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Showing posts with the label forests

Son of a Son of a (Sagebrush) Sailor

Although I've never felt much of a need to read Sigmund Freud, his "Civilization and its Discontents" was interesting. In it, Freud mentioned that some people had described a powerful "oceanic" feeling; but he had never experienced it.

Perhaps Dr. Freud never had the experience of camping in drab, ugly, and half-dead forests in the summer -- to escape the heat -- and then busting out into the open in September. An oceanic feeling can be very powerful indeed.Better yet, this feeling can be used for a practical purpose: it helps to keep an outdoorsy lifestyle interesting, long after the tourist phase is over.

Recently this oceanic feeling provided a real phantasmagoria for me: breaking out into the sagebrush hills seemed like heading out to sea on a sailboat. Perhaps this was helped by reading Jack London's "South Sea Tales." (  I even listened to some Jimmy Buffett songs for the first time in a long while.

For instance, as you creep out…

How Do You Tow a Van and Trailer BACKWARDS?

I was headed up the mountain for a favorite dispersed campsite of mine, in my van and small cargo trailer. Naturally I was nervous about a certain muddy rutted area, an area that has been touch-and-go in the past. But it was unusually dry there last night, so I plunged in confidently. Over-confidently as it turned out. And you think hubris is an ancient superstition?

1. Don't make it any worse. When you start spinning, you might as well stop. If ground clearance is a problem, you don't want to let air out of your tires.
2. Be patient, be calm; which was more difficult here because there was no cellphone service. Wait for a local person to show up. In fact, they did. But I had to spend a night camping in muddy holes. Actually it was pretty flat, and absolutely quiet. I slept well. Try to see a disaster as an adventure.
3. I was essentially on a one-lane deadend road. No tow truck could get in front of me to pull me forward, the usual way of being pulled out.
4. Can you be pulled ba…

Why Isn't Heating Your Home Free?

The forests in Colorado are no longer merely worrisome. They are well on the way to complete destruction. Here's an example of what I saw near Little Texas #1:

I asked the visitor's center if the Rio Grande national forest was the worst. Surprisingly he said that it was worse elsewhere. Bark beetles.

Believe it or not, there is something good to talk about. I saw pickup trucks going up my road everyday to cut up and haul out a load of firewood. They are my heroes. 

I asked one about the catalytic converters in the chimney of wood stoves. His experience was bad. In fact he removed it. But catalytic heaters, oxygen sensors, and computer-based control of automobile engines are pretty reliable. So why couldn't the same be true of wood stoves. (Please don't complain about the cost. Wood stove customers will squander an extra thousand dollars for a stove that is nostalgic or fashionable, so what is wrong with a few hundred dollars for something that works?)

Why doesn't the f…

Gotterdammerung on the Upper Rio Grande

How I Remember this Devastated Land

It is always fun to visit a dispersed camping area that you haven't seen in quite a few years. I went back to the higher country, just uphill of where I've been camping the last few days, because the fire has become less dramatic. In fact, I now see it as a make-work project for government-sector employees and crony-capitalists.

Well, that's how the upper Rio Grande valley still looks at the ingress of the San Juan mountains in southwestern Colorado.

And forest fire or not, there are still many wild roses in bloom. I need a break from the smell of smoke, haze, and destruction.

So life goes on.

The Bleak Part of the Battle Begins

South Fork, CO.  What's it like to be a refugee family trying to kill time in a high school gymnasium, while hiding from the forest fire? It was probably an adventure the first day. But after several days? And the authorities are careful not to give the refugees a specific date when they can return to their homes. 

Sometimes I wonder about the sluice-gate of federal (FEMA) dollars that starts flowing once a crisis reaches a certain threshold, and whether authorities and crony capitalists try to over-extend the crisis just to suck every last dollar out of the ol' cash cow. In that sense, a naive trust of authorities will just turn you into a captive/hostage. That -- and not reckless overconfidence or thrill-seeking -- is probably the real reason why some non-sheeplike people won't evacuate when the authorities order them to.

Seeing the kindly neighbor-woman drop in on me several times -- yesterday she wanted to know if I needed water -- brought several out-of-date and laughab…

Cecil B. DeMille in the San Juans: Going Pyro-Cumular!

