More Fires in Cali

7 07 2008

At the Needles this past weekend, we could see smoke from a new fire (started since our last visit to Kern County) burning east of Lake Isabella. Below is a GoogleMaps image of the fire, thanks to Kern County Fire Department.

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It’s pretty crazy to be so close to a fire – we could easily see the big plume of smoke to the south and I’m sure Margee at the fire lookout has been busy with updates.

In other news, the Brickyard, a popular bouldering area in Santa Barbara, is also burning. Hopefully the fire won’t cause too much damage for the climbing up there.


More Fires in California

25 06 2008

The big news right now are all the fires up in northern and central California, many of which I believe were ignited by lightning strikes. Best of luck to the firefighters up there right now.

On our way back from our trip on Monday, we saw some evidence of fire down further south. This was the view from a gas station in Temecula (north of San Diego on the 15):

Pretty crazy, right? Apparently this was smoke from a small brush fire caused by hot parts from a wheel assembly [coming] off and ignit[ing] the brush” on the 805 near La Jolla. It sounds like it was pretty small and was almost immediately contained, but still made plenty of smoke that we could see from pretty far north.

At least LA managed to make it through several days of 100+ weather without anything major burning… let’s hope that luck lasts the rest of the summer.

April Madness – A Brief Recap

5 05 2008

The past month has flown by and I barely know what happened. It seems that just the other day was tax day. Our last post reflects this lost time as the weeks and weekends have passed so quickly.

So far the spring has been a bit strange out here in California. A week of perfect weather has been followed by a scorching weekend, causing us to retreat to the shade and higher altitudes. Two weeks back it was over 100 in LA County and a few fires have flared up.

April featured a trip to Bishop with some east coast friends that flew out to enjoy our spring weather. The temps in Bishop were perfect but on the second day of the trip the Buttermilks and Pollen Grains were getting 40 + MPH gusts. Not only did this bring a chill but it was hard to climb and scary to do anything tall since you could be blown off. We accidently did a bit of pad surfing as the crash pads went airborne even with people sitting on top of them.

The weekend after returning from Bishop we went to Black Mountain to avoid the heat and to continue with our bouldering bug. While the temps were nice and the setting was pristine I was not a fan of the problems. My skin was still tender from Bishop and most of the problems were lacking in either hand holds or foot holds. I enjoyed taking photos of my friends climbing and trying to learn how to deal with harsh light. My favorite problem was the Green Meanie slab which I had to start from atop my crash pad and a two foot pile of snow.

At the Boulder Basin camp ground area we were able to find a hand full of fun problems to finish off the day. These were more concentrated and easier to find since we did not have to fight through thick brush and trees. Due to the longer drive and spread out nature of majority of the problems I think that Tramway a better area. Tram now has an excellent guidebook, that Black Mountain lacks, and will stay cooler longer into the summer.

While I was psyched to get into a bouldering mindset for a little while but I am happy that we were able to go sport climbing this weekend. A short trip to Malibu Creek helped me put my fitness into perspective. Climbing routes in the gym has helped keep me in shape and my endurance was adequate for the short routes. Since I haven’t lead anything hard outside in months I had to push to keep climbing while redpointing Urban Struggle. I kept it together and was happy to lead my first 5.12 since October.

I hope that this will be a good start to my sport climbing season and I am excited to go to Clark Mountain and Mt Charleston this summer! After a taste of limestone near Vegas in February I am excited to try some harder and steeper routes.

All photos are from Black Mountain.



California’s Burning

23 10 2007

Just like the Augustana song,
California’s burning, burning, burning to the ground

And I’m here, wondering where the sun has gone

Even here in Pasadena, where we have had only the slightest breath of wind in the past week, the air smells a little smokey, the light is so orange that it feels like it’s been twilight all day, and the sun is just a fuzzy reddish spot amid the haze above. My internal solar biological clock is reeling with the confusion.

It’s pretty crazy how cyclical and predictable fires like these are. We had a record low rainfall this past summer, plus super hot, dry weather (several weeks of 100+ degrees here in Pasadena) – everything is just waiting for that tiny little spark. And even though the couple days of rain a few weeks ago might have lulled us into a false sense of security, the plants can’t absorb the water if they’re already dead (as my Global Climate professor told us in class the other day, it’s like dumping water on a dead bush and then blow-drying it with those warm Santa Ana’s – the bush is still going to be primed for burning). And what’s remarkable is how often fires like these occur. This is the first really big fire season for me in 3 fall seasons living in SoCal, but 2003 was apparently also a big fire year, along with 1994, when fires came through Altadena and the north parts of Pasadena.

The thing is, the fires are pretty much unavoidable. The climate here is hot and dry, the Santa Ana winds are a function of the geography – they’re not going to stop any time soon, and in our modern day society, there’s always going to be that accidental spark source – cigarettes, electricity, etc. And its not quite the same as with flooding (which is also pretty cyclical and unavoidable) because where a fire goes (and where it starts) can be random. Pasadena was burning 13 years ago, but it’s perfectly safe now (*knock on wood*). The house I’m living in right now is over 100 years old. That’s 100 fire seasons.

Anyways, what this all comes down to is that I am a little jealous. My family up in the Pacific NW were just dealing with windstorms and power outages (and I’m still young enough to remember that those can be fun), while down here it was raining (lightly, but still raining) ash this afternoon while I was trying to run my team’s ultimate frisbee practice. My throat felt scratchy after only an hour and a half outside. And meanwhile, my sister got to snuggle inside the house while the wind blows the cedars and the raindrops, and I’m sure when she finally went outside after the storm abated, it smelled like freshly cut evergreen branches, not like burning.