I grew up I’m a forest full of trees.
My home was chock in the middle of the San Bernardino National Forest. My street emptied into fields of Live Oaks, Jeffrey Pines and cedar trees. Pussy Willows sprouted as weeds do, lush and every where along the trickling creek bed. I grew up hiking dusty trails to the more abundant tributaries of Deep Creek to the north and nine hundred feet lower in elevation than my mountain home. I would make this dusty long creek hike all summer long with other neighborhood kids. We would spend summer days swimming and playing in the cool creek waters.
The hike back was not as joyful. The short cut was straight up hill and we always took the short cut on a hot day. We were in such a hurry to return home as the sun began to set behind the hills in the summer time. A ninety pound girl does not want to be stuck in the darkening forests with coyotes and cougars in the evening hours.
My friend Steven’s area at the creek was a mile down stream as the crow flies from where I used to swim and frolic. Steven and I grew up together. I can say if now;
I hated that little fucker.
Steven was the meanest kid at my elementary school. He was a real dick. He called my brother and I names, he picked on us on the bus, he was just a real douche. All the teachers dreaded the little blond boy with ADD.
In high school a mutual friend forced us to become friends and thank god she did. Steven and his wife Jenny are now two of my best friends on earth.
After high school our forest burned in a torrential wild fire.
Truth be told forest fires burned our mountain range most years. 2003 and 2007 were different.
We almost lost our small town. It was heart breaking.
Steven and Jenny and I and had this amazing friendship powered through the fires. We evacuated to the valley below. Jenny packed up her wedding dress as the fires loomed closer during the 2003 fire. We were all very lucky that time. Few homes burned and we returned back to our lives. Steven and Jenny were married and tried to start a family
After the 2007 fire Jenny had just given birth to their son Jonas, after years of trying.
It was exactly a month after she gave birth to Jonas that Steven told us he wanted to go hiking and see the damage to the area of the forest where he used to hike, mountain bike and swim in the cool creek waters growing up.
I know I said Jenny had just given birth a month ago, but mountain girls are tough and she wanted to go hiking so we started the hike down the dirty trails on a cold late October day. It was almost Halloween and the Indian summer felt like it was finally coming to an end. Fall was in the air for sure.
I had never hiked this trail before even though it was so very close to where I grew up. This series of trails, inter winding in the now burnt forest, is called Side Winder. Like a long snake the trail slithers through a forest that had only recently burnt.
Steven was devastated as we began the hike down into the forest. At the top of the trail Live Oaks and hundred year old Jeffrey Pines still stood tall, but come around another turn and there is nothing but a valley of destruction in front of you. The forest was burned for miles and miles in every direction. When I saw how close the fire had really come to our neighborhoods to our homes, I felt so very lucky that our homes were spared.
It was a cold afternoon and the fog was just starting to roll in over the scarred blackened hills as we made our way down the trail. We had hiked about two miles in and Jenny was trying to pull herself over a log. She still had stitches in her girly parts and was worried about ripping them and afraid to go over the huge fallen burnt trees that covered the trail. The creek was close at this point we could hear it below us. Steven and I were tempted to just go the extra half mile to the creek, leave Jenny at the tree and come right back.
Little Jenny might have just had a baby but she had already lost most of the weight and was back down to about ninety pounds. I didn’t want to leave her alone and hurting in a darkening forest, fog closing in. I was worried what would happen if a coyote found her. A hungry animal is capable of terrible things.
So we turned around and started the hike back up the trail to our cars. Good thing we did. It was getting dark now. The fog was coming in closer and thicker like a ghost. The temperature was getting colder. It had to be in the low forties.
We were about a half mile from the car when I heard the most horrible thing I have ever heard.
A shriek carried on the wind.
“What the hell was that?!” Steven yelled.
Than we heard the barking. A pack of coyotes were killing an animal in the forest very close to us. I thanked God at that very moment that we had not left little Jenny alone.
The silent foggy forest was suddenly filled with horrible sounds. I heard the sounds of yipping, snarling, wild animals tearing something to shreds. I wanted to cover my ears with my hands to block out the sound but instead we began running as fast as we could for the cars parked just in sight on the dirt road ahead of us.
With the sounds of wild dogs on a killing spree in our ears we jumped in our cars with out even hugging good bye. We all agreed let’s get the Fuck out of there.