Where: our summer job at Rock Creek Lakes Resort
In past years at the Resort, we definitely felt like we were total Ohioans. We have a Midwest accent, we can eat church potluck foods unironically, and we refuse to say “the” in front of a freeway name. This year, our third season, I’m starting to notice a slight shift to the left, and a couple points really drove it home: Forest fires have become a normal part of the summer season, and when I say “down south”, it means Southern California rather than the Deep South of Alabama and Mississippi. I guess it was bound to happen after so many years of exposure!
Before I worry you too much, I’ll tell you about the fire. The Butte Fire started about 10 miles west of Mammoth Lakes on August 7, from a lightening strike. As the crow flies, it’s about 30 miles northwest of us, which doesn’t put us in any danger, but it does mean that we get a lot a hazy days as the smoke blows over the ridges and into our canyon. It’s also been filling up the Owens Valley with a thick film, so we can barely see the White Mountains, just 30 miles away.
Before we started working out here, I was terrified of forest fires, because the national news always made them look so bad. Now, I’m not saying that these fires are never dangerous; many communities around us have had a devastating fire come through and destroy property. But, the reality is that they’re mostly seen as an annoyance, ruining air quality and closing down the few highways that run through the mountains. I think a major difference is the length of the event. See, a tornado comes and goes in a a matter of minutes, but some of these fires can go on for a month or more. The Forest Service only puts them out immediately if people are in danger; if the fire is in a really remote location, the FS prefers to let it burn, as nature intended. It’s hard to stay hyper about something with such a long life span. Plus, it seems that whenever one fire is finally put out, another starts up from the lightening that accompanied the rain that doused the first one.
So, because it’s been a little bit hazy for quite some time, we decided to hike in the Mammoth area last week, and take our chances with the smoke. We took a short but charming trail that quickly gains elevation over the Mammoth Lakes Basin and leads to a nice lake in less than 2 miles. Crystal Lake, as advertised, was a gorgeous clear blue, and we watched tons of trout swimming around and coming up for a bug breakfast. Then, I though that my sunglasses were smudged, because everything looked blurry. I took them off to clean them, and saw thick smoke starting to pour over the ridge. The wind had shifted, and the clear morning was quickly wearing off. We headed back down the trail briskly, astounded by how the basin had changed from just a hour previous. We could barely make out the lakes below, and the air was almost too thick to breathe. Time to head inside!
Nice and clear:
Still big snowfields:
Big change in the span of 30 minutes:
Where’s the lakes?!:
The other interesting part of our week was a visit from our friends from Down South, Buddy and Judy. They brought their trailer up for a few days of camping along 395, and managed to snag a night in a prime spot at Rock Creek Lake Campground. (Get this—most of California is already back to school, which makes this an awesome time to do some traveling!) Yesterday, we joined them in the June Lake area for a hike to Parker Lake. (Which was closed a few weeks ago due to yet another fire in the area.)
It was a perfect day for a hike with warm sun but cool breezes, and with that hint of cooler air, I saw my first yellow leaf of the season. It seems like just a couple weeks ago that I was taking pictures of aspen buds, and they are already starting to think about fall. It’s always fun to see Buddy and Judy, who call themselves our “road parents”. They cooked up a delicious feast from the grill, and even had gluten free cookies for dessert! It’s always great to catch up with them.
JJ with Buddy and Judy and their friend, Debbie:
Still plenty of snow up here, too:
Til next week!