If you’ve visited our pages in the past, you’ll have seen many photos taken in and from Annadel State Park. All of these photos fall into that category, most taken on a lovely, long, meandering solo hike with which I greeted this new year. Some of these were taken on later visits. Many are taken in the southerastern quadrant of the park, an area I’ve not visited since it was badly burned during the Nuns Fire in late 2017. This is partly because trails were closed for many months and then I was out of the country; partly because I was worried about what I’d see; partly because I usually bike into the park, and try to avoid the smaller trails during mud season, to help reduce erosion. Be that as it may: herewith a sense of what we see when we explore our closest park here, three years after this part of the park burned. To be clear – the shot above here shows you Mt St Helena and the Mayacmas range, north of Annadel, all of which were affected by two different fires: the Tubbs, also in 2017; and the Glass, just last year. I’ve put plenty of photos up which show you the ridges of the Mayacamas which have now been twice burned in three years. The charred trees you’ll see further down were burned in the Nuns, not those other two fires. If any of my readers are still acting as though one can doubt or question the science of climate change…hello?
Although trees around where I stood when I took this shot *did* burn in the Nuns fire in 2017, the “burn” part of this photo is on the Mayacamas ridge in the distance – which, when I took this photo late last year, had just been burned again in the Glass Fire, after experiencing the Tubbs fire in 2017 at the same time as the south side of the valley, from which I took this photo, was burning in the Nuns fire. I remind us again that Santa Rosa hadn’t seen major immediately close forest fires for a few decades prior to 2017. Now we realize that with climate change, this is our life, and we rather desperately hope that both public and private policy and behaviors will speed their pace of change while we can still reduce the longer-term impacts on future generations and livability on the planet…
A bunch of photos taken in Sugarloaf Ridge State Park not long after a few of its trails reopened after the Glass Fire. I showed you the first of my photos from this hike in post just before Thanksgiving (https://somuchworldsolittletime.com/2020/11/23/beauty-and-the-burn-2/), but now I’m putting the rest up because we’re having more rain this weekend, so I can feel a bit more hopeful that the earth’s healing processes will get to work. And maybe, here on the 5th anniversary of the Paris Climate Accords when many other major nations of the world are facing up to the urgent need to cut carbon emissions, there is hope that federal policy in 2021 will return to an acknowledgment of scientific reality rather than pandering to those who choose to live in denial at the expense of all fellow living beings on the planet…
Yes, those two photos were taken only six days apart: on the left, after six days in
which more than an inch of rain fell on the rocks in that gully. Yes, it’s the exact same gully and the rocks are the exact same rocks. It was right on the fire line three years ago when the Nuns fire burned up from the south, and threatened to meet the Tubbs fire which was burning down from the north. I’ve been chronicling this gully, and the specific rock below, since this portion of Annadel reopened a few weeks after the fire’s forward progress was halted here. You can see these rocks and their various dry and wet season states in many previous posts, including this post with sequential study of the rock shown just below https://somuchworldsolittletime.com/2018/02/07/marred-scarred-marvelous-mountains-of-sonoma-county/
So we’re getting a bit more rain yesterday & today: Santa Rosa itself may reach the magic inch of rainfall before today is out. Thus, I’ve decided it may be safe for me to post these remaining photos I took in the days and weeks after the Glass Fire exploded into Santa Rosa over the Mayacamas Mountains. (Safe, in the sense that it’s less likely yet another fire will explode over the mountains. Though one really never knows, these days…) Somewhere in each of these photos you can see the burned ridges and eastern slopes of the range that separates us from Napa county, the view I see from my home, from my bike rides and hikes around most of this central part of the county. Most of it’s what I called twiced-burned, in a post not long ago.
I’ve recently been on many a hike, alone or with friends, where I know how to detect the marks from the Nuns and Tubbs fires three years ago. Things can grow back, so long as there’s time and enough rain to regrow. This landscape and ecosystem evolved with fire, but it did that evolving before our human pollution started tipping the balance and changing the atmosphere so very much. I wonder how much of this beauty our current childrens’ great-grandchildren will be able to see still. I wonder how many of our fellow citizens actually even care to ask themselves these questions and consider changing their habits and patterns to help preserve more for our future generations.
