Tag Archives: outdoors

Tubbs Fire – Narrow Escape

Tubbs Fire – Narrow Escape
Tubbs Fire Santa Rosa CA

My House Is Red X Lower Left, Hwy 101 Bisects Santa Rosa

My phone rang at 1:30 a.m. It was barely Monday. The woman said, “This is Kim, your next-door neighbor. I’m in Dallas and I can’t reach my husband. There are fires in your area.” I had smelled wood smoke three hours earlier when I left the Roxy in downtown Santa Rosa, which would be an inch or so south on this map. I was leaving “Blade Runner” by the side door and felt like I was emerging into another scene of the long movie because the wind was gusting insanely and particulate matter was ricocheting through the air — mostly leaves on this October night.

“Mark West Springs Road is on fire,” (blue line at top of map) “and they are evacuating our homes. I can’t find my husband.” I asked if she wanted me to knock on his door, so she held on while I went outside. The wind was gusting violently and our garbage cans had been knocked over but the street was quiet, his car wasn’t there, there was a light on in the house but no answer to the doorbell. (red X at lower left)

“There’s an evacuation order for our neighborhood — did you receive it?” Kim sounded anxious. Well, there was one for an adjacent neighborhood but our street was silent.

“Wait,” I said. “Geez, all the doors on the street just opened and everyone is coming out. There is a new alert. The evacuation zone has been expanded to include us.”

“Get out now,” Kim said. “Go to Finley Center now. Round Barn is on fire.” The historic old barn is on the other side of the freeway so I took a few moments to grab the Trust Documents and my passport, my computer and the backup drives with my client info. People were driving crazy on my short 2 a.m. trip. I got one of the last parking spaces and went inside to something that looked like registration day for first grade. Lots of dazed kids clinging to parents trying to hold it together. I promptly crossed the courtyard to the Senior wing which the parents apparently did not know about. Emergency personnel were streaming into the Senior wing, but no civilians.

I picked a corner near a power outlet and plugged in my phone. It dinged again, a text from Kim. “Fire has crossed Freeway. Hopper evacuated. K-Mart on fire.” Now, this isn’t supposed to happen. I believed:

  1. Forest fires don’t happen in cities. We have nice, polite, one-structure-at-a-time fires that are near fire hydrants.
  2. Fires don’t cross the Freeway. It’s, like, a zoning regulation.

The two green circles show the 101 Freeway that separates the rich on the right side, from the poor, on the left (sinister in Latin, gauche in French). The strong diagonal line at the left edge of the yellow hashmarks is the SMART train track. My house is on the “other side of the tracks.” That was lucky, because the tracks became the main firebreak that everyone thought the freeway would be. We were shocked when the flames leapt over.

We have three hospitals in the area and two were evacuated at the same time I was. They are both in or close to the yellow area you see above — one up by Mark West Springs, and Kaiser Hospital which is just east of the square “492” exit sign for the freeway. The mobile home park adjacent to it, “Journey’s End,” was incinerated.

So were all the homes in the Coffey Park area which is the piece of the fire stretching down toward my house. They stopped it about a mile from my house. They stopped it 11 houses from my friend Alice’s house. My friend Joyce was not so lucky. Her house is now about six inches high (see photo below), and they had to leave behind her husband’s car because he cannot drive. He had been released from the hospital just a few days earlier after an eight-hour operation on his heart. As they fled, their neighbor’s house was already in flames. They couldn’t get to Finley center because of the gridlock on Piner Rd.

Tubbs Fire Coffey Park

Joyce’s House Monday 9 October 2017

The Senior wing filled up quickly and soon I heard a familiar voice. Carolyn and Rich Gibbons were there, in their pajamas, because they left their Brush Creek home promptly. Kim found her husband, a city worker, had been called in at midnight to cope with wind damage. Later, he said, “The winds on Sunday night were breaking off big tree limbs and blocking Fountaingrove Parkway. I couldn’t stand up, the wind had to be 60 mph.” (PG&E measured winds of 75 mph.) “From the top of Fountaingrove I saw the fire come down from Calistoga, then JUMP to Mark West Springs Road. It didn’t burn through — it was like a torch being lit. It was a terrible sight.”

