A week ago, the fires and smoke seemed to be getting a lot better in the Ukiah area. Unfortunately, over the past few days, the smoke has returned to being as thick as it was two weeks ago.
I noted in my prior blog that the smoke was a puzzle because the Ukiah area fires appear to have settled down, with flareups here and there (see the Greenfield blog, for example). Although there are fires elsewhere in the county, it’s a surprise to see them generate this much smoke.
But as I noted a few days ago, the Yolla Bolly wilderness area along the northern end of the Mendocino National Forest (about 50 miles northeast of Ukiah), has become a raging inferno. Reports have been that they cannot even get close to it, mainly due to the rugged terrain and intense heat.
The Mendocino National Forest is located in the Coastal Mountain Range in northwestern California and comprises 913,306 acres (3,696 km²). It is the only national forest in the state of California without a major paved road entering it. (From Wikipedia)
In addition, the extremely hot weather this week has made the situation miserable, especially to firefighting crews. I’ve measured the temperature here on our ranch as high as 116 F / 47 C — and hitting about 110 F every day.
Here’s what it looks like today from the GeoMac fire imaging satellite:
Yolla Bolly Fires 2008
(I show Covelo valley on the map, so you can get an idea for where this Yolla Bolly fire is burning relative to us, about 50 miles northeast from Ukiah.)
The red areas mark new fires (today, within the last few hours) and this kind of burn pattern has been repeating itself for the last week. The fire has become much worse, not only spreading to surrounding areas, but also burning within the deep valleys. (Note that some of these new fires may in fact be back fires started by firefighters in an attempt to limit the final extent of the blaze.)
About Yolla Bolly Wilderness…
If you’ve never been there, Yolla Bolly is a pristine hiking and backpacking park. Here’s a short description from Wilderness.net:
“… the as-rugged-as-it-comes headwater country of the Wild and Scenic Middle Fork of the Eel River, Yolla Bolly-Middle Eel Wilderness ranges in elevation from about 2,700 feet to 8,000 feet. The river crashes wildly through the Wilderness in a deep canyon for approximately six miles, and, combined with sections of the 48 miles of river outside the Wilderness, forms what is arguably California’s finest long white-water run. Chamise and manzanita in the lower elevations give way to dense arrays of pine and fir cloaking numerous ridges. Vast grasslands open many of the steep hillsides. Summer wildflowers dramatically color large mountain meadows. Bear and deer populate the area in relative abundance…”
By the way, if you are not familiar with it, the term wilderness is a special National Park designation that indicates an area that is kept 100% natural and no mechanized vehicles (or devices) of any kind are allowed — not even a wagon or bicycle, for example.
And, on a more personal note…
I fear there’s no way that the Yolla Bolly mountain wilderness is going to be the same… for many decades to come. Ironically, I was talking with my family about planning a backpack trip up there this summer. I wanted my kids to experience and marvel at the beauty of it.
We used to make these high mountain trips every summer… most often to the Trinity Alps wilderness (similar, but further to the north, also on fire). However, in recent years, we’ve all been so busy, and perhaps deep down, none of us feel as mentally or physically prepared for such a trek… as we once were.