For those who’ve wanted more updates, a few photos from my biking excursions on a favorite road at then northern edge of our beloved local state park, which apparently became the fire line when the Glass Fire got closest to my home earlier this month. As I write this, we still haven’t had rain but seem to have made it intact through another week of high winds. I will not invite into the universe the words of the thing that high winds make us fear: use your imagination, please. And then, imagine rain and a world where scientific evidence drives public policy to build a future that our own future generations inhabit healthfully, in fruitful coexistence with all of world’s mysteries and species. These shots were all taken in a short stretch along Channel Drive on the north side of Annadel, where some private homes abut park land. The hills in the background, in the shot with the horses, are in the Mayacamas range, previously featured in the “twice burned” post. That particular property is less than 1/2-mile from where the bottle and burned brush are. Clearly, that house and all others in the area fell under emergency evacuation order the night the fire grew so fast.
It might not be immediately apparent, but all three photos above were taken from the same place on different mornings this week. Unlike most of my photos, I’ve not color-adjusted or shifted the contrast at all from what the phone-camera recorded when I tapped the screen. Depending on your screen, you should see a larger photo with a more clearly-defined dawn sky with perceptibly-blue upper levels and a nicely-orange horizon as the earth turns on its axis so as to allow Bennet Mountain to dip below the level of the sun…or, as we narcissistic humans with our limited perceptional abilities would normally put it, “for the sun to rise above Bennet Mountain.” (As though the sun could be troubled to move in relation to puny little earth lol.)
I took that one this morning. At left is a photo from Monday morning, taken roughly half an hour later than this morning’s photo, the first morning after the Glass Fire had exploded up and over the mountains from Napa into Sonoma county, much as the Tubbs fire did three years ago in October. The third photo in this little triptych was taken an hour or so later on Tuesday morning, when the sun was already well up in the sky…though, as you see, so thoroughly obscured by smoke from the fires that one could stare directly at it without any discomfort. And that just ain’t right. (You can click on the photos to see exact date and time in the phone’s format of yyyymmdd_hhmmss.)
Forecasts now give reason for hope of gradually better air quality and slowly clearing skies this week. But we all know we are also still in the early part of what’s our normal fire season — late in the dry period, before our seasonal heavy rains usually kick in. I don’t think Santa Rosa had been directly threatened or affected by significant wild fires in several decades until 2017, but since then we’ve seen four fires in three years.
We are hoping for rain. We are hoping for a national political dialogue that stops denying climate change and starts working again towards radically reduced carbon emissions as national public policy, to try to preserve some sort of livable planet and atmosphere for our children’s children’s children’s… But for now I think I’ll do what I can to revel in a day of fairly clean air and fairly cool temperatures :-).
The first and second photos above were taken almost exactly two weeks apart, on September 2nd and 16th respectively, from the skies not at all far from ORD, the main airport in Chicago. The third was taken on the 2nd above the Sacramento-American river delta, which feeds San Francisco Bay, at time a time when smoke was already affecting northern California but hadn’t spread as far and wide. The fourth was taken on the 2nd somewhere above Iowa or Illinois, I’m guessing. On the flight from SFO to ORD (2nd), I didn’t have flight map available readily, so the names of the photos are my guess as to where the plane was when I took the shot. Flying home on the 16th, I know where each shot was taken and you’ll see pretty precise into in the photo names.
As you’ve seen from prior posts, our wildfire season began earlier than usual in Sonoma County and Norther California generally. This brought smoke to our skies, which I’ve already posted about here. While I was enjoying time by Geneva Lake in Wisconsin, more fires started due to more unusually hot and dry weather all over the west coast. Then the smoke spread to many of the midwestern states which … umm, narrowly voted for the president who withdrew the US from the Paris accords. I found the flight home on the 16th so distressing, because the smoke was visible everywhere. How long will a rigid core of Americans continue to think that climate-change denial is good public policy for the nation with the largest economy and carbon footprint globally???
