Monday, May 14, 2007

Griffith Park Update: Walking on the Moon

Well, the Griffith Park fire has been out since late last week. The final tally was over 800 acres burned, which is about a quarter of the park. A few structures were lost (including the beloved lookout/picnic area Dante's View) but only one house was damaged, which is incredible considering how many homes are in the hills near the park.

I'd heard last week that the park would be open by the weekend, but today was the first chance I had to explore. I drove up to the Vermont entrance, only to be turned away by park rangers, who said it wouldn't be open until Wednesday. Couldn't they see I was in my running gear, camera in hand? Not one to be foiled by The Man, I drove to the Fern Dell entrance, which was open because there are some grassy areas and playgrounds that were undamaged. Fools! Their first mistake was letting me into the park. Once I'd parked, I casually ran up into the park, past a few unguarded barricades, and onto a trail that would take me up to the fire-damaged areas.

In my defense, the signage was a little vague:

This one is especially ambiguous. The sign says "no no," but the broken caution tape says "yes yes."

As a comparison, this is what the undamaged hillsides look like. It's not lush forest, but there is (was?) quite a bit of plant life and greenery.

This was my first view of the fire damage as I began my climb to the top of the trail. From a distance, it was noticeable, but it didn't look terrible. I call it "the illusion of plants."

As I got closer things got spookier, and the smell got stronger. It actually wasn't bad--it smelled like a really strong campfire--it was just really unsettling.

It looks like there are green plants around, but the view from the trail is basically burned-out tree skeletons.

After awhile the scene was totally lunar. Compounding the otherworldly feeling was the fact that no one else was around. I was completely alone in this silent alien landscape. I saw rangers occasionally in the distance, but for obvious reasons I wasn't too reassured to see them. *cue sound of me diving into bushes*

Poor coyote! He looked so stark against the hillside. I wonder if many coyotes or deer got caught in the fire? I read an article written shortly after the fire where the reporter mentioned seeing "many charred rabbits on the trail, caught in the act of running from the fire." Fortunately I didn't see any dead animals--just lots of live squirrels, birds, and this little fella.

Random postscript: Aaaaah smoke! No idea what was going on here, but I didn't hear about a second Griffith Park fire, so I assume it was something the rangers had planned or had under control. (If I find out the park was closed due to a Ranger Weenie Roast, I'll be mad).

Even though the landscape was depressing, I feel better having seen it--I guess now I have an idea of what to expect once my regular trails are open. I'll probably bring my camera again and try to get up to Dante's View later this week.