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:

September 27, 2008 – the beginnings of a fire

Two years ago tonight, I wrote the following:

“At 10 pm tonight, I had a report from Betty Withrow of a fire on the Mill Creek drainage area. Early reports are sketchy, and may not be accurate. One report is that it is at the 6 mile marker of N-F Rd. Another report is that it is closer to Apple Camp. Yet another report has it on both sides of the road. about 20-25 acres. USFS Fire Engines are on scene, per my local sources. Follow the chronology of reports below:

Alicia Lutz just came through on her way home, so we know Peter, Merritt, and Katie will be notified. Serge is on his way down from Monterey and will be coming through. Also my gates are open, and my Jeep out of the way. Kerri is on her way, also. Rocky and Geri know about the fire.

I can see the glow, but no flames.

11:15 report from keith harlan: “just got a call from warren and he reports that 30 min. ago the battalion chief was reporting 15 acres for the “Chalk Peak Fire” backing down Mill Creek Drainage and east from the ridge road.”

11:25 report from Big Sur, sirens going by in Valley.
11:25 report from Betty, “reports are that there are planes and dozers on the way.” (In the morning.)

12:00 – drove to front gate, quite a glow from that perspective. Going to be a long night.

12:30 am – This from Geri: “it is on So coast rdge between apple camp and chalk peak both sides of road can be seen from our house.”

12:45 am- Keith reports that he & Mary on their way up to help Rocky & Geri, Monte on his way from Paso.

1:00 am – Serge came through on his way to his mom’s and has two friends coming up to help tomorrow. Gotta love the way the South Coast mobilizes to help one another. I certainly do.

1:15 am- Kerri came through on her way to help Rocky & Geri.

1:45 am- Keith & Mary came through. I also just checked the glow from the perspective of my front gate, and it seems to have lessened. I’ll see what the morrow brings.

2:00 am- hopefully this is the last person to come through until dawn, so I can grab a couple hours before I begin a long day.

I will continue to add information as reports come in. For those of you not quite familiar with the area, Kimball has posted two topo maps on his website, Coast Communication, linked in my blogroll to the right.”
And then it took off, taking over my life for several weeks.

And today? Today yielded record-breaking temperatures in many parts of the state, including one of 127 degrees in the back country behind Salmon Creek. See the post below for more details on today’s heat wave. But amazingly, no fires. One long time firefighter says he has noticed this phenomena in the past, and feels that it is too hot for people, and they stay home, rather than go out into the wilderness.

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.”

Baby Blue Eyes

baby blue eyesThis field of baby blue eyes shows the scorched area of the Chalk Fire.  That is Cone Peak in the background.


These are the baby blue eyes, a little closer up. I have one more hillside of baby blues to add to this post later tonight, if possible.

*Poppies, close-up

*Poppies, close-up, originally uploaded by wind_dancer.

This is dedicated to long-time Big Sur local, Paul Vieregge, who passed over yesterday at home at the age of 87. Blessings to you, Paul, from the beloved hills of home. My heart goes out to Penny and Josh.

Chalk Fire Burn Area, 2

So much difference in the various areas — severe damage and great restoration. I did not get a photo, but the Madrones are coming back from the roots of the burned trees. It will be years before the Madrone forests are as thick as they were, but they will recover. Some of the burned redwoods have sprouts coming out all up and down the blackened trunks. It is amazing to see.

I have some general photos of different aspects of the fire’s aftermath, and the recovery that I have been trying to upload tonight, but alas, the internet is not cooperating. When I can …

dsc_19161This is a creek that runs under Nacimiento-Fergusson Rd. It has become all silted up, and overflowed the road, at some point.

dsc_1878In the background one can see several emerald areas where the retardant was dropped. In the foreground one can see the California Poppies, red maid, and popcorn flowers. In the distance is Cone Peak.

More photos tomorrow, when I am not so frustrated with the unreliability of my internet connection. I have general photos showing the aftermath, as well as more wildflower photos — fields of Indian Warrior, Poppies, and Baby Blue Eyes, as well as a mixture of all sorts of wildflowers. Until then … sleep well, and have a great day.

*Indian Warrior


*Indian Warrior, originally uploaded by wind_dancer. (Pedicularis densiflorus)

A legend I heard years ago about these unusual flowers, was that whenever an Indian Warrior was killed in battle, his blood soaked the soil, and these flowers bloomed.

I don’t like the way the color turned out on these. The flowers are actually between red and maroon. I played with the white balance on my camera, and still couldn’t get them quite right. Notice the fern-like leaves on these flowers.
I found these in the burn area of the Chalk Fire today.

Chalk Fire Burn Area & Wildflowers

This afternoon, I took a trip through the Chalk Fire Burn Area, looking for wildflowers, and found many. I’ll be posting a few examples here, over the next few days. Parts of the forest are still incredibly devastated, and others are recovering nicely. One thing that was just astounding was the vibrant green of the hills where the fire-retardant was dropped. I had been told years ago that it was a fertilizer, but boy, I’ve never seen the effect as clearly as I did today. I have shots of some of these places, or I watched, as the planes dropped the retardant. The affect is not to be believed. 

This is straight out of the camera, but it looks surreal! Wherever the retardant was dropped, is now an emerald field!


South Coast Ridge Rd., and the forest it traverses, is still closed to the public from Nacimiento Rd. to Willow Creek Rd. However, many wildflowers are viewable from Nacimiento-Fergusson Rd. I’d advise caution, however, as there are LOTS of tourists on that road, at least today, and most of them were apparently afraid of the edge, and preferred the wrong side of the road! 

Watch for photos throughout the week. I will try to post one tonight as a teaser. 😉

And finally, a note about our rather “overzealous” new USFS “cop” — please send or call with any serious stories, if you are willing to back them up, but also remember, we may be VERY glad to have him here this fire season. Note this morning:

“03/29/09 09:14 Big Sur, Mile Marker 14 Plasket Ridge Rd.  Report of illegal campfire, USFS responded with Law Enforcement, no fire.”