This is a transcript of the diary I kept during the first years of our transition to the mountains. We had lived in Orange County, CA for the past 20 years and decided to check out property in Bass Lake, CA where we had vacationed for several years.
August 19, 2001
On the way back from Colorado, we stopped at a few RV places to look for a trailer to put up on the property. Found a 1987, 31ft fifth wheel that was immaculate. Decided to get it if we could, for 10,000 even. We’ll see if the financing comes through.
……..It did. Great!
August 20, 2001
Russ called us to say there’s a fire on Rd 274, our road! Said he’d try to find out more. In the meantime we called Marcie and Paul, no one home. I called the Forest Service and they said it was less than a half mile from our place! Neighbor, Marcie, called then. She said they’d all be evacuated and it was pretty bad on our side of the road. The fire fighters were using our street as a command area. Smoke and fire all around, she said. We all just had to wait, with a sinking feeling inside.
An article on the Fresno Bee website detailed the fire,listing the damage and the acreage. The helicopters were getting water from the lakes, 5,000 gallons at a time. I waited until 10am to call Marcie where she and Don were staying at her brother’s house in North Fork. I talked to him, named Dale, and he said the fire was decreasing in our area, but that Cascadel, up above and to the south of us, was threatened.
Neighbor, Marcie went down to her house and called me a few minutes later. She and Don walked down to our place and said it looked good-no trees burned and the shed and command post are fine. The firemen were probably using the table & the hammock we left there, she said. Good for them; we hoped they got some good use from them. She said all OK with them and the neighbors but the fire still burning and trucks were still coming in the circle.
We leave for Bass Lake, Madeline and Derek along, and get a call from Ed saying the delivery man tried and failed to get the new trailer down the driveway and had exhausted all attempts to do so. So, when we arrived at 8:30pm, we said ‘Hello’ to my husband’s friends Ed and his girlfriend, Patty, and their friends Roger & Irene, then spent our first night in the fifth wheel up in the cul-de-sac!
In the morning, I went down to the command post with my coffee, already a tradition, and later we called the same tow company that had helped us before, to get the trailer down, which they did with no trouble at all. The delivery guy had ripped a gash in the bottom of the front end of the trailer which I’m sure we’ll fix with duct tape.
The property was, indeed, burned throughout, but only the grass and leaves. Amazing! The two burn piles we had accumulated were gone and later when the sun shone on the mountain, we saw that fingers of burned areas went all the way to the top in some places. the grass was black and crunched under your feet. Ed had said 40% of it was burned, which sounds bad, but it really didn’t look too bad.
The first morning, smoke still hung thick in the valley, but was cleared up later in the weekend. Saturday night we had a ‘housewarming party’ with about 22 people. It doesn’t take much of an excuse to have a party amongst our friends. Bob and his kids came down and more friends, Art & Sandra Moore.
Anyway we had a nice weekend, going four wheeling with Bob’s family up to Shuteye Peak and Bob helped me bring home some large rocks for making steps. I got the trailer all set up which was loads of fun. I got most of the housekeeping supplies for kitchen and bedroom at thrift shops.
In the evenings we sat and watched spot fires burn across the valley, knowing that in time it would recover, that old mountain. We’d watch it do so.
As we head home our thoughts always turn to the same thing…our next trip back, ..home.
Oh, one more thing…the brand name of the fifth wheel we had just brought up?