(A few days later) For many years one of my favorite places to camp has been Warner Valley, a remote area in the southeast corner of Lassen Volcanic N.P. The Pacific Crest Trail runs through, as does a permanent stream, and I’ve hiked both north and south on the PCT as well as on other trails, mostly ones that connected to areas active with volcanic remnants such as mud pots, steam vents, and Sulphur ponds and others that looped off and back to the PCT. It’s a beautiful area not even badly disturbed by a rustic guest ranch situated on the west end of the Valley. This summer of 2021 is seeing the end of unburned places I’ve spent time in or traveled through in the north and east parts of the state. Warner Valley is now one of those according to a piece I read a couple days ago and that fire maps, even with lack of detail, confirm. Considering the direction of the fire it would have entered through the east end after burning through 15 miles of forest and occasional houses. When people are allowed back in, I’ll want to visit and recall its history and experience the losses directly. From the trajectory of the fire’s movement, I will probably need to repeat the ritual at Butte Lake, which is northeast of Warner and another of my favored places. I have predicted for several years that California would eventually burn almost completely across its forests and mountains, and it’s happening sooner than I expected. Future camping and hiking in unburned areas may need to be approached as I would an elder not expected to live much longer, with deeper than normal appreciation for what has been shared and loved and anticipation that it may not be there next year. When I worked with dying people years ago as a therapist, I considered the experience of anticipatory grief important (when one was fortunate enough to have time left for it), an occasion that allowed a period to honor the past and prepare for a future without the beloved. I can’t know which places will go and when but in the sureness that time will likely take them all eventually, I can’t help thinking (already I do this) that every visit could be my last to an intact locale. Of course, I could die before it does, but that comes to the same thing.

“The Dixie Fire has made a significant impact on park viewsheds and the visitor experience. However, fire is an integral part of the ecosystems in this resilient, volcanic landscape. A forest leveled by Lassen Peak eruptions more than 100 years ago and another affected by the 2012 Reading Fire tell the story of nature’s continuous cycle of regeneration and renewal.” ~ Lassen Volcanic National Park https://www.nps.gov/lavo/planyourvisit/upload/2021-LAVO-Guide-Post-Fire-1Oct2021.pdf

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