Noon MDT, South Fork CO: In order to burnish my credentials for employment in the responsible mainstream media, I was going to entitle this, "West Fork Wildfire Goes Thermonuclear." 

But that might have caused unnecessary worry. And "pyro-cumular" sounds much more positive and friendly than "thermonuclear."  Besides, I don't really know if this is due to a sudden flare-up (intensification), or whether calm winds are allowing a chimney-column to form. But what happened to the pall of smoke that was blocking this view? Did it blow away suddenly, just before this column developed?

Consider all the history books a history buff can read over the course of a lifetime. The historian loves playing Monday morning quarterback, based on a collection of papers and documents known to the historian, decades after the battle. But what was known to the commanding general at the time of the decision? The fog of war is something I will appreciate more because of this exp…

Smoke, but no Flames for South Fork

Update 2000 MDT: the sheriff came to check on a forest road gate. We had a nice chat. He said the fluctuations of the wind are fooling everybody: it looks like the evacuation is "long term." He confirmed that the flames had come within 2 miles of South Fork yesterday. (And therefore 4 miles from me.) Old Sol looks pretty battered and bloodied:

Update 1245 MDT: Whoa baby! The high wind has chased the intervening and obstructing smoke out of the upper valley of the South Fork of the Rio Grande. And now for the first time I can see where the action is, up by Wolf Creek Pass, the continental divide.

Update 1153 MDT: The wind recently kicked up to 30-40 mph. But it's blowing the smoke to the north. Everything around South Fork is clearing up. I can't believe how quickly the air cleared up over such a large area (many square miles). It looks so good to see the mountains again!
Update 1000 MDT: a recent…

Mandatory Evacuation! (with updates)

Update 1925 MDT: It bothers me that the town of South Fork is visually disappearing because of the smoke. It's only 1.5 miles away. Nor can I see the Verizon tower on the nearby mountain.

But I can't see any flames. Maybe that will have to wait until sunset. Will house lights and street lights be visible tonight?

The town is so quiet, so empty.

Update 1644 MDT: Are they serious? The fire is supposed to only be 2-3 miles west of South Fork, CO), which means 3-4 miles from me! It was 20 miles away this morning. There are so many government emergency workers these days, and so many weather websites and cable news channels. It makes sense that there would be exaggeration. But I don't want to be complacent, either.

Anyway, when I read this latest news it reminded me of the shock of people in Atlanta, in "Gone With the Wind": first they couldn't believe "Yankees in Georgia!" Then they couldn't believe that Atlanta would be taken and burned down.

By the wa…

Modern Mother Nature as a Wrathful Old Testament God

At one time or another, most people have wished that they had more imagination. But recall the old proverb about 'being careful what you wish for.' Too much imagination can actually kill you if it creates panic in the water, and causes you to drown. In other situations it can at least cause you to worry more than you should. 

South Fork, CO. It was the smell that I noticed first. Oh sure, we've all smelled smoke before, but wasn't the forest fire supposed to be over 20 miles to the west -- off in some useless, dreary Wilderness Area that nobody really cares about?

Doesn't a sudden change in odor imply that danger is close? And when the edge of the fire-storm-cloud is sharp, doesn't that imply that the danger is close? Otherwise, it would be smeared out, wouldn't it?

And why did I feel heat against my body, when there was darkness at noon?

It seemed as though the heat was coming from just over the ridge to the west, the di…

Imagination Is Needed After a Forest Fire

My work was cut out for me. In order to enjoy all the goodies of the Mogollon Rim and the White Mountains of east-central Arizona, it is necessary to overcome a natural revulsion of burned forests. If you haven't seen a burnt forest... might underestimate the strength of your reaction. Human nature recoils from fire damage, be it a house or a forest, unless you're like Civil War general, William T. Sherman. It's a primal and fundamental reaction.

How, then, do you get any pleasure from a mountain bike ride through all this ghastly destruction? In the summer, heat and aridity are always a challenge. I rode up an old ATV trail, climbing, and climbing some more. The air got cooler sooner than it should have, which is another way of saying that there was more breeze than is normal, no doubt due to the denuded state of the burned forest. Refreshing air was no small advantage of an open (albeit devastated) canopy.

It was possible to look between the ugly spars to see sky and…