Flowers and Fires

Finally it is spring again.  Last year we were ordered to stay close to home and parks were closed because of Covid, so I missed out on all my California wildflower outings.  I’m making up for it this year!

First hike: on the King Mountain trail just north of San Francisco April 1. All of the photos show indigenous species.

The views were nice too. Below is the northern part of San Francisco Bay.  In the distance is Mt. Diablo – a landmark for miles around. 

Below the bird, the peninsula jutting out next to the bridge is San Quentin Prison; at least they have fresh air and the sound of the birds – a few miles away is the prison of Birdman of Alcatraz fame.

Collinisia heterophylla, Chinese Houses – the petals ring the stem in bands evenly spaced around the stem, forming a “pagoda” – hence the common name.
Chinese Houses en masse at another nearby location.

A week later we drove north to Lake Berryessa where one of the huge fires burned last year. A silver lining can be seen in the hills and meadows: wildflowers and other natives can really make a come-back when European weeds are killed off and they don’t have to compete for sun, water and food. Fires also helps eradicate plant diseases and possibly serious insect infestations.


Golden poppies, Eschscholzia californica, taking over a burnt hill. This is not an uncommon sight.They provide vegetative cover that helps to reduce erosion on steep slopes after the protective plant cover has been burned off.  

  

Another survivor. How did this species survive a mega fire? These large Gopher Snakes (this one was almost 5-ft. long) mimic rattlesnakes, but are not poisonous.

Clematis ligusticifolia virgin bower. This is the native clematis vine.

Welcome sweet springtime – clad in Mother Nature’s jewelry!

Where There’s Smoke…again

Last year California had record breaking fires – that record held for almost 100 yrs. Now we’ve broken last year’s record for the most destructive fire ever. Normally we would have had rains by now and “fire season” would be over – and acres of land and homes – not to mention lives, would not have been lost. We haven’t had any rain since early spring and the land is very dry. ( In October, San Francisco had weeks of temperatures breaking 80 degrees and in November it was in the 70’s – until the fires darkened the skies.)

Plume from the Camp Fire in Butte Co. on Nov 9.

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Another larger view from NOAA shows the plume covering an extensive region and shows the Woolsey Fire in southern California as well. (I can’t find a date on this image, but it was 2-3 days later).

https://abc7news.com/time-lapse-how-camp-fire-smoke-plume-choked-northern-california/4694952/

The town of Paradise is Paradise no more, in fact very little is left of it. People have died and many more are homeless in this area… because of global warming. Think about that.

Although we live 180 miles south-southwest of the big Butte Co. fire, we are being advised to stay indoors with windows closed. Public schools are closed from Butte Co to well south of  San Francisco; even the Cable cars shut down, as we now have the dirtiest air in the world. The skies vary from hazy to a dirty orangey color and are predicted to continue this week to plague us.

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Taken at noon – smoke blocking the sun.

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We can hardly see our nearby hills where my husband hikes almost every day. Today they have “disappeared.” (photo taken 2 days ago)

It has been 8 days now since that fire started (there are others). Yesterday it was announced it was only 40% contained; today they say they are making progress.

In the first days, the sun’s rays were sometimes bent to cast an unusual gold-red glow that was ironically pretty. It reminds me of the shadows we saw during an eclipse. Smoke particles filter sunlight, scattering short wavelengths and leaving the longer reddish wavelengths of the light spectrum behind. This allows more orange and red colors to pass through the smoke.

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I have a cough and sore eyes, but the bigger picture is… that smoke is coming from people’s lost homes. There are horror stories of people running from the flames into swimming pools and creeks, but you read the news. My heart goes out to the thousands affected.