Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Mumday interpreted: smoky SEKI!


This is one of the first places we stopped to gaze across the landscape and into the soup that was Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks last weekend. The Sheep fire has been burning there for weeks and putting up a respectable amount of smoke.

Check this link out to see the fire via satellite. It's the puff of smoke east of Monterey Bay and south of Mono Lake. There's just about no other fires visible, so you can't miss it.

MODIS, by the way, is an AMAzing source of daily views of the planet. Truly stunning images, and free. I highly recommend bookmarking that pup.

Bear loves fire, and I suspect this is what prompted this, our FIRST trip here. Little did I know it's spec-TAC-ular. Wow. A lot of the views normally available were completely obscured, but we will definitely be back: now that I viscerally "get" the "Kings Canyon" title. Very apt.

This is about where we first saw the actual sources of the smoke, and loved what it did to the sun--some freaky lighting that day, all glowing orange and diffuse. I happened to be wearing orange pants that day, and they looked like they were plugged into an electric socket--too cool.

Here you can actually see places on fire--didn't usually see flame, but saw the smoke climbing up out of the trees.

If you didn't know, going to see a fire at night is the best time to see actual flame--looks totally different. This I learned when we had a fire about 3 miles from our house.

The base of this tree was on fire. Bear noted it was probably frustrated, 'cause this tree's toes are IN the river (see extreme foreground of picture), and it's surrounded by rock, but nevertheless, it still caught on fire

Ah, well. It'll be a lovely snag for some very happy bugs and birds (and mammals, etc.), once its temperature lowers to something hospitable. Snags (dead trees) really do seem to bring out biological joy; so many species benefit by them, it's a biological party that continues for years.

I figured I'd end the post with some huge sequoias that had obviously been burned in the past. Fire scars can be seen pretty commonly on these behemoths.

If you've not heard the story re: sequoias and fire, years ago parks with sequoias suppressed fire around the trees to keep them from burning up. Wouldn't want a Sequoia National Park where all the sequoias were just huge piles of ash, would you?

Well, then someone (super smart) looked around the sequoia forest floor and noticed something. No baby sequoias. NONE. That is not good.

Turns out sequoias MUST have fire to regenerate--to get new sequoia trees. So, everyone revisited their fire management plans and now they do allow fires to occur in the groves. They may be carefully managed fires, but fire has returned to these groves to do what it needs to do.

It's amazing how many times we tinker with nature and later figure out that it really wasn't such a good idea, and, in fact, is hurting the very thing we were trying to protect.

Lesson? Unless you have a mountain of evidence, when in doubt, ask yourself what had happened there for millenia before we ever arrived. That's probably a very good place to start.


P.S. SEKI is the NPS 4 letter code for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. If you want to learn more about these parks, go to www.nps.gov/seki. =)


  1. Thanks for explaining SEKI. I was trying to figure out if the species name for giant sequoias had changed re the shortened form of genius-species code often used on monitoring forms . . . hahaha much simpler than that. This time of year the coastal redwoods are dropping lots of leaves; do the giant sequoias do that? Part of their annual cycle. People freak out and think they are dying. Nope. Makes for pretty fall orange-green colors. See photos of the phenom: http://dipperanch.blogspot.com/2009/09/dusty-cusp-of-summer.html

  2. Ahhh...that would explain the lack of visible Sierras while in the Central Valley on both sides of this past weekend, as well as the convoy of "Feather River Hotshots" on I-5.

  3. @ Cindy: =) Yeah, sorry about belated abbreviation explanation. There is one lizard species who's scienctific name I space on until I remember the 4 letter code for it--THAT I know from umpteen million data sheets. =) Nice post. I used to work in a place that lost leaves in the summer and everyone thought everything was dead. Nope, just drought-deciduous.
    @ CP Yes, it does. We even smelled smoke at our house a few days. Love those convoys--fun to see where they're from.

  4. Glad you posted this. A friend of mine went camping in Kings last weekend, but came home a day early due to her sinuses being all a bother. She doesn't believe me that there were fires. She blames the Central Valley smog.

  5. @Nature ID: Yes, if you pass along to your friend that MODIS link, she can get updated pictures of what smoke is from where, so could even maybe figure it out on her own. =) Smoke Sherlock.


Cool people write inside rectangles....