Monday, July 21, 2008

Whitney Portal

We're now in Lone Pine and quickly becoming regulars at the espresso bar here. Its kinda fun.

And I should tell you about Joes cameo appereance as a firefighter yesterday (don't worry, it had nothing to do with the cabin, thank god!). It really is a good story. So yesterday we decided to hike up to Lone Pine lake to work ourselves into shape for hiking the Meysan trail later this week. Needless to say it was beautiful and the perfect day for it: lots of sun with some clouds rolling in in the afternoon to cool us off a bit.

Once we got back down to the store we couldn't resist the temptation of getting some french fries and a beer to top off the afternoon. It really was lovely. Just as we were leaving to walk back down to the cabin, we saw Doug and the campground host looking a little alarmed in a station wagon as they almost ran us over saying they were sorry, but there was a fire burning down the canyon!

Of course the first thing I thought of was, oh shit, our cabin is on fire! Maybe I forgot to turn off the iron. Oh yeah, there is no iron. The toaster? No, no toaster. Not likely the cabin would be on fire. Nonetheless we decided to walk down the road to see if we could see anything, because a fire in the canyon with only one way down is a little alarming!

Soooo, as we got about halfway down to the campground, there was a billow of smoke rising through the trees coming from near the stream, right where there was a forest access road (closed to vehicles) turning off to the right. Joe and I stopped and decided that we would walk over there to see if Doug and them needed any assistance, although, let's face it, after a beer and too many french fries at altitude, one couldn't possibly be of much assistance in fighting a forest fire.

About 200 feet up the road, as we were following the smoke, we all of a sudden saw flames. They appeared to be coming from a man-made fire ring which had been absurdly built right at the base of a tree in a huge bed of pine needles. As we got closer, we noticed that the fire had spread to burn up the roots of two over-turned dead trees and was still going. The next thing we noticed was that we were the only ones there! The carload of people who were supposed to be fighting or trying to find the fire were nowhere to be seen!

It was a bit surreal and scary as we realized that we were going to have to be the ones to put the fire out. Without even hesitating Joe ran over to the flames and dumped the remains of his water bottle on the heart of the fire (it really wasn't THAT big), and ran for the stream to refill it. I dumped the rest of what was in my camelback on the flames and then decided that one of us had better go for help. Just as I was aboutto start running back up to the store, Doug burst through the underbrush having just crossed the stream with a wild look in his eyes, and shouted, "How did this thing get started?!" We didn't know and I asked him if I should go for help. He told me to run back up to the store and tell them where the fire was. I left Joe and Doug with our water bottle and camelback and started running.

Halfway up to the store, I hitched a ride (right as I was starting to feel the french fries and beer sloshing angrily in my belly) and the nice guy drove me right to the fire truck that he had seen pass him a minute ago. I mean really, these fire people are a bunch of idiots if they had just driven past the smoke and not seen it!

When I finally got to the fire truck that was parked at the Whitney trailhead parking lot to tell them they could get closer to it from the access road, they thought I was crazy (who is this crazy girl who is panting and acting like the forest is on fire?!). Then I told them that Doug had sent me and that changed everything. All of a sudden, my info had some sort of validity (assholes!).

Once I got back to the scene of the arson (it was clearly arson, and not a lightning strike), Joe and Doug had already put the fire out, but the fire trucks were just starting to arrive, and I could hear the sound of the helicopter hovering above. It was really surreal. Joe was covered in dirt and looked like he had just gotten out of combat, and Doug was standing at the side of the road looking pissed off. He was clearly annoyed at the delay of the fire department in responding to the fire... and I must say, its a good thing that the fire was small because I cant imagine what wouldve happened if Joe and I had stumbled upon a serious out of control blaze. It was an adrenaline rush, to say the least.

So Joe saved the day, and we have a great fire fighting story to tell. For the life of me, I still cant figure out who in their crazy fucked up head would start a fire there. I mean, it wasn't in a spot where someone was hanging out roasting marshmallows, and just didn't put their fire out all the way. It was in a weird place under a low-hanging tree where it wouldve been very difficult to sit and appreciate a campfire. Someone was clearly trying to burn up the forest, in my opinion. This is the stuff of CSI or John Grisham. I don't like it though.

Alrighty mamacita. I've exhausted my email writing for today.

smooches,

sarah