Aaron at school, getting his mind around the devastation.
We will rebuild.
Even better than before.
Thanks and best wishes to the Ventura County Fire Department, the Los Angeles County Fire Department, CalFire, the thousands of firefighters who responded from ten states, and the crew from Lake Dillon, Colorado (WL-8) who walked every inch of the OVS grounds making sure that the fire was “cold out” in and around the campus.
A tiny LZ in city park. Trecherous 45-knot winds. Blowing debris and embers. And still, this guy lands on a dime, takes on fuel, takes on water, and heads off to make water drops on the fire less than two miles from this spot. We sat and watched this scene at Ventura Community Park for probably half an hour. Two helicopters were bombing the fire in this division area, each making a drop every five minutes.
There was not a single firefighter on the lines of the Thomas fire without gigantic cojones, especially on this first morning when it felt like absolutely nothing could stop this hell-beast from burning the entire county, or the state. But the people with the biggest ones of all were the men and women making air drops from helicopters in conditions that kept fixed-wing bombers on the ground.
Spending the day with the scouts in downtown Oxnard, helping to feed the needy.
I now get why people do this for a living.
On the way back from Gaviota we pit-stopped at The Cajun Kitchen in Goleta for a breakfast mercifully devoid of windborne clay dust. We rewarded the scouts with beignets.
I tried one, enjoyed it, and decided that I would not feel deprived if it were my last.
No aspersions on the Cajun Cafe: I have of late, but wherefore I know not, slid quietly into “eat-to-live” mode. Food has become fuel, not fun, and while I still appreciate good food, I don’t give it anywhere as much thought as I used to beyond ensuring that a) I won’t go hungry, and b) I become increasingly Kosher in my habits.
Boring? Maybe. But I don’t think the world will suffer for the lack of one more foodie, and it makes weight management much easier. In the end, I might even live longer.
Gaviota Beach and trestle bridge.
An early fall morning, just before dawn, and Gaviota Canyon is doing yeoman service as a wind tunnel. The Sundowner winds peculiar to this area are magnified by the narrow pass behind me and they’ve been rocking cars, pulling tent pegs, and making campfires impossible for the past 12 hours.
A fine grit pervades everything, and I wonder how long it will take me to clean up.
But two months (or more, I’ve lost track) of nonstop work, travel, and “drama, not otherwise specified” have made medicine of a couple of days plotzed in a campsite. The waves crash, the squirrels, ospreys, and Monarch butterflies go about their business, and they catch me up in their rhythm, allowing me to reset my tempo and reflect in a way I could not last weekend in a Chicago hotel room.
So I will take the grit. And as the sun rises, I start to see the path forward with unaccustomed clarity.
I reach for my boots. It is time to begin.
In the topor of the afternoon, Mr. Gopher pops by, inviting himself to tea.
Our conversation is interrupted by the distant shriek from the osprey nest under the trestle, and Mr. Gopher
decides that tea might be best taken underground. Without so much as a “good afternoon” he leaves us.
I reach for my coffee, toast the now-deserted tunnel entrance, and marvel aloud how Camping turns “pests” into “wildlife.” Somewhere, John Muir, Edward Abbey, and perhaps even the Almighty himself may be nodding in agreement.
If the California desert continues to hold secrets, it is not because they are hidden, but because they are ignored. As we ease into fall, the thoughts of our Scout troop naturally turn inland and towards the desert.
October through March offers the best season to camp in the deserts. Days are comfortable, nights are chilly but not arctic, and enough animals are active during the day to make hiking more than a long walk.
One of my favorite places in the desert is Saddleback Butte State Park, a modest, Joshua Tree-girt peak located in the heart of a triangle between Palmdale, Victorville, and Edwards Air Force Base. The campsites were mostly primitive, but there were toilets and showers, making extended stays possible.
We had originally planned to go in February of this year, but cancelled at the last minute. The winter had witnessed a parade of great storms roll through the state that effectively ended the long drought, but also spewed flash floods across the desert floors. Given that Saddleback was accessible only by roads susceptible to flash flooding, and that we were driving in at night, we decided that discretion was the better part of valor, and rescheduled for March.
It was the right call. Sharing our gigantic site with another troop, we enjoyed the weekend immensely. I picked up this patch at the interpretive center at the northwest corner of the park after a short hike up from our campsite.
No doubt we will be back this way.