Beneath the Alpine Needles

I’m staring at an entire mountain range that was decimated by wildfire two years ago. This used to be where I hiked beneath the Jeffrey pines and my dog frolicked in the freezing cold creeks. One June day as I watched flames spreading towards the highest peaks I felt like my heart was breaking for Lost Creek Trail, quite possibly my favorite trail ever. Maybe by the time I’m seventy years old, if my old bones can still hike these trails it will start to be a shadow of its former self.

Maybe in forty years I can hike this trail with a different generation of dogs and friends than I had in my thirties.

It breaks my heart to imagine that it takes so many years for our forest to regrow after wildfire.

This week I’m beyond furious as Californians voted to pass Prop 57, a proposition that will give arsonists early release from jail.

I know most Californians do not understand the horror of wild-fire. They haven’t watched their friends homes, ranches and dreams burn to the ground. They haven’t lost pets to devastating fire. They haven’t lost homes left in families generations ago.

A few days ago I went for a hike in the forest where I grew up, a forest that burned to the ground over ten years ago in the Old Fire, set by a convicted arsonists.

I posted a photo on Instagram of my dog in the burnt forest across the street from where a good friend lost the only home he ever knew (A home his parents, good family friends, could never rebuild after getting screwed over by their insurance company) I blasted anyone who voted yes on Prop 57 as someone who knows what wild-fire can do to my families, friends, to a close-knit community.

And surprisingly I had friends attacking my views for thinking these dangerous threats to humanity didn’t deserve to be locked up.

I’ve lived through these wild fires. I remember watching friends homes burn to the ground on the news. I remember my dad telling me in the middle of the night (just a rumor, thank God) that our whole town had burnt to the ground. I wouldn’t wish these terrible memories on anyone. I hope and pray our mountain home never goes through this again but it’s something that’s always at the back of our minds.

It’s real to us.

It’s not just a proposition that we read about in the newspaper.

Living in these mountains and wild lands it seems like every week there is a different arsonist setting the forest on fire and our government doesn’t think it’s important to leave these people in jail where they belong.

As I take a break from my ten-mile hike in a forest where I can still walk ten miles beneath the alpine needles without seeing another human being I really do fear that one day California will have none of this lush forest and just be a dry burnt waste land.

Sometimes I feel like one of just a few Californians who actually care about such things.

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