Saturday, February 7, 2015
Drought, Wind, Trees.
After the driest January ever (last year was the former record holder), a storm ripped into the Foothills yesterday. I was on the road for much of it, trying to negotiate the 60 mph winds in my valiant Yaris, dodging puddles and wondering why other drivers are so incredibly stupid to race across wet roadways with unexpectant lakes and other hazards. I finished my home health nursing visits late and mostly had Highway 70 to myself as the little-car-that-could weathered the winds up the road to our house. Spooky. Unbelievably, no trees were down to hamper my progress.
A couple hours later, two local 20-Something males died after having a car vs. pickup head-on collision on Hwy. 70.
Speed. Rain. Wind. Water.
The last few years have given us a pattern where the rain comes ferociously. That is, if the rain comes at all. The dreary, gentle, soaking rains that last for weeks have become much less common. Now we get storms where the winds here in the Foothills burst up to 70 mph. And we get 5 or 6 inches of rain in a day. Trees that are stressed from the drought, snap like kindling. As much as we love our trees, many residents of the Ponderosa pine loving town of Paradise sit up all night, listening to the wind, waiting for the crash.
I was awake last night, listening to the wind. Hard rain on the tin roof is often comforting---but not last night. The wind drove small branches that part from their hosts and turn into projectiles that make crashing noises way beyond their potential. Small twigs become over-achievers.
Lying on the bed, listening to the gusts through the 100 foot Ponderosas, hearing them sway (and yes, you can hear a tree sway) I inevitably think of John Muir, who would climb to the top of these trees in the midst of a wind/rain storm, riding it out. Tempting fate. Adrenaline junkie. For all of his ecstatic nature writing, Muir was also an extreme hiker/adrenaline seeker. He loved solitude. He also loved a first ascent. That's probably why Muir got along with Teddy Roosevelt so well. The two were Adventurers.
On my hike with the dogs today, another casualty. The tree in the meadow, one I have written about, the place where the dogs go to romp when we are having a particularly lazy day and don't feel like walking far----gave up one of its branches. I can't prove it, but I think our trees are losing branches at an astounding rate. The extremes of temps, drought, wind and rain are taking a toll.
Climate change? Sure. Survival becomes a challenge for all flora and fauna. On my walk, I think of the ring tailed cats that live in the area. Endangered creatures, I saw one very close to where I walk. How does that critter survive the storm? Does it ride the storm out in a tree like John Muir?
That endangered cat will get a second chance to ride out the storm tomorrow, as another rip roaring storm is expected to turn more dry-as-a-bone oaks and pines into widow makers. Does anybody else notice these things?