30 November 2008

Firestorm in Carbon Canyon, Part VIII

This morning I took a five-hour excursion into the hills south of Sleepy Hollow to see the extent of the fire damage in those uninhabited areas. Labor Day I'd gone on a hike in some of these same areas, but, unfortunately, lost dozens of photos I'd taken, which would have made for a striking before and after. There are some images, though, from an early July walk I'd taken in the eastern end of Soquel Canyon that are on the lower part of the blog.

As far as today's trip was concerned, a few things stood out: first, the damage in Chino Hills State Park is as significant as was described in yesterday's Los Angeles Times article, which noted that, not only was 95% of the park burned, but that fires occurring too frequently can inhibit native plant regrowth and encourage invasive, non-native species incursions. At the same time, a good set of winter rains will bring a profusion of new growth come spring, which, obviously, is true throughout the canyon. Second, the fires appear to have largely jumped over the more easterly portions of Soquel Canyon, leaving many relatively untouched areas staying green, although there was some undergrowth burning with lower sections of trees scorched, while the narrower western portions were almost completely burned. Third, circumstance seems to have played as much a part in the sparing of Chino Hills-specific neighborhoods (Sleepy Hollow, Mountain View Estates/Cañon Lane, Western Hills Oaks, and others) as fire management plans and practices, given the patterns of burn more detectable from the hills above these communities between Carbon and Soquel canyons. Finally, the incredible views from these hills on a relatively clear day are powerful arguments for preservation of as much as the surrounding hillland as possible for a whole bunch of reasons.

I'm adding to this post some of about 150 photographs I took today as I walked from Sleepy Hollow to Olinda via Soquel Canyon, up to the North Ridge Trail of the state park and eastward to an access road; then down to Soquel again and eastward to a road leading up to the hills dividing the latter from Carbon Canyon near Vellano and then westward back to Sleepy Hollow. Descriptions from top to bottom:

1: In a small depression along Soquel Canyon Road, there was a small hole (bottom) where you can see the orange glow of embers burning and smoke rising from it. This was the only area where I saw any activity at all of hot spots and it was surprising to see this two weeks after the fire!

2: Looking east at the top of Sleepy Hollow showing the proximity of the fire to homes.

3: From the ridge south of Sleepy Hollow overlooking that neighborhood and, in the distance, Oak Tree Downs and Oak Tree Estates. Further out are the San Gabriel Mountains and snow-capped Mt. San Antonio (Baldy)

4: The west end of Soquel Canyon from the canyon bottom. Burned areas were most of the hillsides to the north (right) and mainly the upper portions of the south (left) indicating the fire jumped across the canyon in this area.

5: Chino Hills State Park looking southeast from the North Ridge Trail.

6: Charred sections of the park near Gilman Peak.

7: Olinda from the park's North Ridge Trail.

8: State park property in Soquel Canyon looking west. In this narrower portion of the canyon, the fire burned most of the hillsides and bottomland.

9: A charred sign on the ground demarcating state park and private property at the west end of Soquel Canyon.

10: More burned areas in the west end of Soquel Canyon.

11: Further east, in the wider section of Soquel Canyon, here was a relatively untouched area at the canyon's bottom.

12: Charred southern slope of the hills between Soquel and Carbon canyons.

13: A sliver of undeveloped land burned in upper Sleepy Hollow just yards from homes.

14: A burned hillside just above homes in upper Sleepy Hollow.

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