This week I hike through mile after mile of fire-ravaged forest, have my first of several close encounters with a deer, and I pass the halfway point. Forest fires are a way of life in the West coast of America. Most are started by lightning strikes, some are started accidentally, by camp fires or discarded matches or cigarettes, and very few are started maliciously. The Dixie fire of 2021 started when an old tree fell onto a power line, and caught fire. Flames and sparks from the burning tree spread to neighboring trees, and spread further, fanned by a moderate breeze. The resulting wildfire burned out of control for over three months, covering an area equal to Suffolk and Norfolk combined, destroying everything in its path. It was the largest single-cause wildfire in Californian history. About 90 miles of the PCT pass through land that was decimated by the Dixie fire, and hiking through it was a shocking experience. I've hiked through several burn areas before, but these were caused by fires several years ago, and the forests were recovering, with clear evidence of new growth. The land within the Dixie fire zone was different. Burnt trees stood in isolation. New grasses and plants had yet to take shoot around them. The ground was still covered in deep, dark ash. With every step I took, fine ash would rise into the air, and the forest stank of burnt wood. It will take years before this wasteland recovers. Further up Northern California I returned to green and lush land. Here, I started to regularly meet wild deer, most of which were not overly concerned by my presence. They would often appear on the trail and, upon seeing me coming along the trail in the opposite direction, would casually walk off the trail, and pass me a few feet away in the forest. This week was also notable as I passed the halfway mark on the trail. So, 1,330 miles down, only 1,330 miles to go!
I continue to be amazed, and amused, by pine cones that are bigger than my head!
Aftermath of the Dixie Fire.
Sad and eerie forest.
Happy hikers at the halfway point (credit to Bon Jovi)
Meeting deer on the trail.
Close encounters of the deer kind.