocutors all found themselves having to deal with yet another unforeseen crisis when massive rains led to flooding and landslides right in the hills above Freetown. That sad reality, yet another time this nation has had to demonstrate its resilience, is documented on many a news site from August and September. I’ll likely post a few personal photos from some of those affected areas in coming weeks – but in honor and thanks to the warm and hard-working colleagues and friends I’ve worked with on my now two short assignments in Sierra Leone, I want to begin simply by showing again some of the beauty I enjoyed when I went for walks or drives, evenings or weekends. It’s such an honor and a gift to broaden my horizons and experience humanity in such variety and richness as I do through this work. The silly complaints of the privileged, spoiled and unappreciative individuals in places like my home country then come into a more meaningful and constructive focus for me. There really are times when I wonder what the end-game for all these greedy, destructive capitalist captains of industry is… Peace and health, friends.
Sculpture in nature, plus the Moodna Viaduct (just below) which isn’t in the park but on a lovely winding route we took home, much to my smartphone’s map’s discontent. This is the second set of photos from our completely lovely day in Storm King two months ago – the first set was published here: https://somuchworldsolittletime.com/2017/12/13/art-family-in-nature-storm-king-1/, and you can find many other entries from Storm King in past years. It and the Hudson Valley’s many other art centers are well worth a visit. 🙂
Ok,so since I’m on a roll I’m putting up the first photos from a completely **glorious** day at my own personal very-favorite day-trip location near NYC: Storm King Art Center, which I certainly remember visiting in the early 80’s if not before. As you’ll see here, and in upcoming posts, we had simply the most perfect possible weather, and Mom mustered the energy to hold up more than her half of the sky, even as she juggled a few health challenges of her own. If you’ve not been to Storm King, do go. And support your own local gardens & arts places :-). Peace, out.
The cal-fire site tells me that the Nuns fire complex ultimately burned 56,556 acres. The final report date on the site is November 6, which I suppose means it was 100% contained or fully extinguished on or before that date. Earlier, I’d assume, since the superintendent of Annadel State Park allowed parts of the park to reopen for hikers, bikers and runners on the 5th if I understood the signs well.
My last post contained all the photos I’d taken in Sonoma County between returning from Haiti (late April), and the day of the post. Today, I’m posting almost entirely photos taken yesterday in my beloved nearby State Park. Annadel is a gem on the eastern edge of Santa Rosa which has been a key source of recreation and mental-health management for me here in Santa Rosa. The fire burned through about 2/3 of it, and if the wonderful fire fighters (see thank you signs from my last post) hadn’t stopped it where they did, then it would have destroyed many homes near the park, and I guess there was a very real risk this fire complex would merge with the Tubbs complex, which had already destroyed so much to the north in Santa Rosa.
With many of the trails open, I got out there again yesterday to appreciate the park and take stock of the damage. I try to find silver linings: that it WAS stopped here is a silver lining; that green shoots are already sprouting among the charred grasses is also good to see. (See the round gallery a little lower down.) The rainy season has come – it’s sprinkling as I type this – and so we must hope for enough rain to allow plants to re-grow strong…but not so much as to cause too many land slides in all the newly-vulnerable areas whose trees and grasses have been burned.
If you look closely, you will really see how rapidly the fire passed through (burned areas surrounding unburned patches), plus the stark line where they stopped the fire: trees charred on the south side, still green moss on the north side. Rocks the same way. Since I already wrote more in the last post, I’ll leave it here for now. Gratitude, shock, slow return to regular life, I guess. Peace, everyone. Most photos have titles that’ll tell you what they are or why I selected them.
Can you spot the photo in the gallery above is not taken in Anndel? It’s this entry’s tribute to our first-responders. 🙂
In a post last year, I did a selfie while taking a breakfast break lying on one of these two tables, at the junction of Marsh & Canyon trails. Canyon was the fire line through this portion of the park — the photo above, here, with straw over where fire fighters had widened the line is on Canyon trial, west of this point. To compare then and now, check this link or others labeled Annadel, or Sonoma County, or Napa & Sonoma (I need to work on my tags…) — https://somuchworldsolittletime.com/2016/08/19/dry-hillsides-live-oaks/
When I returned from the two year assignment in Haiti, I landed first in a late Canadian winter/early Canadian spring, then came south to spend a week with my mother in New Jersey. A thing that’s changed since I was a youth here is more wildlife — time was when it was rare to see deer even in larger state parks; now they roam our little local streamside parks, where some of these photos were taken. So, as autumn advances in the northern hemisphere, a reminder of this spring and springs to come :-). Enjoy.
