Camarillo Springs Fire, One Year Later

Today is the year anniversary of the Camarillo Springs Fire. This is a recap of my experience, from evacuation and an uneasy (but free) Thursday, to celebration of fire fighters and first responders.

Panorama taken from West Ponderosa in Camarillo.

Panorama taken from West Ponderosa in Camarillo.

Quick recap

The Springs Fire started just after 7 a.m. Thursday, May 2, 2013. It burned over 24,000 acres in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area: from the 101 to the Pacific Ocean, from Satwiwa and Point Mugu to Sandstone Peak. It burned through vegetation and over soil I had trod before and have trod since.

Map of Camarillo Springs Burn Area

Green is where I lived. Yellow are places I frequent. The bright red is where the fire started.

Some people just want to watch the world burn

Others just want to leave when things are burning.

I woke up that morning to a text reading, “FIRE?!?!?!?!” and thought, “What.” I turned over, looked out the window, and:

Camarillo Springs Fire view from my bed

Good morning!

At the time I lived on campus at California State University (CSU) Channel Islands (CI). I also worked as a Resident Assistant (RA). We had trained for fires in housing—popcorn bags in microwaves and fire extinguishers—but never expected a wildfire encircling the entire campus.

Having grown up with basic disaster training, I grabbed some essentials essentials—passport, birth certificate, social security card, medication, laptop, phone, chargers, wallet. During a quick shower I was called down to the common area for an emergency housing meeting.

It’s uncomfortable to breathe

At the meeting we learned there was a mandatory evacuation. We made sure all housing staff was okay, went through the evacuation and room check procedure, and how to check in with residents afterward.

By this point—10 or 11 a.m.—flames were near or on campus, and smoke and ash was making it hard to breathe.

The housing team was prepared, calm, and had full support from division administration. There were between 1000 and 1200 residents in housing and an hour later they were all gone. Which was great; I am proud to have been part of that team.

Smoke over the CI campus

Smoke over the CI campus, taken from Laguna between Lewis and Las Posas.

But also literally nuts!

Like, none of us were sure whether or not the school would be there the next day. If we would have places to live. What would burn. Where the fire would go.

Some people packed two, three, four suitcases and needed help getting to their cars, which like. No. A few friends tried to go back for one of their fish, which also, like. No.

CI hillside from after the fire

This was taken a day or two after the fire from probably five steps out of my room. Flames could have easily jumped this street. WTF.

A fire day is like a SoCal snow day, right!

The stress of the semester was coming to a climax. Graduation was two or three weeks away. I had continually over promised and under delivered on my capstone project; there were a handful of other essays, which I pushed off to the last minute; there were final events to plan, living arrangements to make, and the entire future of my life to consider.

This fire ended up being a mini-vacation.

I ran into my mom at Starbucks, my dad ten minutes later, and probably twenty other students and people from the school throughout the day. I drank at a friends, drank in Ventura with sociology friends, and drank at a friend’s again.

Camarillo Springs Fire from Ventura

You could still see the Camarillo Springs Fire from Ventura.

Fuck yeah fire fighters

Seriously.

The fire moved deeper into the Santa Monica Mountains, switched back toward Newbury Park, and ultimately burned over 24,000 acres. Very few structures were damaged, no buildings were destroyed, and no one died. It’s fucking impressive what the fire fighters and other response agencies did.

The campus and housing did not burn down.

That was amazing. It is still amazing.

My birthday that weekend I was lovingly kidnapped by coworkers to get Mexican food, had three hours of housing meetings, beer with a good friend, and a shot of Patron.

Kidnapped for Mexican Food

I took this picture using assistive touch on the iPhone.

Turn down the heat, turn up the celebration

The week after the fire, there was a rally in support of and in appreciation for the fire fighters and first responders. The Ventura County Fire Chief was awarded some kind of plaque at our commencement, and it was really so awesome. When he was announced literally everyone stood up in applause. (So strange right now, I’m tearing up in a terminal at LAX thinking and writing about this.)

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Fire, it’s natural, but damn

Charred manzanitas and warped aluminum cans still sit in the burn area. Wildflowers and green things sprouted up for the first time after the final two rains this season, and already the summer brown is returning. Fires are dotting around California again.

Regrowth on Potrero

Plants are growing back on Potrero Road.

I am glad and grateful that university, county, state, federal government, and other organizations had the resources and organization to respond so quickly. I am grateful that the campus didn’t burn and was impressed that CSU Chancellor Tim White visited the campus less than 24 hours after the start of the fire. I was so impressed and proud that the campus and housing was effectively and smoothly evacuated in an hour. Twitter, Facebook, and other Social Networking Sites were awesome as disaster response tools. State and federal park service agents and other nature volunteers have come together to protect thousands of acres of burned land and recover a disturbed ecosystem.

Any way the wind blows

Things could have happened so differently. What if the wind was stronger, or blew this way instead of that? What if buildings on campus weren’t roofed in Spanish-style tile? What if the housing team was less cohesive?

Don't hop the street!

Don’t touch the street, it’s lava!

But it happened this way and that’s totally fine.

