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Native Californian, biologist, wildlife conservation consultant, retired Smithsonian scientist, father of two daughters, grandfather of 4 small primates. INTJ. Believes nature is infinitely more interesting than shopping malls. Born 100 years too late.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Into the smoke

It was time to get out of the house yesterday and prime the adrenalin pump. I was tired of shallow breathing and inactivity. So I suggested a ride to the upper falls of Deer Creek, making no reference to destinations beyond (and closer to the fire.

"What about all the fire and smoke up there?", asked the redhead.

"Well, the weather report showed the smoke blowing to the southwest, and the road is open". That quelled her concerns.

We were driving up Rt 32 listening to Car Talk on the radio and the smoke was getting thicker, when the redhead observed that "breathing smoke can be bad for your health".

At this point in the program Ray was dissing his older brother about being "a city guy" with not an iota of the nature lover in his bones. The perfect cue for a change of topic.

"I always wonder if a month of outward bound would work on someone like Tommy Magliozzi. Do you think it would convert him to birdwatching and collecting pine cones?"

"We're getting closer to the fire," answered the redhead.

It was clear that the smoke was still spilling down the creek valleys, but it made for a pleasing background effect at the falls.

We lingered for a while, and I photographed the fish ladder tunnel. It's an impressive feat of engineering, but the sign says the salmon didn't like it.

My wife agreed to continue the ride to Lassen National Park. Apparently the smoke was affecting her thinking.

There was no one at the entrance booth. Everyone in the park looked to be our age or older, so maybe there was no need. We all have Golden Age passes, you know, and get in for free. It was good to see crews working on Sunday and removing white fir. With decades of fire control this highly flammable species has turned groves of jeffrey pine into thickets.

So the moonlight fire rages on. It is 15% in containment, and has scorched 52,000 acres. The smoke was thick even in Lassen, and we didn't see a single pika. They were all underground, probably with asthma.

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