The sustained effort of the firefighters and first responders who’ve battled the Caldor Fire since the middle of August has been nothing short of miraculous.
The fire breached the Tahoe Basin on August 30, 2021, and traveled across the mountain range above South Lake Tahoe. But, despite it burning directly over the top of the neighborhood of Christmas Valley (as it entered the basin) and through the backyards of homes in the town of Meyers (near upper Apache Avenue), no primary residences in Tahoe were lost. This was not by accident, mind you, but by the hard work and diligence of those responders.
When the mandatory evacuation order for my neighborhood finally lifted on September 11, 2021, I had a home in which to return.
For this I am absolutely grateful.
This isn’t to say that the Caldor Fire didn’t destroy numerous homes, cabins, and other structures en route to Lake Tahoe. In fact, I have friends who’ve lost much in this fire. Unfortunately, there’s nothing that any of us can do or say that can turn back the hands of time and change the outcome of this tragedy. Those friends have been in my thoughts since this started, and I wish them the best as they rebuild (in whatever form that takes). If there’s anything I can do, please reach out.
Involuntarily leaving your home for two weeks is not an easy thing to do. Life carries on while you’re waiting to go home. Sure, I got some reading, writing, and road-tripping done while I was away. However, the uncertainty of fire was always running in the background distracting me from accomplishing anything of real value. Nearly a month later, I’m still playing catch-up with the projects that I had to shelve during those two weeks.
Probably the thing that stands out the most about this experience (once the threat of fire burning down my home passed) is the idea of “stuff,” and how much is too much. For a single guy, I admit that I probably have more stuff than I actually need. I don’t necessarily have big stuff, though, and I wouldn’t say that I own nearly as much stuff as some folks do.
But I do have stuff.
Mostly I have collections of reference books, comic books, outdoor-related gear and clothing, art and photography supplies, and tools. All of it’s replaceable, but it would be a pain in the butt to track down some of the things that I’ve collected over the years (if it were lost, for whatever reason, for example).
Since repopulating, I’ve been taking inventory of my stuff and unloading that which no longer aligns with my life. I haven’t actually jettisoned nearly as much stuff as I thought I would, however. But I suspect that this will be an ongoing process.
So as much as I’d love to go back and live like I was thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail (where you rid yourself of anything that you don’t use on a daily basis), I understand that achieving a zero balance with regard to stuff is an uphill battle. Why? Because the universe will not tolerate a void, so once you create space it’s going to conspire to fill it.
I think the point is simply not to get too attached to your stuff no matter how much you have and how valuable you believe it to be because, after all, it’s just stuff.
There are lots of other things I’d love to talk about but, in reality, I’m still just trying to pick up the pieces after having been displaced.
Immediately following repopulation, I returned to work to recoup some of the two weeks’ worth of lost wages (before closing for the season, this past week). And, even though it’s only the beginning of October, the upcoming winter is bearing down on us. So, I’ve been completing yardwork whenever possible. I’ve also had my Jeep in the shop multiple times for various fixes and modifications in preparation for the winter. The volunteer illustration project I accepted way back in May (and failed to complete over the summer) is coming due this month. No surprise, but I finally began to work on it earnest the week prior to my evacuation. I had no mental capacity in which to work on it during the evacuation, so for the past two weeks I’ve chained myself to the drawing table. Although I’m not yet finished with it, I’m a heckuva lot closer.
And, of course, I’ve been birding whenever I can find a spare hour or two…
Anyway, time waits for no one!
Here are some images of Sierra Nevada birds that I photographed this past month. I observed many of these birds down at the Bridgeport Reservoir and in the Carson Valley while I was away from home (on evacuation orders).
Click on each photo for its name and the date taken.
It may seem premature to include these links and introduction to winter adventure videos at this point in the season. However, you’d be surprised at how many people have already begun to plan for and research cross-country skiing and snowshoeing via Tahoe Trail Guide.
Thanks for being a part of my life. Until next time…
Tahoe Trail Guide is an online resource for hiking, backpacking, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing in the Lake Tahoe region. In addition to trail data, I offer backcountry “how-to” articles and information about the local and natural history of Tahoe. Tahoe Swag is a collection of art and design products I create based on my love of the outdoors and appreciation for Lake Tahoe and the surrounding Sierra Nevada Mountains.
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Always enjoy reading your blogs. Nice capture of those beautiful birds and running cayotes! Glad to know that you’re back to home, whole and safe. Your email came very timely when I was watching Peggy Lee singing “Is That All There Is?”https://youtube.com/watch?v=LCRZZC-DH7M&feature=share Reminds me of how we need to always stay calm, strong and resilient
Don’t know if it’s still a good time to visit Tahoe for the fall colors/foliage this year despite the fire. Climate changes drastically making fall color prediction and travel planning more difficult. Hope to visit this fall if weather permits. 🙂
More power to you!!
Hey TS Ngo!
As always, thanks so much for the kind words 🙂
I’m so grateful to be home and back to establishing some sort of normalcy and schedule. That is funny about that timing of you watching the Peggy Lee song and my email. haha. Resiliency and knowing when to push and when to yield are key factors for finding some sort of peace and balance in life (at least in my opinion 🙂 ).
The fall colors have definitely been changing. I’ve seen a lot of traffic down in Hope Valley in the past week, but technically the forests in the Tahoe Basin (on the south shore) are still closed until December 31st (or until the Forest Service modifies their order). But the north shore is open, as well as the California State Parks (in Tahoe), such as Emerald Bay, D.L. Bliss, and Sugar Pine Point State Park. It’s just the Forest Service land that’s closed. I think the FS also cancelled the Kokanee Salmon Festival at Taylor Creek as well this year. Again, though, pretty much all of town is open to one degree or another, and you can definitely drive around the lake.
All of that said, we received 4-6 inches of snow yesterday here on the south shore! I’ve actually been out cross-country skiing these past two days (just around my neighborhood, though). So weird, but I appreciate that we’ve gotten some decent precipitation finally.
Anyway, thanks again for all the positive feedback. Hope you’re doing well. And, keep in touch!
great photo of the coyotes running!! And I love the new drawings. It’s great witnessing your work, and fun to imagine being in the mountains. Take care!!
Thanks so much for the kind words, Mary 🙂
The experience with the coyotes was pretty interesting. There are typically between 6-9 coyotes that hang out along the beach/marsh area at which I (and many other people) bird. So if you get there early enough you can watch them playing on the beach. Just like puppies!
The drawings have been fun now that I’m getting a process down. My usual scratchy type of illustrations just looked a bit harsh for the younger crowd of which the short history stories are written for. So, by switching to the brush I can create something a bit more playful.
Thanks again for all the support 🙂
Hi Jared, I’ve come to love your writing as much as your photographs. All your thoughts about being evacuated sure resonated with me (& many others, I’m sure). It (the fire in general & being evacuated) was a surreal experience that I’m still working through. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
Hope to see you around.
Wishing you the best!
Thanks so much for the kind words, Sandy 🙂
It’s definitely been a challenge getting back into a rhythm, but things seem to be settling down a little bit. Or, at least, it feels like I’m beginning to get caught up. Over the past couple weeks I had to split a cord of wood and then stack about 3 cords. But before that we ended up doing a lot of raking and bagging of pine needles. Seemed like those gusty days knocked everything out of the trees, and with the fire still a slight threat (at least at the time) it seemed prudent to clean it all up. But not something that you can just knock out in a quick 30 minute session! haha. But it’s done and I feel a little safer.
Hope to see you around sometime, too 🙂