This is what daybreak looked like on Monday Oct 9.

Tubbs Fire Daybreak

A couple of hours after I took this picture, I walked a mile through the thick smoke to bypass the police barriers and found my house standing but the electricity and gas off. I shuttled back and forth for a couple of days as the fires continued, but the high winds forecast for Wednesday night sent me to Jill’s in Petaluma. Thursday evening, the electricity was restored. On Saturday afternoon, PG&E turned on the gas and re-lit the pilot lights on my furnace and water heater. The fires are not out yet, but many of us are feeling more hopeful.

NYTimes article with charts and graphic showing how and why this fire got so big so fast. My friend Janice lives a few blocks closer to the edge of the fire — her condo is only a half-mile from where the fire was stopped. She moved here to be closer to her daughter and two grandchildren who lived in Coffey Park. Here is their house now.

Janice’s Daughter’s Coffey Park House

Kortum Trail

Kortum Trail

Saturday Saunterers

Beautiful hike on the Kortum Trail with the Saturday Saunterers led by Joe Tenn while Bob Martin is in Europe with Eva.

This hike follows the north section, from Blind Beach to Shell Beach. The trail starts from the cliffs above Blind Beach, overlooking Goat Rock just to the north. The trail heads south along the exposed coastal bluffs to Shell Beach, a sandy pocket beach surrounded by jagged offshore rocks. En route to the beach are southward views that span all the way to Point Reyes.

We visited the big rocks where Martha says that the smooth spots, high on the rocks, were rubbed to that glossy finish by mastodons with itchy backs. They were also festooned with chalk in the cracks from boulderers. The sky was clear and the Pacific very calm, the way it is in late September.

Sign at Shell Beach



We saw this tuft of pampas grass as we walked down to the black sand of Shell Beach. I suspect the black sand is not from shells, but from the black rocks that mark this sharp cliff. The walk back took a slightly different route which seemed even steeper. Kathy, hiking with us for the first time, got into some difficulty but old pals Rich and Richard made sure she got back to the cars safely.

I spent the walk back trying to find someone to go with me to Earlfest later that day. Jason and David already had tickets through Kaiser, and neither Marsha nor Frances wanted to go.

We drove down to Goat Rock beach and had a nice lunch on the logs and a chatty, fun ride back. Great day, until I got home and discovered my cell phone had fallen out of my pocket. Made some panicky calls to Rich and Richard and, whew! my phone was discovered and promptly returned. Completely blew Earlfest off my agenda. I sewed the pockets on those pants halfway closed before I went to bed that night. Hope I don’t make THAT mistake again!

Lake Berryessa Labor Day 2017

Lake Berryessa Labor Day 2017

Lakes Hennessey and Berryessa

I set a goal to boat at Lake Berryessa, and prepared for this on my way back from the Solar Eclipse by going to Winters on I-5 and learning the route past these two lakes to Calistoga. I got my chance on Labor Day, and boated with Cathey from Napa, and Brent Swinth. Because the temperatures had been wicked hot, we met at 8:30 a.m. which required leaving at 7 a.m. We were on the water by 9 and enjoyed several dips to cool off. We were off the water by 12:30 when the picnic grounds were filling up with music and fragrances of delicious food.

Lake Berryessa Labor Day 2017

Fairy Worlds at the Cannery

Fairy Worlds at the Cannery


September 2 was the final performance of Shakespeare at the Cannery, and Barbara H. and I saw Fairy Worlds which was a version of Midsummer Night’s Dream. Barbara had been preoccupied all summer with her daughter’s wedding and move from the state of Washington to Novato, so she won me back by taking me to dinner at LoCoco on Fourth Street. Because the Labor Day weekend was so blistering hot, she got away with buying me only a salad and a glass of wine, but it was good!

