Some of Yosemite’s wildlife have been getting awfully comfortable during the tourist-free period they have been experiencing. Bears in particular made free with fruit in the park’s apple trees.
The national park closed to the public for many days while over a thousand firefighters wrestled down a monster wildfire close to the park, two good, well seasoned ones dying as they worked full out,
Smoke filled air was the main reason for the closure — and the wildlife comfortably adjusted to the lack of thousands of people wandering around — however unpleasant breathing could be.
This was the happy bear yesterday, savoring the last bit of tranquility even if she picked up on signs that things were changing again. Smoke still wafted about, as it will for weeks till smoldering patches deep in the forest burn themselves out. Tourists may have been startled, approaching the park this morning, but flames in a meadow quite close to one of the access roads were of no danger to them.
The fire, nearly 97,000 burned acres around it, was 87% contained at the time the park reopened. The largest wildfire in the known history of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The cause, according to Iniciweb, is unknown.
Yosemite’s enduring granite stands aloof from little events such as this. It’s all a question of scale — and sentience.
Hey, Bear, your home is still there for you, even if you do have to share the apples.
To this retired journalist experience with fires was limited to the East Coast until a few decades back. Patches of dry fields with some trees, and, more ominously, buildings. Blocks of buildings in a city. The New England area as I knew it was too wet for western style wildfires to take hold in forests. When I landed in Ruidoso, New Mexico in the late 1970s there came about a big wildfire somewhere else on Sierra Blanca from where I was living and writing for a small local paper. I expected to deploy to cover it, only to be stopped in my tracks by my very short and ferocious Finnish editor, whose name was Cale.
“Even if I let you up there you’d be stopped by law enforcement miles before you got anywhere,” he said. Looking over the long wooden crutches and plastic leg braces I needed to get around he noted, mostly to himself so I hardly heard, “Nobody needs her burned up out there…”
Back east I’d been able to get quite close to fires, so long as I did nothing to get in the way and stayed where a fire fighter told me to. Usually by looking me up and down, as Cale had, and muttering, “Put those things in reverse and get back there!”
Since that day in Ruidoso countless wildfires have cropped up on the edges of my life. A lot of them were started by lightning, while at least as many were human caused. Two of the worst currently burning in California were started by motor vehicles having problems. When a family home is about to explode with flames in one of these monsters, though, you don’t give a rat’s … tail… why it started, you just want it to be a bad dream. It is life changing, at the least, for people who live through it, is a wildfire.
It is humbling to think of forces in nature about which humans can do little. That’s a reason why grizzly bears have so long held a magnetic attraction for me, why I am invested in the necessity of wildlands. Lots and lots of them. These things are powerful forces, illustrating the humble human position amidst creation, lending appreciation of our place is a greater scheme of things. Some people (me included) get those feelings watching stars at night, others in being part of a vast city, like New York.
People callously killing enormous animals like elephants and brown bears for no other reason than that they can, and maybe they can make a buck off a single body part, seem unfortunate to me. Like trading a trip to Mars or the Moon for a toy rocket. Unaware of what they might be missing.
These wildfires, and other seemingly natural catastrophes such as floods and drought, are unequivocally linked to human caused climate change by science, and yet as an American I now live in the most regressive nation on Earth when it comes to the government accepting any responsibility for dealing with global warming. The US is the only country not signed onto the Paris Accords. What happens, then, is individual initiative — and it is impressive.
For my part, what do I do about the reality of climate change, which so many people seem to fiercely deny is any sort of problem. How can you do that when so much science show facts to be otherwise? It is like a person with a lump in their body not going to see a doctor about it because the threat might then turn out to be fatal. Ignorance feels better to that person. Why does it so often take a mighty catastrophe to get us going?
Well, I don’t know the answer to that. Meanwhile … For many bears (and all sorts of other wildlife) a wildfire is, of course, the end of life. It is the scheme of nature to come forth with replacements in the fullness of time. Could be many millions of years, but it will happen. The Earth is like that.
Yosemite Bear, however, is one lucky girl today, and I wish her lots of fresh apples.