Summer Solstice & the Basin Fire

(From my blog in 2010) “Today is the longest day of the year, and also the anniversary of the Basin Fire of 2008, the event that launched this blog. Today, I hope to reflect back on that time, and post a couple of photographs I took that day, if the Internet Goddess allows. The first two photographs are mine, but scroll down for the stories and photographs of others. I have also provided a link where others shared their stories last year, and more are doing so this year. What an amazing gift we have in each other!” You can read the rest of the blog, the stories, and more here:

Also, because a reader who wasn’t following me back in 2008 asked for information about these fires, I made public the collection of posts I put together back then of the blog posts from both the Basin and the Chalk Fires of 2008, reproduced as originally written — warts, misspellings, and all. You can find it to the right under “Pages” — Big Sur Fires, 2008. I found it interesting to re-read (my writing has changed a lot) and see the photos from those times.

Nadine Clark has this framed and hanging on her wall:

Rebuilding after the Basin Fire – the Love of Community

11 days – for 11 days, a group of dedicated professionals put their own lives and livelihoods on hold while they helped one of our own. I wish I knew all of your names, so I could honor you here, but I only know some that I recognized from the photos. But I also know, you did not do it for the recognition. You did it to help a neighbor in need. And because — that is who you are and what you do. I honor you. We all do.

Shortly after the Basin Fire ended, Coast Property Owners Association (CPOA) set out on a mission – a lofty, and difficult mission to raise the funds to help Don Case rebuild his home. His home was built in the 60’s, I believe, and the only one lost in this horrific fire that was not insured. And so, CPOA began a quest to help our neighbor, Don Case, and his family.

Mike Gilson, Dick Ravich, Butch and Patte Kronlund, Lisa Kleissner, and Ned Callihan, all the Board Members of CPOA, made it happen. Daily donations of lunch from the Big Sur Deli, courtesy of Kurt Mayer, gave all the volunteer carpenters what they needed to work all day. And Gabe Case is doing an extraordinary job as Project Manager.

The framing is done, and recent donations have made the installation of the roof sprinkler system possible. Everyone is on a break for about a month, but next is the installation of the doors, windows, and siding. Here are some photos by Joyce Duffy of Day 11, yesterday, Friday 7/1/11.

The House, by Joyce Duffy

Standing by the Phoenix Fireplace, by Joyce Duffy

At the Apex, by Joyce Duffy

Never has the term, Namansté (I salute the divine in you) held as much meaning for me as when I was writing this post. I salute you all, and I salute a community who creates this kind of wonderfulness. I don’t know how I got so lucky to land here 26 years ago, but each and every day, I am thankful I did.

What better way to celebrate July 4th?? It’s not just a BBQ – It is a HOUSE RAISING!!

Phoenix, from the ashes & Community

Yesterday was the summer solstice and the 3d anniversary of the start of the Basin Fire, called the Gallery fire back then. It is a time to be grateful for the spirit of Big Sur and the community that supports her. Nowhere is that more evident than at the Don Case homestead.

Joyce Duffy, of the Don Case homestead, wishes to share this with all of us – near and far.

“It is the anniversary if the lightning strike that ignited the Fire that incinerated Don’s house and then went on to consume hundreds of thousands of acres of Big Sur…The whole community suffered shock and loss.
But right now I am watching in awe the miracle of this Houseraising…the joyful energy and teamwork renders me speechless…families and businesses are sending food and coffee and ice for the carpenter volunteers who work ceaselessly in the hot sun…supportive wishes are coming from all directions. This is just a hint of what the power of Community can do, and maybe it is a chance for healing and rebirthing for all of us. On behalf of the Case family, thank you all”


Budda Bowl by Joyce Duffy

And now:

Phoenix Fireplace by Joyce Duffy

Don at building by Joyce Duffy

Going up, by Joyce Duffy

We live in a very special place, much as I imagine small towns always have been. There is nothing like a sense of place to ground one.

Redwood Revival

Before I got sidetracked with the iPhone, I was out and about, and took some photos to share with you … some just because I live in God’s country, or paradise, or one of the most beautiful places on the planet — and some specifically to show my readers something.

These first two should lift your spirits, all you lovers of Mother Nature, as depicted here. These are redwoods that were matchsticks two and 1/2 years ago. After the Basin Fire of 2008, came the Chalk Fire and Nacimiento-Fergusson Rd. was burned on both sides. Look at what they look life now! Life regenerates. Ah, yes it does.

These two shots depict the regeneration of the redwoods along Nacimiento-Fergusson Rd. — burned until there was nothing left but blackened sticks. Now look at them!

Redwood Revival

Redwood Revival Repeat

A challenge

Do you remember this photograph I posted of the yellow hills of Big Sur?

Valley View by Daniel Danbom

Well, I ran into Joe Burnett, biologist for the VWS’s Condor reintroduction program, last night and he suggested a challenge. If Jeff Norman were still around (we miss you Jeff!) this challenge would not be necessary.

This is the challenge – hike into Mt. Manual, and take close-up photographs of the various yellow flowers contributing to this unusual phenomena, and send them to me at I will post them on my blog. If you know what they are, include that information. But even if you do NOT know what they are, send them in, and hopefully, someone can help us identify them. We will also see how much of what we are seeing is native or introduced.

Here is a close-up of one flower that is making the hills yellow, at least close to the highway. Is it also on Mt. Manual? I originally thought it was a tansy, but I believe that may be incorrect, and would love for someone to identify it for me. It is all over right now, in more abundance than I have ever seen – both in areas touched by the Basin Fire, and those untouched.

