Back in November, our area of California (among others) burned. The fires came within a half mile of our house.
Now the next part of the cycle comes, with the winter rains and a possible El Nino year dumping higher than normal amounts of rain on California, causing mud slides, flooding, rock slides, and other problems in the burn areas as they’re no longer protected by vegetation.
But it’s amazing how quickly the hills can turn from black to green again.
The contrast can be stark and vivid. Parts of the hillsides can still be black as night, burnt, and charred, while patches or even whole mountainsides are an almost iridescent green.
These pictures, taken along the 101 Freeway between Camarillo and Woodland Hills (my son was driving, so I got to take pictures yesterday) show other damage such as this, where rock slides have caused temporary barriers to be put up and lanes closed.
I don’t know what causes this phenomenon where the new growth is in a mottled or spider-web like pattern across the blackened hillside. You can see the burnt bushes and trees everywhere, but the green undergrowth along the ground has started to be re-established.
Just a few hundred yards way, the entire hillside is iridescent green, with the black stumps of the bushes sticking up through it.
This is how the cycle continues. As green as it is now, this brush will grow up and over the summer will spend nine months turning brown and highly flammable.
This might go on for ten years or more, the brush and weeds growing thicker during the winter months, green for a few weeks, and then drying up and turning brown in April and May, finally baking itself into tinder by July.
It’s the same with all of these trees – most of them will grow back and become lush again, just waiting for the next brush fired to come through, when they’ll turning into flaming torches, their leaves and branches burning, breaking, and being blown for miles in the high winds, starting new spot fires ahead of the main fire, spreading it faster than a person can run.
That’s the cycle – burn, regrow, dry out, burn again.
Welcome to California. We don’t know what will try to kill you this year – the earthquakes, the fires, the floods, or the mudslides.
Down here in the lower elevations, it’s unlikely to be a blizzard or hurricane.
But wait for it. That could be coming soon as the climate changes unpredictably.