Twenty-plus inches of rain last winter and spring was not enough to save the oaks stressed by four years of drought, 30-50% of the trees, some 100 years old or more. Many Blue Oaks showed signs of recovering last spring, but now hang in limbo with a single limb of green as they face a hot summer and dry fall. Whole slopes of dead trees, such as the photo above on Dry Creek, are evident everywhere in our lower foothills, adding dry fuel to the potential of fire. Usually located on better moisture, the Live Oaks have fared worse.
The word ‘devastation’ comes to mind, new trees and limbs fallen on fences and roads, as a chain saw becomes necessary equipment to navigate the ranch. Devastation much more serious than that proclaimed by a young botanist where horses gathered and watered around a stockwater pond, years ago, when we were exploring a conservation easement. It may be centuries before the Blue Oaks recover.
We, and the ground around us, haven’t escaped the drought. Already, one hard rock well that supplied stockwater with a solar pump throughout the drought has failed despite our above average rainfall. The trend is dry as the hangover from the drought continues to tax the landscape.