Then and now

The Jesusita fire started on 5 May 2009. Two years ago today. The original blaze was near Inspiration Peak, the summit of the Jesusita trail.

The trailhead was under evacuation orders until 13 May, and the trail itself was closed until November.

I try to compare the state of the trail as it was when I first saw it after the fire with how it is now.

The fire itself, 6 May 2009, and no fire on 3 May 2011.

The trailhead, then and now.
After the blaze there are the bare tree trunks and a general lack of vegetation, in the background the trees still have leaves, but these are dead, cooked. Now the area is covered with thistles and poison hemlock. There is an elderberry bush blooming where the trail turns. Many, but not all, of the oaks are covered with new leaves.

Another view of the start of the trail (I could not figure out precisely where this one was taken so the second photo gives a general feel as to the current situation rather than a precise comparison).

In the old shot many of the trees are leafless, those with leaves are covered with dead, dry leaves — the fire did not reach them, but the heat did.

In the current shot the trees seem a little odd looking, but basically healthy. And grass and wildflowers have taken over the hillside.

In the spring of 2010 there was a mass bloom of arroyo lupines — such mass blooms are common after fires, the earth is cleared of competition and the ash provides nutrients.

In the spring of 2011 there were almost no lupines (I found only one in this area). I did examine the area in Feb 2011 but failed to take a photo then. It didn’t look much different than it does here, there was no mass bloom then either.

Oak trees.
Immediately after the fire the trees and shrubs were either completely bare or covered with dead, “cooked” leaves. Many shrubs and trees produced new shoots from the ground after the fire, but the oaks did not.

After 6 months they started to produce new leaves in small clumps off the main trunks. (I mistook this for mistletoe for a while and worried the tree was dead).

Two years on some trees seem almost completely recovered while some (such as the one on the far right) still have major branches which appear dead.

Even though the sycamores grow on the edge of the stream bed (where I assume the fire would be less intense) they seem to have suffered more than the oaks. Very few of the old trees have any leaves on them today, but from their base new saplings have sprouted.

I’m pretty sure this is the same tree, though taken from a different angle and a different scale. The shouts are bigger in 2011 and the bark has almost completely flaked off the tree…

Bay Laurel
The laurels put out basal shoots while the tops appeared dead. Now the basal shoots are growing well, and — in some cases at least — the old trunks have come back to life.

A pleasant oak grove with a carpeting of oxalis.
There were no living leaves on the oaks in 2009, while there are in 2011. But there is also the fallen trunk (in 2011) of a dead oak.

Two panoramas of the hillside across from the trail (not quite from the same point, I fear).
The top hillside is denuded of vegetation, the bottom is covered with it. At a higher resolution you would see the blooms of bindweed all over it.

There aren’t many wildflowers in November even without a fire, so I was pleased when I saw these wild cucumbers had come out. Purple nightshade was also blooming then, but that was about it. Now there is a riot of blooms.

The trail after the first ridgeline.

Just before the fire road near the top.

A little further on (this is actually looking backwards).

Looking down toward the Mesa and Hope Ranch. Barren hillsides on the left, vegetated hills on the right.

At ground level at the top the sky is covered with a maze of dead branches. On the left a few fronds of chamise spring from the old roots. On the right the branches are still dead but the shoots are bigger and rock-roses have colonized the soil.

Panorama from the top of Inspiration looking northwest.

In July of 2010 there was another mass bloom of these Late-Blooming Mariposa Lilies. It’s too early to take a comparable shot for 2011…

Someone else had a similar idea…


One Response to “Then and now”

  1. sbrunning Says:

    Great side-by-side. Thank you.

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