Friday, September 30, 2011

What a summer it has been!

What started out as an odd weather rollercoaster June, turned into the disbelief at having to evacuate LosAlamos again due to the Las Conchas Wildfire. I had risen early that Sunday morning, June 26, to take a road ride around "the loop".  I hadn't been on my road bike in weeks, save for a little bit of commuting here and there, and I felt a desperate need to take a decent ride.  I left the house before 7am, and little nigglin' thoughts kept throwing me for a loop.  Should I do this ride, or another one?  Should I turn here, or wait to turn over there?  Should I go up to the Back Gate and down, or down to White Rock and up?  Should I cross at the light, or ride all the way through the gates?  I was surprised by these nagging thoughts, as usually I feel light and free while riding.  I kept thinking that something bad would happen if I made the wrong choice, like I'd get run over by a car, or something.

Remarkably, nothing happened on the ride.  I remember taking note of previous burn areas from the Cerro Grande and Dome Fires.  I admired a herd of deer as they ambled through the juniper-pinon woodlands near TA-54.  I noticed how dry it was, and how the wildflowers were suffering...barely an inflorescence could be seen.

Later, I was helping my girls clean their rooms, and I ran downstairs to get a drink of water, admired the skyline, went back upstairs, and then ran back down a few minutes later to get some cleaner.  When I looked out the window this time, I saw this:

"Oh Shit!" I said, which I had said exactly two weeks before at the start of the Borrego Fire.  "Not another fire!"  I hurried outside and told Jan and Jerry about the smoke.  Jerry quickly decided to drive for a better view, because from where we stood it looked like the ski hill was burning, and that's where Scott was.

Jerry came back and said that it looked like it was further back in the Jemez.  I texted Scott and he said they were already dropping water on it, and it looked like it was near Sierra los Pinos or Los Griegos.  I went to the store (thankfully for Scott, as he ended up not evacuating) and we could see how awful the fire looked.  When we got home, this is what it looked like:

 A flurry of activity began on Facebook, with newer Los Alamos residents asking if us older residents thought an evacuation was likely.  In absolute denial, I said, "No way, not gonna happen." And boy was I wrong. The girls madly dashed about the house on Sunday night, throwing stuffed animals, random items of clothing, books, hair ties, toys, and other objects into their bags.  I was still in denial.  The Lab announced it would be closed in the morning, so I figured I'd have time to get stuff together the next day, since I wouldn't be able to go to work. I woke early, drove up the Middle School and took some pictures, noted that it didn't look bad today, and hoped that it wouldn't get too smoky.  We'd already spent several weeks in June being smoked out by the Wallow Fire in Arizona.  I was smoked out. I casually gathered up those few things I considered important, ignored imminent claims of an evacuation being announced at 1pm, and tried to soothe the fears of my eldest daughter.  By noon, ash and debris was raining down, and the smoke levels were severe. I resigned myself to the evacuation, and Scott agreed to stay in town to water the deck, yard, and fencing...along with his parents.  The girls and I drove to Pojoaque to head to my folks' house in El Rancho. This was the view of Los Alamos from the El Rancho bridge...or non view, I should say.

The next morning, I found pieces of Ponderosa bark and needles all over the ground in the Barrancas.

 So we hung out.  And hung out.  And hung out some more.

And we hiked up the hill to see what was going on in Los Alamos several times a day. We went to Santa Fe every day to kill time, and to eat dinner, as I didn't have the motivation to cook while we were evacuated.  It was easier to eat out, and enjoy good food.

We visited the neighbor's and enjoyed their beautiful pool.

And walked back to Grandma and Grandpa's house via the old trails I know inside and out.

We endured the disconcerting orange hue that colored our moods and our days.

Seven days later we finally got to go home, but it was evident that the fire was closer to our home than it had been at its worst. The hot spots were viewed each night, and eventually they fizzled into dot spots.

We still tried to enjoy the 4th of July.

Eventually life started getting back to normal.  We went swimming A LOT.  Signe learned to jump off the low dive, and then surprised us all by walking up to the high dive during the 4th of July party and jumping off. The cool picture below makes it looks like she's balancing on the water.

Many parts of the forest are still closed, and the summer monsoons brought a lot of geological rearrangement to our local canyons.  Water Canyon looked like a lake for a while.

Eventually things will sort out, and he vegetation will grow again.  I truly hope that this is not another severe drought winter, though...I keep feeling a sad sort of dread that we'll have no snow, and frigid temps, and I think we had more than our fair share of that last year. Autumn has arrived.  Leaves are turning yellow.  The temperatures are falling a little each week.  I see the beauty in the fall colors, and I am hopeful that we'll have some winter whites to follow.