Wildfires, Droughts & Other Things

A visit to the grand old trees of the West is always a humbling experience. Last week, it was the turn of the Sequoias. Most folks check climatic conditions, pull up traffic conditions and ensure that the travel route is free of terrors, man-made or otherwise. I like efficient folks like them. We are just not one of them.

So, obviously, there we were, entering the beautiful forest park only to have the ranger look us strangely in the eye and ask whether we knew we would not be allowed into most of the park.
“Why is that?” I asked
His eyebrow twitched a bit showing us that his base, unchecked instinct was to utter an irritated tut, but his excellent training made him stamp down firmly on that instinct and instead answered with a civil nod.
“Well, Ma’am. There is a forest fire on the Kings Canyon side, so you may not go.” he said
“Will we be allowed tomorrow?” I said swiftly updating plans for the next day to see if we could do a shabby run of Sequoia and Kings Canyon the next day. The ranger sized me mentally to be one of those tick-it-all-from-the-list types and gave me a pleading look. He said that the park had been closed for the past month and the only grove we could visit was Grant Grove, for the fire was burning relentlessly on the King’s Canyon side.

All the way up to the parks, I had been in a feeling of sinking unease. The river beds along the 3 hour drive had all but dried up. The lands lay caked and what respite greenery could have provided was all but missing in the urban factory areas spewing out dense smoke. I remembered our last drive up to the same national park and I remember exclaiming at nature’s bounty every few miles. I also distinctly remember leaving the car windows open so I could hear the river crashing down below in the canyon. There was nothing of the sort this time. Just an eerie quiet. I had never seen California this dry. I found myself worrying whether the Sequoia trees would survive the massive drought that lay upon us when the husband reminded me that these trees have been through it all, and are far better equipped to handle nature’s adversities than we are. It was true. Our entire generation is but a blip in the forest’s existence.

Sequoia Trees
Sequoia Trees

I looked around to see folks clicking photographs relentlessly on their phone and cameras. Hundreds of photos every minute. Some of these photographs will be liked, some of them may not even have the privilege of being edited/uploaded, but they existed all the same. I thought to myself, not for the first time that to the grand old trees of the West, we are like those pictures. Mere blips on the timeline. Some of us may achieve more notice from those around them than others, but that does not mean we weren’t there.

As we walked around the tall, squat Sequoia trees in the grove, I succumbed to that beautiful feeling of peace. We watched the chipmunks chattering away and our attempts to imitate them got us a chipmunk-shelling in time. We listened to bird calls and wondered why there were so few. We squealed at sighting an occasional mule deer. Most mule deer might have been startled out of their own grove, but this hardy fellow turned and gave us a pose.

It was all so serene, it was hard to believe the fire was raging just a few miles away. It was a sage thought. The wildfire has now spread to the Grove where we loitered around a week ago and my heart skips a beat thinking of the teeming life we had seen there and how it all suffers.


How much of this agony we inflict upon our environment and how much of it is part of the natural cycle that Earth follows?


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