Do you know what this is? Barbara Woyt does. It is Eriophyllum staechadifolium or lizard tail, also known as Seaside Woolly Sunflower. Is it part of the display on Mt. Manuel? Get out there soon, as this display won’t last long in this hot weather! And send those photos in! Let’s all find out what is causing this unusual display! Thanks, Joe, for the challenge. Now let’s see if my readers are up for it!
(Note, this photo was not taken for the challenge, or it would be a closer shot. Here, I wanted the hills and ocean in the background, but a good photo for this challenge would clearly show the flowers AND the leaves for identification purposes as close-up as your camera would allow.)

Cloud Seeding Program off Big Sur Coast

XT has posted an article here: Cloud Seeding Article

about a cloud seeding program being proposed by the Monterey County Water Resources Agency. I have confirmed his story independently. The earliest the seeding would begin would be the end of January. Seeding, while controversial, has the potential to increase rainfall by 20%.

These are the concerns I have voiced so far:

Obviously, I have some serious concerns about this as we on the South Coast, seem to be directly in the path. Of course, the road up Chalk Peak has always been fragile, to say the least, and after the Chalk Fire last year, only a lot of faith and hope has held it up. Chalk Peak is the only way in or out for at least 12-15 people. Plaskett Ridge Rd. is in dire need of repair. It hasn’t been graded since 2000, and the storm of October 13th took a horrible road and turned it into a nightmare. The Hermitage is also in jeopardy, although I know they have been working hard to shore things up, so-to-speak. At Limekiln State Park, the damage from the Chalk Fire has not even been repaired, yet. Mud flows and debris flows could permanently close that park with the current fiscal situation in the State.

Additionally, there are at least three Cal-Trans projects down here currently going on that could be significantly impacted, if not stopped altogether by any decision to seed the clouds, and I think the appropriate Cal-Trans staff should be consulted, as well. XT reports that no EIA or EIR is being prepared, simply a negative mitigations report, which should have to take into consideration the horizontal drain project 1 mile north of Ragged Point; the rockshed at Rain Rocks; the bridge at Pitkins Curve; and the Gambo Tieback project just south of Packard Beach, as well as the damaged hillsides from the Chalk and Basin Fires.

The water situation in the Salinas Valley Ag community is reaching critical stages, Lake San Antonio is at 33% capacity. Lake Nacimiento is at 13%. I know their concerns, and why they would want both Lake San Antonio and Nacimiento to be at their fullest levels by the end of the season, but at what costs?

Frankly, this is a frightening possibility for the South Coast, particularly for those in or near the footprint of the 2008 Chalk Fire, and for the entire Big Sur Coast that sits in the footprint of the Basin Complex Fire.

From XT: “A hearing, at which the MCWRA Board will be asked to certify a Mitigated Negative Declaration for the project, rather than a full Environmental Impact Report, will be held on December 21 at 1:00pm at 893 Blanco Circle, in Salinas.”

Big Sur State Park update

As promised, Big Sur State Park opened in time for Memorial Day Weekend. On Friday, May 22nd, at approximately 1:30 pm, a ribbon cutting ceremony launched the opening of the Bailey Bridge to a crowd of dignitaries, local residents, and anxious visitors. 90 minutes after the State Park opened, all campsites were filled for the weekend, and by the end of the day, over 1000 reservations were made for this summer.

 Camping reservations began Friday and can be made through Reserve America at or by calling (800) 444-PARK (444 7275).


On another note, from KION-TV, residents should not be alarmed to witness a low-flying airplane over parts of the west-central California Coast, part of the Los Padres National Forest, and an area east of Greenfield starting around May 22. 

For about two months, an airplane operated under contract to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) will be making low-level flights. The survey will cover the cities of Big Sur, Soledad, Greenfield, and numerous other towns in the area with the purpose of collecting and recording geologic measurements. 

This survey is designed to remotely study geologic and hydrologic units that lie below land surface. It is part of an ongoing USGS program to identify features such as changes in rock types, ultimately providing a better understanding of the geology and hydrology of the area.

Photos of the mudslide

Tuesday afternoon saw another blow to the Big Sur State Park, who has suffered set-back after set back toward its goal to open by Memorial Day.  I think Mother Nature is telling us she is not ready for millions of visitors to her scarred and healing hills. When she tries to tell us gently, we sometimes don’t hear her, so she has to YELL to be heard.

These photos by Rain Greenslate, Chief of Maintenance Big Sur tell the story so well. She and Jo-ann are sending more tomorrow. Thanks ladies for sharing these with us and I will post as many of them tonight as I can, and more tomorrow!!





Storm Report & Road Closure

9:00 pm – conserving power for posting tomorrow, first light, and also conserving my own power, as I have been sick with a nasty grunge for DAYS!! Check back in the am, and I will post what I can find out.

6:45 pm – I have received another 1/4 inch in the last 45 minutes. It is POURING, some hail, too. Imagine being inside a tin can with someone shooting BBs at you. That is what it is like up here, at the moment.

6:00 pm – This is from various sources:

Highway 1 is closed in both directions because of a mud slide. The CHP website has the south end closure at MM 44 (Nepenthe), and the north closure at 46, I believe, and cars are being turned around in both directions. Per CHP, closure all night, crew to clear in am. Reports are that this mudslide is significant, and one can NOT get through, even locals. Updates, as available, and my battery power allows.

It is being reported that the mudslide is at the Big Sur River in the State Park, and that the mud  is near the top of the K-rails surrounding the Big Sur Lodge, and that same water has seeped into the Lodge itself. If my friends who live near-by send me any photos tomorrow, I will be sure and post them. 

Also, it is raining like crazy up here, and I received 3/4″ since 8 am. Season rain totals tomorrow.