Blog Template Musings about Geocaching: Time to evacuate . . .

Musings about Geocaching

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Time to evacuate . . .

When the sky finally started to lighten, I got up, ate some fruit and looked outside to see what the plume of smoke looked like at dawn . . .

To see where the fire was burning, and take some pictures, I drove up to the viewpoint on Skyline Truck Trail. Since the wind was really blowing, I hoped the windmill blades had been more blurred in the picture.

On the property below where I was standing, a young man was riding around on a three-wheel ATV. I couldn't believe he could "recreate" under the circumstances . . .

Several other people had the same idea I had to come to this particular part of Skyline Truck Trail. I decided to talk to one man sitting in a well-outfitted Jeep. He turned out to be someone I knew. He had been down the hill to take his wife and children to safety and only got past the roadblock on his way back up the hill because he is a police officer. That was one of the reasons I had not driven down the hill to fill my car with gas and get more food to eat. I knew I wouldn't be allowed back home . . .

We talked for a while and discussed where the fire was on a ridge to the southeast.

He said that was near the Four Corners intersection and if the fire fighters did not stop it there, it could follow the ridge to our side of Skyline Truck Trail. That smoke was more than two miles away, so I figured I had a few hours before I absolutely had to leave, and when I went back to my place, it was reassuring to know that one person knew I was here, in case things got much worse, very quickly . . .

The food in my freezer had thawed out, so I got out my camping stove, put it on the lee side of my place, and cooked salmon, chicken, a small pork chop, and a whole package of calamari. I ate the salmon, put the other cooked things in glass jars and put them in my freezer, where there were some containers of ice that had not completely melted, so they would cool down

Then, I contemplated taking a shower and washing my hair, without any hot water . . .

After I did that, I came back outside and realized I felt better. Finally, after being ill with body aches, a "burning skin sensation," and a debilitating depression for a full week, I was back to what I call "my normal." Wheeeuuu . . . what a relief. I thought, "Okay, now that I feel better, I can handle this." The day before, when I got out my journal, I wrote, "If I felt better, like I have felt for the past month, this would be easier to deal with — perhaps."

When I came outside, I noticed the wind had died down. I looked at my watch. It was 11:30 a.m. The Santa Ana winds lasted almost three days, just as predicted last week.

I looked towards Lyons Peak and observed that the plume of smoke was about the same as it had been earlier in the morning, but when I looked towards the east, the direction the wind had been coming from, there was a huge plume of smoke. That was new! To the southwest, there was another huge plume of smoke, and from what I was hearing on the radio, I thought the town of Jamul, six miles away, was in flames.

To get a true perspective of where the fire was, I could have driven up to the viewpoint again, but my car was low on gas. I know better than to let that happen, but it is a long story why it occurred this time . . .

Because I was also low on easily-prepared food, I was going to have to leave the next day anyway. The fuel canister for my camping stove was too low on fuel to cook the food I did have on hand—beans, rice, and steel cut oats—that take a long time to cook. So, I made the decision to leave right then, putting the things I had been using in the car and driving away, taking one last picture of the smoke rising behind one of my neighbor's places.

Down the road, at the short Lawson Valley spur, several people stopped to view the fire's progress. I stayed there talking to different people, listening to their stories. One woman was asthmatic and told an officer she would be safer in the clean air at her home. He reassured her the fire would be kept from their area in Lawson Valley, even though a Mandatory Evacuation order had been given for that long, dead-end valley.

I took more pictures and watched plumes of very black smoke erupt over the far ridge as the fire hit dense vegetation . . . or a house or out-building. Since the wind had died down, the several small plumes of smoke rising from the chaparral a mile away on this side of the ridge in Lee Valley did not look threatening.

A Border Patrolman stopped and hollered out to our small group of people. "Okay, if you will all come over here, I'll give you a fire update."

He said, "You all know me. I've worked this area for 15 year so you can trust me." Then he pointed towards Lee Valley where Lyons Valley Road goes straight as an arrow for a mile before beginning its winding path through the canyon up to the Four Corners intersection.

"All this area in Lawson Valley is going to burn."

"Huh," I thought. "How can I trust what he says when he doesn't even know the name of the valley he is pointing towards?" Lawson Valley is behind him, across Skyline Truck Trail on the other side of a huge ridge.

His analysis of the fire situation did have the correct effect on one couple, however, and they soon drove away, heading for a friend's house far from the fire danger.

Not too much later I drove down the hill towards the Evacuation Center at Steele Canyon High. However, I couldn't get there. At the intersection of Highway 94 and Steele Canyon Road, officers wearing full breathing masks were directing traffic at the newly-erected roadblock on the usually-busy highway.

Vehicles were stopped on both sides of Steele Canyon Road and one woman, with an anguished look on her face was talking on her cell phone. I took a couple of quick pictures and got out of there because the thick smoke from the threatening flames marching down the slope towards Highway 94 was toxic.

In El Cajon, where I filled my car with gas, people were going on with their normal routines, not comprehending the stress thousands of others were experiencing. I got some bananas and other fruit at a little store and then drove to Trader Joe's to get some dried mangoes to snack on. I meant to get more cans of sardines, but forgot that handy source of protein I keep on hand for emergencies..

While there, a woman I had not seen in a long time, came up to me. We talked for a while and then I asked if she had a cell phone.


"Could I use it to call my friend back at the Evacuation Center?" We walked to my car so I could get the phone number and when I made the call, I left a message. Before she drove away, her phone rang. It was my friend. She said he son had rescued her from the Evacuation Center Monday morning and was staying in a house not to far away where he rented a room.

When I got there, the young man who owned the house asked if I had a place to go. I said I was going to go to Quallsom Stadium, or to Fiesta Island where the people with horses had evacuated. He said I could stay there if I wanted to. Did I want to? You bet. A cute older house built in 1937 with hardwood floors, no odor from mold, and no chemical odors from air fresheners — it was my dream home, if I could ever purchase a real house . . .

For the next two days, Geocaching was far from my mind, although Wednesday night, I logged into the site to show my friend's son the cache pages FlagMan created for the characters in the NCIS television series, a program we watched the night before. I didn't know caching friends had been checking my Profile to see if I was okay, so logging in was a good thing.

During the next three days, because of the thick smoke outside, we stayed in the house much of the time. To stay occupied, we watched the television coverage, but one day we left to have lunch at a great Mexican Restaurant and go to a movie, the George Clooney thriller, "Michael Clayton." That was what we needed to do, although I don't know if my friend could have enjoyed the diversion if that morning she had not found out her husband was alive.

For three days, she did not know where he was or what had happened to him.

That morning, one of her sons talked his way past the road block and drove in to find their RV and new home foundation completely surrounded by burned area, but untouched by the fire. However, he didn't find his father. Later, he drove a short distance down the valley to the home of men who worked the nearby avocado grove, a grove that succumbed to the flames, and found his dad there. It was then that he learned how he had saved their place from burning by spraying the area with water, and even setting his own little backfire as the flames made a u-turn and headed back towards their place.

Finally on Thursday, I was able to spend more time on the computer. I logged into the Forums and posted that I was okay. That was when I found out my friends, including "lostguy", CTYankee9, and fisnjack had been checking my Profile. In the Forums I saw that the weekend C.I.T.O Event was still on, but under the circumstances, I couldn't think about going . . .


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