In the gallery below, you can read date and location info in each photo’s name. As you see above, we in California already had smoky skies on the 2nd, but actually when I flew back in on the 16th, an onshore flow had driven the smoke away in my area. For now air quality has been reasonable and the sunsets lovely but not too scary. 🙂 It’s about to get hot and dry again, so please hold the though “no new fires” in your mind, and prayers if you do those. 🙂 Peace and a truly democratic, majority-based outcome for all elections in the world, be it Belarus or the US…
I promise this won’t be all smokey skies, but this is the current reality and sometimes one has to stop and capture even the unpleasant moments. These hills are quite close and usually distinctly visible. The good news is the sky did clear a bit again within a few hours of this photo so the sunset was reasonably clear…as seen in the shot of the early sunset taken just about five hours later. (Yes, trust me, a wind and maybe a pressure change really had cleared the sky – it’s a good touch more blue and less gray even if it doesn’t show on your screen…)
As a kid, one great pleasure of summer was sitting by a campfire: whether at sleep-away camp or a family camping trip; whether at a National Park campfire program (yes, some actually happened by real, live campfires when Mom took us out camping in the way-back-when…) or the local county park, you could pretty much always count on toasted marshmallows and that magical feeling fire inspires among most boys when it’s under control and after dark .
That was then. This is now. Now is, to be frank, a year which reminds of me of Queen Elizabeth’s declaration that 1992 was an “Annus Horribilis.” Heck, for me 1992 went pretty well because I recall getting tears in my eyes when Ohio’s electoral map went blue and I realized for the first time in my life there’d be an inhabitant of the white house who wouldn’t just hate and judge me for how I was born. (There were fewer letters in the acronym and far less widespread acceptance of us folks on the rainbow spectrum, back then.) But 2020? Definitely annus horribilis territory.
This week’s pile-upon A-H stressor in my home region of northern California? Unusually early wildfires caused by extremely unusual thunder and lighting on Sunday and again Monday last week, which were in turn caused by unusually early and extreme high heat. Sonoma County currently has two active wildfires which have caused a new wave of evacuation orders. This was not an annual occurrence, even just six years ago when I settled here. Yet still we have folks (one of them the current occupant of that house on Pennsylvania Avenue) intent upon denying evidence and steering us ever further into global-warming catastrophe.
It does all get a bit much at times, doesn’t it? There’s been more smoke in the air and bits of ash falling through the air than I myself have experienced, but that’s because I was back east for the worst of the 2017 fires near here. For those who haven’t lived through regional wildfires like this, when you hear smoke in the air don’t think about those summer campfires with a clear column of wood-smoke rising and leaving your clothes with that distinct smell. Think a very heavy misty presence of something that certainly smells fairly smokey but, here 20 or more miles from the current fire line nearest me, not as strong or obvious as those long-ago pleasant campfire smells. It’s heavy, bad for the lungs, oppressive to the spirit, and very visible in the sky – as witness these photos whose names all tell you when they were taken, between Tuesday and yesterday.
The first wildfires near me were sparked by lighting some time on Monday, but it was Tuesday evening that I first watched the sunset out my windows and realized the heavy horizon and dark sun meant more fire smoke. Now each day I check when I wake up, whether the smoke layer seems worse or better than the day before. In the mornings the air is usually much clearer – higher moisture in the air must bind the smoke and keep it closer to the ground or something like that. Yesterday evening was a pleasantly clear surprise, and this morning seemed fine enough that I chose to bike over to Sebastopol to grab a late-morning bite with friends…but then the smoke moved in fast, the air got thicker and yuckier, and biking back wasn’t quite so pleasant. And weather forecasters say there may be more lightning in the coming hours, possibly sparking yet more fires. Annus horribilis, anyone?
I hope to start posting more regularly, perhaps even daily if I get really organized. I’ve taken lots of prettier photos of nice things one can see on and around the bike trails, streets and parks of my home region which I’ve been gladly exploring by foot, bike and even occasionally car for the … seven weeks since I got home.