Tricks, Treats, and Trees, Part 1

Our October trip to the mountains was packed with tricks and treats appropriate for this Halloween season.  When we made the camping reservations, NOAA forecasted sunny and mild weather.  Two weeks before departure, we experienced record-breaking heat (over 100°) in San Diego.  One week prior to our departure, the county was being bombarded by lightning strikes setting palm trees on fire as Blue Angels soared overhead.  Santa Ana conditions usually occur this time of year, bringing a warm, dry flow of air from the deserts.  But a cell of moisture was stalled just offshore, as we made our way through pockets of dense fog and sunlight to the mountains.dsc_0026-sun-into-rain.jpgThe trailer was unhitched just in time as the wind picked up and sprinkles began.  We experienced the heaviest rain and strongest wind on the first night.  The sound of the wind roaring through the trees reminded us of the sounds of the surf when we camped by the ocean.  I was glad I recently repaired gaps in some areas of caulking around the Fan-Tastic Fan.  By morning, raindrops were glistening on the trailer, along with a few leaves, and many pine needle clusters were scattered over the truck.dsc_0005-safari-raindrops.jpgActually it rained heavier along the coast, shattering the previous rain record for October 6, set in 1912.  As the skies cleared, we noticed that there seemed to be more sky and less trees than the last time we were here.  William Heise County Park, near Julian (apple pies), CA, is set in the Cuyamaca Mountains and mostly covered with acres of oak, pine, and cedar trees.  More frequent rains this season have resulted in larger acorns, in the living trees.  But we noticed that oak trees are dying.  One of our favorite trees was this massive, native California Black Oak Tree up the hill from our campsite.dsc_0059-great-oak-tree-2009.jpgIts canopy was thinning last year, as seen in this photo, but now it has been reduced to a sad stump.dsc_0015-great-oak-stump-2010.jpgAs I continued my midday walk, the camp host came by in his golf cart and I asked him about the cutting of the trees.  “Yes, they’ve had to cut down about 25 trees this past summer because of some kind of beetle borer,” he said.  “Sad,” I say, “That’s decreasing the value and beauty of this park, and I’m now seeing houses on nearby hills that were once screened by the trees.”  I continue on and noticed a sign posted on the campground restroom building: “DON’T MOVE FIREWOOD”.dsc_0034-dont-move-firewood.jpgAccording to this San Diego Union-Tribune/ article, “Voracious oak-killing beetle reaches suburban San Diego“, the gold-spotted oak borer was probably imported here by firewood transported from Mexico or Arizona in the 1990s and has killed more than 20,000 oaks, which adds fuel for wildfires, lowers property values, decreases the aesthetic value of parks and communities, negatively impacts the ecosystem (acorns are a source of food for wildlife such as deer, turkeys, and woodpeckers), presents a hazard to campsites (some sites had to be closed), and is costly to contain.  This is part of a larger problem across the western United States and Canada.dsc_0022-hilltop-mansion-revealed.jpgAs Sting says, “How fragile we are“… including Earth and all of its treasures.