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Old Aug 25, 2010, 2:33 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by thkn777 View Post
Hm... according to g**gle maps there is Los Padres National Forest to the west - can't you get some views of green hills there?
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There is no such thing as a green hill in the summer here. When first I drove into Southern California across the mountains surrounding the basin that August, I saw the National Forest signs (there are several designated ones), but saw nothing but dry grass and brush - not a tree in sight - my thought was "This is a forest?"

Of course there are trees at the higher altitudes, but with the droughts and bark beetle damage, they are dying and burning up faster than they can regenerate. When the hot, dry winds blow, the arsonists, catalytic converters, dry lightening, careless campers, kids playing with matches, discarded cigarettes, car fires, downed power lines, fireworks, shooters, and even spontaneous combustion in the leaf litter all take their toll. Fires can start anywhere, but it is no coincidence that most of them start alongside roads and highways. Most get put out quickly, and don't get much coverage, but when they get out of control, the whole country hears about it, as this area is so densely populated. Firefighters really earn their pay, which is not nearly high enough for what they are put through, as with the changing climate the "fire season" is now year-round.

Edit: I should have mentioned that the National Forests here have as their main function preserving the mountains as watershed to recharge the groundwater in the basins and valleys. Cool Winter winds come off the ocean and are forced up against the Coast Ranges and the Sierrras, shedding their moisture as rain, and turning the landscape green. This creates a rain shadow on the East side of the mountains, resulting in the historical formation of the deserts. Summers are dry, and nearly everything turns brown. Summer rains come from the Southwest with the monsoonal winds, carrying moisture from the Gulf, and raining sporadically on the deserts and again on the mountains, but on the other side, seldom reaching the lowlands West of the mountains, but causing thunderstorms and dry lightening that can start fires in the mountains, and sending the dry hot winds down to the coast which then favor the spread of fires. Such Sundowner and Santa Ana winds can also occur in Winter, again causing favorable conditions for fires in the mountains and below them down to the coast.

Forest trees and other coastal plant communities here are fire-adapted. It was normal (historically) for them to burn over on about a 25 year cycle, when fast moving fires burned off underbrush but not harming the trees. The fire adapted pine and cypress trees only shed seeds when their cones are burned, and their seeds (buried by squirrels, jays, and Nutcrackes, along with acorns from the oaks) can remain dormant in the soil awaiting proper conditions for germination. The down side of fire protection is that some areas have not burned for as many as 100 years so fuel buildup is so great the the fires burn more intensely overtopping the trees and destroying them, and cooking the seeds waiting in the soil to germinate when conditions are right, and also destroying roots of plants that could have sprouted again. Some fire ecologists have said that Smokey the Bear is the worst thing to have happened to the forests (of course, not everyone would agree, but not for reasons related to forest health).

(Climatology and Forest Ecology 101, California style )
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Last edited by penolta; Aug 25, 2010 at 5:21 PM.
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Old Aug 25, 2010, 4:02 PM   #12
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Th - I had to laugh when I read your post. The Los Padres National Forest isn't west of my area - it IS my area. To give you some pictorial frame of reference to back up penolta's comments, - the first 4 photos in this thread are taken at an elevation of over 5,000 feet, and is of an area of the Angeles National Forest, which borders Los Padres. I really don't know where one starts, it's all basically the same type of terrain.

The ridge in the last picture, the one taken from my upstairs window, is the Los Padres National Forest - my small community is surrounded by it. The various communities range in elevation from just over 4,000 feet to above 6,000 feet - my house is about 5,700 feet elevation.

Here's a picture taken on Mt. Pinos, very near the highest point in Los Padres National Forest:



I recently had posted this next picture in another thread. It's taken from that ridge shown in the last picture (slightly west of what's shown in it) and shows how little private property there is in our area - the vast majority of the area is national forest land. The far "hill" on the right of this panorama is part of Mt. Pinos (the top can't quite be seen from this vantage point). That's 8,800 feet elevation.



As you can see, California's version of national forests is not quite what most people think of when they think of forests. The main trees are some sort of pine - around me are the slow growing (6 inches a year), drought resistent pinon pine. Higher up are Ponderosa and Limber Pines, but they don't like a lot of company. And the undergrowth is all grass and brush. And just because it's close to the coast doesn't mean there's all that much water anywhere - early pictures of the Los Angeles area show a semi-arid area, and there's no mountains between it and the ocean to act as a rain shadow.
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Old Aug 25, 2010, 5:39 PM   #13
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Hm, you learn something new every day...
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Old Aug 25, 2010, 7:16 PM   #14
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To add/show to what penolta had to say about the ecology of this area being adapted to fire, here's a thread from several years ago that showed pictures taken in an area that was burned in the Day Fire (while this fire wasn't as close as the one yesterday, it had us evacuated for a couple of days). http://forums.steves-digicams.com/pe...nia-style.html .

There's another thread showing pictures that I took a year after the fire, in the same area (might have been the same hike, I'm not sure). http://forums.steves-digicams.com/pe...ear-later.html . There is far more to brush fires than what meets the eye, and the question of when to fight them becomes muddled and complicated the more people move into the mountainous areas.
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Old Aug 25, 2010, 11:30 PM   #15
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everytime I had picked a favorite, I saw another one I liked more. Fantastic series.
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