eat anything—leave little
evidence behind, but
whole berries in black scat.
Drought and fire,
slim pickin’s high,
bears lumber off the mountain,
hundreds in canyons
trying to make a living
on damn few acorns—
grubbing for bugs,
trashing trash cans
taking pets and an occasional calf.
from the past
like science fiction.
own the moonlit mountain town
rummage door to door,
wait on the porch for more
of anything to eat.
Trick or treat.
I don’t recall a more-welcome fall, this astronomical landmark when our daylight hours equal dark and night promises to last longer as we move towards the Winter Solstice. The sun slides south down the ridge, rising later, as sunset doesn’t hesitate, but literally falls into Antelope Valley just to the west of us.
We have endured the summer, we have endured four years of drought, as we enter that time of year when it might rain, bring green grass and fill the earth with moisture, bring water to our cattle. Wildlife walks with a different air, lingering longer in the morning. Coyotes and bobcats take their time as if they own this ground. Perhaps displaced by the Rough Fire, we’ve already seen more lions and bears than any year I can remember.
This is the time of year when our calves are born, the beginning of another cycle with the hope of rain, green grass, and fat calves, mornings and evenings by the fire. Just another day, but this is the one we have waited for.
The prospect of having to gather this country ahead of the Rough Fire is daunting.
7:20 a.m., Sept. 11, 2015
Smoke continues to get worse throughout the Valley as the Rough Fire moves within a mile of the 2,000 year-old General Grant Tree and grove of giant Sequoias, also threatening the communities of Wilsonia and Pinehurst as it moves up the Mill Creek drainage, and towards the town of Dunlap on the western edge of the fire. Currently consuming 128,000 acres in the Kings River watershed with only 29% containment, the fire is expected to burn rapidly through the drought and pine beetle impacted timber today. Cost to date to fight the fire, that began with a single tree struck by lightening on July 31st, approaches $80 million. 2,570 personnel, 14 helicopters and 18 dozers battle the blaze in rough terrain.
Mandatory evacuation orders have kept Dry Creek Road busy. We helped haul four gooseneck loads of horses and mules from Miramonte yesterday, the last of the stock removed from the Cedar Grove Pack Station ahead of the fire that now burns upcanyon past Hotel Creek and towards Granite Lake. Park and pack station structures were saved.
Miramonte – 10:00 a.m., September 11, 2015
Cooler weather is forecasted after today and into next week that should help firefighting efforts.
For a moment,
give in, yield
to our senses,
to the unknown—
we have been
or may ever be—
to let each second
wash over us
as we consume
our flesh melting
to hold its shape,
waiting to explore
that prolonged moment
as if in the womb again.
Pacific Southwest Summary:
Although the early part of the winter season will feature above normal rainfall, the drought will continue as rainy periods will diminish in the season’s second half and precipitation will be below-normal for the winter season as a whole, with below-normal mountain snows not helping ease the drought. The stormiest periods will be in mid- to late November, early to mid-December, early January, and early March. Overall, temperatures will be slightly cooler than normal. The coldest period will be in late December, with other cold periods in early and late January and mid-February.
April and May will be cooler and slightly rainier than normal.
Summer will be hotter than normal, with near-normal rainfall. The hottest periods will be in early June, early to mid- and late July, and early to mid- and late August.
September and October will be slightly cooler than normal, with near-normal rainfall.
Facing continued smoke from the Rough Fire and 110 degrees before week’s end, we’re looking forward to the end of summer.
From my desk window, I watch the fire
where the far ridge drops into the next
watershed, Rio de los Santos Reyes,
to follow mushrooming thunder cells
billow white as backfires collide:
cedar, fir, pine and redwood up in smoke
late afternoons and imagine the heat
and trees exploding, smudged yellow
Nomex—men, and women too, on the fire line,
exhausted and bleary-eyed as the red tails
of air tankers sail back and forth over me.
Sixty thousand acres plus of back country
charred by a living, breathing monster
twenty-five percent contained. The wind
has changed and cleared our canyon
as thunder cells push eastward up the Kings.
From the ridge and from the air they watched
a lightning strike run in the rocks
for over a week, thought it would never
jump both the river and the road—
could have put it out anytime.
August 28, 2015, 4:35 p.m.
August 27, 2015, 6:30 a.m.
Fire continues to burn on both sides of Highway 180 and the South Fork of the Kings River, leaving rock slides from the steep granite walls that now block vehicular access to Cedar Grove and points beyond. Smoke so thick in Dry Creek Canyon, you can almost identify the wood that has burned by smell: pine, cedar, fir and redwood. We quit work early yesterday.
August 27, 2015, 6:45 a.m.