My skirt has no pockets, so my Fiat key is dangling from my bracelet. The politics of seat placement was interesting. I had a low, beach chair but Barbara’s was normal height, so we were sidelined. The performance was very energetic and fun. Beautiful acting, beautiful costumes, great audience participation, much enthusiasm.

Fairy Worlds

So much Shakespeare for me this year. Next year I hope to see both performances at the Cannery.

Annual Doran Camp 2017

Annual Doran Camp 2017
Doran Beach Campout

Bruce, Bran, Norma, Helen

I look forward all year to the annual SCPN campout at Doran Beach. This time, Saturday night was calm and clear and they saw some of the Perseid Meteor shower. I, myself, slept through the whole thing, getting a great night’s sleep and kayaking by myself on Sunday morning in the mist. I had the bay to myself. Jeannie made a fabulous potato Thai curry Saturday night, and I served a red shrimp curry that Peggy and Mary Rose made the night before and shared with me, along with their famous peach chutney.

Jeannie is a great cook

Bran, Norma, Billy

There is a core group that camps every year, and we have daytime visitors including AnnaLisa, LeeAnnin and Benn. They even had a club meeting!

Bran hand-ground coffee beans, something he learned at an Arizona get-together. The food was great. They brought some grilled chicken thighs that were yummy. On Friday night we grilled the NYTimes taste-test willing hot dogs from Whole Foods, and taste-tested two kinds of buns: pretzel and brioche. Pretzel won.

On Saturday, Billy fire-roasted an enormous squash. He could have fed an army with it. He was not too happy with the mini-army of Japanese-American boy scouts that started early-morning calisthenics on Sunday morning with sharp counting in Japanese, and barked orders as they did laps around the parking lot before 7 a.m.

In the past, the illumination on the low-hanging branches near where I like to place my tent would cause too much light infiltration. This year I hung a couple of beach towels over the front which worked well (I should bring clamps next time in case of wind). No rain fly for me — it blocks the windows and ventilation. I used both a solor-powered string ($20 at Home Depot) and a remote-controlled battery-operated $8 string from Amazon. Both worked well, and next time I will wrap them with more space between each ring in order to illuminate the entire limb.

Solar lights, battery lights, wind baffles


Billy and Bruce rigged up two enormous wind baffles on the street-side of site D which really made the site much more usable. They had climbed the tree to attach the tarps using bungee cords and they withstood the wind well. Billy cleverly used an acorn to attach the ripcord when the grommets tore out of a cheap tarp.

Notes for next time: duct tape or bungee cords to secure the lighting power packs. Put Volvo key on long keychain necklace — it kept falling out of pants pockets. Turkey pucks for Billy, Bruce makes his “bone cereal” in the morning. It is only 30 minutes via Sebastopol, 45 via Occidental.

 

 

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Woman Lives Undersea for 8 Days

Woman Lives Undersea for 8 Days


Here I am with Dr. Dawn Kernagis, a member of Women Diver’s Hall of Fame, who spoke at SRJC today about doing biomedical research on the effects living underwater for eight days as part of NASA’s NEEMO 21 crew. Here is a video of her talk, “Dr Dawn Kernagis talks about life undersea during NASA s NEEMO 21 Mission.” So impressive! This was part of Women’s History Month.

Sugarloaf Hike Springtime

Sugarloaf Hike Springtime

Sugarloaf Mountain

Sugarloaf Mountain

Yesterday, Wendy Gross led us (group shot below) on a four-hour, seven mile hike on Sugarloaf Mountain that was very steep. Halfway through the hike we were on a beautiful, seldom-used trail that was steeply up-and-down alongside a flowing creek. There were several stream crossings which were easy, even though Laura Tighe just walked through the water and skipped trying to balance on the rocks. She said, “it cools my feet.” She also commented that the entire group standing on a wooden bridge (below) was an interesting test of the strength of the bridge.