A thing I learned long ago is that Haiti is almost entirely deforested. In the last post I put up, from a short trip I took up the coast to Arcahaie (about an hour north of PaP), you could see evidence of this fact in the hills I showed. And PaP too is nearly treeless – and full of cars, people, and dust at this time of year. Last weekend four colleagues and I drove to a town about an hour south of PaP, beyond Kenscoff village high in the mountains at the southern base of PaP, to a point where even a good 4wd vehicle really won’t be able to cover the road any more. (As we learned in our onward walk, motorcycles DO make the onward journey, though it’s not one I’d relish making that way.) In any case, the point of being deposited in this little town is that one can – and every weekend some handful of expats living in the capital, and apparently some straight-up tourists as well – do get dropped off in that town and start the walk further south, aiming to end up (after four or five hours of walking in hot sun on mostly shade-free road) and spend the night at what turns out to be quite a lovely little guesthouse set inside what’s now Parc Nationale La Visite. One reads, in a lovely coffee-table book available for sale at the guest house, that the national park is recently created, and that less than 2% of Haiti’s forest is protected. During the visit we played cards and chatted a bit with another American guy who’s part of a program to pay landowners to not cut down their trees for firewood or to sell for making charcoal, construction, etc.
As you’ll see in these shots, the deforested steep mountainsides can certainly be beautiful…but look closely and you’ll also see apparent evidence of erosion, and of rocks left behind in landslides. (Some of the rocks seemed to be eroded lava from more ancient flows, but I’m no geologist so I might be quite wrong.) We wondered how much longer before all the top soil washes into the sea…and without trees to rot and replace it, what will be left? Again, not my area of expertise, but when I consider the amount of agricultural products I saw being carried on people’s heads or panniers on mules, and which we ate during our short stay at the guest house, I hope enough is retained to keep providing PaP etc. with food to eat. (That handful of expats hiking the road weaves into a much larger stream of foot, mule and motorcycle traffic, much of which is clearly geared at getting nice fresh produce to market.) For us it was mainly a lovely 2 days of walking and enjoying beautiful vistas and some stretches of forest which, without realizing it, we’d all grown to miss during our weeks and months on the dusty, busy streets of PaP. I did edit the photos, but not enough, I acknowledge. Sorry – after weeks with little but buildings to look at, I got a bit shutter-happy.
You’ll notice these three shots in a row show the same things from different angles and perspectives. My attempt to give a sense of how things fit together in this steep mountainous zone of windy roads...
With this third visit to New Zealand, I’ve grown more aware of how the country lives in the outside imagination. For many, it’s the middle earth of certain much-loved fantasy films. For me – and clearly many more – it’s probably the single best place on earth to get an amazing range of very well supported and managed backpacking options. Hut-to-hut hikes abound throughout North Island, South Island, and Rakiura/Stewart Island, meaning one can travel a bit lighter without a tent if one chooses, and – particularly important down in Fiordland – have a solid roof and walls around one when the rains fall and/or the temperatures plummet even in high summer. The best known and most popular of these hikes are managed as ‘Great Walks’ by the superb NZ Department of Conservation. When I first learned of them, while planning my very first trip to NZ more than six years ago, I think I read there were eight Great Walks at the time. Now it’s up to nine; and I’ve hiked three of them in their entirety, while touching on a fourth during both my first trip and the most recent one. Some friends have said they’re saving developed-world tourism for later, and focusing on less-developed cultural-adventure type travel now, while they’ve got the physical and mental energy and fitness to handle travel to relatively challenging locations without great tourist infrastructure or support. I fully understand that logic, and I’ve heard it applied also to the US by many European friends.
However, let me through some of these posts suggest that places like NZ, and the great national parks of the Western US, offer outdoor adventures which are more difficult when one’s body has lost the appetite for overnight camping and backpacking…and if you miss out on these places now, you might regret it when you visit them later and are limited to their cities and paved roads, unable to get off the highway and into the wilderness. Herewith a few too many shots of the Abel Tasman Coast Track, as support to my argument. This is an unbelievably beautiful place that I am incredibly happy to have hiked and would very gladly return to many times. By hiking it, and waking up early to cross certain estuaries at low tide with my shoes tied together and strung around my neck, I’ve had the unique opportunity to lay down the first set of footprints on the soft sand of those estuaries, to see the sun brighten the sky and rise above the horizon or the moon sink below it, to greet the sun with a mug of tea from my thermos while reveling in the absence of any sound other than waves or bird song…and generally to experience that mystical oneness with my universe that, sadly, I for one simply cannot quite achieve while behind my computer or the steering wheel of any motorized vehicle. Tasman is neither the most famous, nor the most over-subscribed of the Great Walks…but I’d definitely do this one again. Believe it or not, I really did cut out a TON of photos from this post but there are still a lot, for anyone interested in getting a more thorough feel for what it might mean if you were to lace up your boots, grab your walking stick, and step out onto this lovely trek. To reduce the length of the post, condensed two sets into galleries and one set into a slide show. (The gallery just below this focuses on tidal crossings and other cool visual and experiential effects of the tide’s action along this trail.) I hope you enjoy!