(Fire Update: The fire has continued its growth, but fortunately not significantly in the direction of The Ranch. The potential weather which was a possibility was south of the fire and thus, potential winds and lightning strikes which could have worsened things did not appear. Grateful for the prayers. I will say it is jarring to see the fire lines basically outlining the outskirts of the nearby town).
One of the things that we saw evidence of on our hike were previous forest fires.
Forest fires are a reality of lots of places, including Old Home (New Home has had its share as well, which was somewhat surprising to me when I moved here as it was not the sort of place I thought these things happened). We had seen evidence on our previous hikes and saw some driving in to the Mt. Whitney hike as well as some stands early in the hike on canyons to the west of us.
That I can see, this is only picture I took that perhaps shows fire damage:
I suppose it is understandable of course: The view of forests after burns are depressing at best. Sticks raised to the sky with branches stuck out like bare arms on the hillsides that are bare themselves. Blackened wood that is dead although it fakes the appearance of living.
And that is far away. They can be even more jarring up close.
Such fires are a tragedy, or so we consider them.
Part of the tragedy remains purely on us, of course. We stopped fires from occurring all together and so the more frequent fires that would clear out underbrush and smaller trees were allowed to grow, creating conditions for far more hot, intense fires. And we actively discouraged any sort of active thinning or logging which might have had some of the same impact (do not read into this that completely logging everything is a solution either; it is just as destructive).
Still, for all of that, the fires would have likely still occurred at some level. And that would also be a necessary thing for the renewal of the forest and the ecosystem.
The forest will recover - but its recovery will be measured in decades, not seasons (see the above paragraph for how we helped extend this period by poor choices). This is not a tragedy for the forest - it can wait 50 or 100 years to re-establish itself.
It is a tragedy for us, of course, because most of us will never live to see the forests regrown. In that sense, we have likely deprived ourselves and at least our children.
I may sound a bit aggravated about this - because I am aggravated. My father spent almost 10 years clearing brush and cleaning up The Ranch to prevent this sort of thing from happening there, and The Cowboy and The Young Cowboy have continued this work. You cannot completely eliminate forest fires, but things can be done to lessen their impact. For many years we did precisely nothing and even now, we are easing our way slowly back into active forest management. It takes time and effort and appreciation of the land, something too often missing in those that get their view of Nature from streaming media and carefully controlled and managed experiences.
At some point - hopefully September, but it truly may be October or November - I will be able to get back up to The Ranch and hopefully beyond. I know I am going to be saddened and shocked by what I will see - not just from the destruction, which I predict will be awful, but from the long term impact on the area. This was an area who depended to a great extent upon some level of logging and tourism due to outdoor recreation. Both of this will be almost completely gone.
Hopefully not gone in the long term sense of the forest, just gone in the sense of my own lifetime.
One wonders, if we would think in these terms, how much differently we would manage the forests.
A Final Note: It with sadness that I read Reverend Paul of Way Up North has decided to stop posting. He has been a long time friend of this blog and I will miss his posts (and his Iditarod updates every year!). If you have benefitted from his wisdom, you might drop by and let him know.