I was ready for the hike to end around noon, our usual stopping time, but it took until 1 p.m. to finish and we reached an altitude where the deciduous trees thinned out and we were seeing healthy conifers with cones so big Jason was marveling at their size and robustness. We thought Jason and Frances would join us afterwards at Midtown Cafe, but the 2 p.m. closing time was fast approaching, so they opted out. To give you an idea of how taxing the hike was, Jill ate the entire Duck Confit she ordered, and Ezra ate everything, too. He enjoyed the strenuous hike, but next time I will make sure that Wendy has actually hiked the trail previously before I follow her.

There were lots of pretty spring flowers in the cool, foggy weather, and we had a vigorous discussion about penstamen. Wendy finally opened up a flower and counted the stamens — five.

Back: Diane, Jill, Ned Middle: Wendy, Ezra, Jason Foreground: Frances, Ulla

Back: Diane, Jill, Ned
Middle: Wendy, Ezra, Jason
Foreground: Frances, Ulla

My Tick and Rash

My Tick and Rash

CDC  Lyme Disease Rash Pattern

CDC Lyme Disease Rash Pattern

Yikes! I just discovered a tick bite, about 24 hours after the hike. This is what was left after my friend broke off the body, which I will submit to the County for testing for only $31. My doctor dug out the tick’s head on Monday morning and prescribed doxycycline for me, reminding me that the rate of infection of Sonoma ticks is low. She searched the web from the computer in her office to show me the distinctive “target” rash for lyme disease, so I am including the image from the Center for Disease Control (CDC). I am told that Ezra got a tick, too.

Black Mountain Two Night Kayak Camp

Black Mountain Two Night Kayak Camp

BlackMtn360wFor our traditional Mothers Day Campout, Lori Parmalee selected Black Mountain, a boat-in only campground in Lake Sonoma which was full for the first time in several rain-sparse years. She booked all four of the campsites on the peninsula and we had six campers on Saturday night. Friday morning, Lori and I paddled in with Liam O’Flaherty and had the lake to ourselves. It was raining lightly when we launched but it stopped quickly and the water was smooth as we crossed the four miles to Black Mountain in about an hour.

The drizzle began again when Lori took this picture of Liam and me at the table in the distance. I am on the left in my green plastic poncho I bought 25 years ago when I started boating. This is the first time I have used it. I also purchased my tent at that time, and on this trip, the raccoons tore a three-corner hole in it to get to my sun-block lip-gloss. Grrr. But they greedily went after my headlamp first which got stuck in the hole, so they didn’t get the lip gloss.

The table in the foreground was probably moved from my campsite which is the farthest away. Liam theorized that it was moved when the water was low, last Autumn, then inundated by the Spring rains.

ViewFromLatrineIt was great having the entire campsite to ourselves. One of the reasons Lori likes Black Mountain campground is that this is the view from the latrine (left).

Even though it was raining lightly on Saturday morning, we were joined by Brent, Deb and Louie and had a great campfire on Saturday night. I left my little chair in my car because I was (unnecessarily) worried about a too-heavy boat, so I had to stand for the campfire. Won’t make that mistake again. We had fun sharing food and an excellent bottle of Gundlach Bundschu wine compliments of Liam. Louie shared some excellent craft stout. My massaged kale salad was not the show-stopper I hoped.

It rained briefly both Friday and Saturday nights, which served to keep the weekend very restful and meditative. I enjoyed the women’s magazines Lori brought to leaf through and use as kindling. They stayed dry while my cotton pants sopped up the condensation in my tent.

Lori and I paddled back on Sunday morning while the others explored farther up the water. I learned her trick to find her way back to the boat launch — stay to the left on return and always take the left choice. Many of the openings are hard to see until you are right upon them. Even though Sunday was Mothers Day, there were few speed boats on the water and our paddle back was uneventful.

I had been fretting about organizing and preparing for a two-night campout, but it was very successful. I am tired but happy. Here is my picture on Friday afternoon after the three of us arrived.
BlackMountainKayakCamp