Monday, November 30, 2009

Angeles Crest Highway

The Angeles Crest Highway re-opened today. I learned about it through a Pacific Crest Trail website and since I had a couple of hours to kill in between work, I couldn't resist the opportunity to see the devastation firsthand. It was an interesting experience. First of all, there was still a lot of construction taking place along the highway. Before entering the mountains, a small traffic jam formed as other eager visitors were waiting for their chance to tour the area. It felt like I was on a roller coaster, I too was excited to finally revisit this place. I knew it was going to be bad, but their were some encouraging signs.

I was surprised to see that construction crews had completely re-paved the road and painted fresh lines on the highway and parking areas. After driving for a few minutes, I was somewhat surprised they are allowing people to use the road. Rocks were literally falling down the hillsides and rolling out onto the road in numerous places. It also was very windy today and dust and ash spilled out onto the roads and filled the air at times.

One man I talked to said he could only drive so far before he had experienced enough. "It will probably take a hundred years before this place looks the same as I remember it." I told him it was like visiting a sick friend in the hospital. I also showed him some pictures I took of some flowering yucca plants I found further down the road. "I thought they only bloomed in the spring" he exclaimed. That's what I thought too.

There were small patches where the flames did not reach and the plants and trees were spared. There were also random trees that were unscathed for whatever reason in various spots along the road. I stopped by one of my favorite hiking trails and there didn't seem to be much of a trail left. It also appears hiking is going to be off limits for some time as the Forest Service has closed recreational areas for recovery.

It was hard not to rejoice for the survivors of this blaze and stand in awe of the resilience of life. Despite all of the destruction surrounding me, I felt like everything was going to be OK. How wonderful would it be to witness the recovery day after day, year after year in a place like this?

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