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March 2008 Trail Head

Posted in Features on March 1, 2008
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Some people find it hard to actually think about the future when they worry about how things in their lives can crumble faster than Britney Spears' career. On the other hand, I'm typically a planner. But I often plan for spontaneity. Anyway, taking the Jp JK to the body shop several weeks earlier had resulted in one of my vehicles being abandoned in San Diego. In addition, a San Diego buddy (Jake) asked me for help in finding a good running FSJ project. Jake's the kind of guy who couldn't save a dollar if it was sewn into his wallet, especially if he gets even the slightest idea of how to spend it. A few weeks ago, he was likely having Top Ramen and Tang for breakfast. This week, he had wads of cash burning holes in his pockets. So I put together a list of Internet vehicles that we should look at and headed south. I hauled my empty trailer down with my Jeep J20 so I could return home with my abandoned Dodge and J20 in tow.

I joked with Jake about him buying my J20, and before he even glanced at the used FSJ Internet list, he launched into his unrelenting campaign to buy my truck. There was no shutting him down. I tried over several phone conversations to talk him out of it-with no success. Once an idea gets in his head, it's like a worm boring through an apple. It has to get to the other side and pop out or travel 'round and 'round until it consumes everything. Next thing I know, I've got a wad of cash in one hand and my truck is taking off into the sunrise. It was gone before I was even totally sure I wanted to sell it.

Later that weekend, the California fires lit up. By Sunday, they were spreading quickly. I had been watching the news on TV and noticed that an area about 30 minutes from my home was burning. I figured there was no way the fire could make it far enough to threaten my property. I was more wrong than Michael Jackson chaperoning a Cub Scout camping trip. Just before midnight, the area around my home was being evacuated. There was no way I was going to sleep not knowing if my house was still standing. So I packed my things, and by 12:30 a.m. I had started my 120-mile trek north-empty trailer in tow behind the Dodge in hopes of finding my house and not a pile of hot coals littered with twisted bits of glass and metal.

When I reached my exit around 2 a.m., the main part of the fire had already blasted through the area. However, I could see scattered hot spots in the hills near my property. The road to my home was closed, so I parked at a grocery store, hopped on my mountain bike, sneaked past the police, and rode the rest of the way. Once I reached my long driveway, I coughed, wheezed, and pedaled up through the smoke. I couldn't even begin to imagine what I was going to do if nearly everything I owned was charred and melted into one big clump. As I got closer, I saw lights and found that somehow my dirt farm had been spared. I spent the rest of the wee hours of the morning putting out tumbling, glowing-hot embers. It was crazy windy with 60-80-mph gusts.

Eventually, the sun rose and I hiked up the charred hill behind my home to find that the open area was completely barren and burnt to the ground for as far as I could see.

A couple City Works officials stopped by my home that morning, and they told me the lack of vegetation on the hillside was a problem and that I should start planning for increased rain erosion and mudslides this winter. The way things have been going, that would be about par for the course since we've been in a drought for the last year and a half.-John Cappa

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