After the devastating Day Fire of last fall, which burned for three weeks in the backcountry around the Sespe (river), consuming about 40 square miles of chaparral in fire, much has changed, but few have been given permission to see the burned areas.
Good friends Lauren and Alisdair Coyne and a few others from Keep the Sespe Wild, after repeated requests, were given permission to hike through the Sespe by the Forest Service. For years they’ve been going in late fall to yank out water-guzzling exotic species at a hot springs along the river.
In their latest newsletter, they wrote about the experience, describing "a different kind of silence."
In some places, the soil is burned almost bare, with only tiny stubs of blackened stems, at most an inch or so tall. In others, a magical land of blackened sticks covers hundreds of yards beside the trail, all around six or eight feet tall, the skeleton stems and branches of shrubs burned to a uniform blackness, with the low winter sunlight casting a further black shadow…[and] with almost no vegetation, other life had also disappeared. No birds, no lizards (well, only a couple), no flies.
But they also found new green growth at the base of some of these plants, which have millions of years of experience with wildfire. Of the low shrubs, 80% are expected to return in a year. With them, will come the other life…