So, stay safe, friends. Stay connected and aware. Help others when you can. Look out for yourself, look out for each other. I’ll do the same for you.

Resilience and toilet paper tubes

A perspective I’ve taken on lately is that life is a series of moments. A few of those moments happen in the bathroom. And in the bathroom sometimes there isn’t toilet paper.

Just an empty toilet paper roll.

Waiting and probably so useless as to whatever purpose you may have, or have already had, in the bathroom (unless, of course, you’re making binoculars).

This is where the following two toilet pictures were taken. Thought beautiful scenery would do some good.

(This is where the following two toilet pictures were taken.)

A mindful practice

Why is toilet paper so often shifted to the sink counter? Or to the toilet water tank? Why do toilet paper rolls sit empty next to their associated appliance? Spending that extra bit of time after scrambling around for the toilet paper, or having to rip the cardboard off the holder, is usually the last thing on my mind.

I mean, it used to be!

Be the change you want to see in the world.

This outhouse has an ample material supply for no-strength toilet paper roll binoculars.

This outhouse has an ample material supply for no-strength toilet paper roll binoculars.

I did remove the cardboard rolls!

Cardboard rolls, removed!

A couple years back, I committed to myself that whenever I see an empty toilet paper tube—at my place or a friend’s place—that I would remove the tube and put on the nearest roll.

A fertile commitment

Going from this commitment—which is as of yet iron clad in all reasonable circumstances—I started daily meditation, daily flossing, and daily poetry writing practices. Yes, some of my poems are like:

Tired
Here I am again
Use more time

And I’ve waited to the end of the day for meditation, fudged a bit on what counted as “meditation,” and maybe I forget to floss now-and-then. It’s okay though!

Home is where you sleep (and floss).

Home is where you sleep (and floss).

Let’s take a step back

A former supervisor of mine forgot to mention me in a congratulations ceremony once. I understood how that happens, but was confused and sore about it. While discussing it later, my supervisor said that they would never intentionally do anything to hurt me.

I turned that into what I call “a bedrock.” I trusted it completely, and really, I still do.

Toilet paper rolls as a bedrock?

Yes!

Toilet paper tubes are not the best replacement for tectonic plates or for what underlies arctic tundra. But! They are a surprising and lasting bedrock for inspiration and resilience. Especially resilience. Because, after all…

…if everything else goes to shit, I can still replace the toilet paper roll. (And go from there.)

Have a great series of moments today! Solidarity in life, friends.

"Solidarity Moss" is down for whatever!

“Solidarity Moss” is with you!

The Hugging Story

You know small, forgettable comments or things that happen, but actually hang around and affect your life for years?

For me, one of these moments has to do with hugging.

It changed how I approach hugs, how I think about things I say, and I realize now how much unknown impact you and I have. If we’ve hiked together, drank together, or otherwise hung out, this is one of the first stories I share.

It started at a crosswalk…

DSC00210 2

The summer before my first year of college, I went on an epic kayaking trip with fifteen other students, most of whom were also starting college. We bonded, kayaked, and even played an abstract, paperless version of tic-tac-toe[1].

A few months later, after grocery shopping[2], I ran into a friend from the trip at a crosswalk.

We hugged, of course.

Then she told me something like, “That was not a good hug. You should give better hugs.”

The next few years

I'm moving into a room.

This is actually from the start of my second year. Such young. Much short hair. Wow.

Hugs weren’t on my mind.

They weren’t a priority. I don’t remember if my hugs were skillful or unskillful. There was no self-reflection on hugging. I didn’t even remember the comment!

I have asked friends if they remember how I was. Most don’t remember but a few have said, “Yeah, Andy—you kind of were an awkward hugger.”

Hug reflection, it’s a thing

At some point in the past three years the crosswalk comment came back to me. More often after hugging, I began to consider how it went. Was I satisfied or could it have been better? Was it appropriate? How could it be changed?

I strove for improved hugs, fitting to whatever context.

La Jolla Valley

The world is so cool!

Anything can make a difference!

I’ve admired people who can wink well. I recall, and still smile, at smiles from unknown strangers.

I also remember words yelled out of car windows at me—and instances when I have spoken with or about others in hurtful, unskilled ways.

It has been almost ten years since the hug comment at that crosswalk. It bothered me—and inspired me—to take action and improve my hugs, which, based on years of reflection and increased participant-reported satisfaction, has arguably happened. (When I traveled to South Korea last summer, friends said they would miss me, but some said they might miss the “Andy Hug” more.)

Empowering other people to hug for me!

“I, Andy King, entrust Steven Jordan to greet and hug in my stead for the duration of my absence. 6/15/13.”

Questions

Because why not!

What small comments or actions have affected you? What small things have you done that affect others?

Could you make a small intention to take something you do daily and build positive change in whatever way from it?

Comment below, or post them elsewhere using #commonchange.

Have some awesome moments sometime soon!


  1. The traditional tic-tac-toe square is assigned numbered quadrants, starting with one in the top left and ending with nine in the bottom right. Two players say numbers turn-by-turn and you just imagine Xs and Os on the board. Try it sometime!  ↩

  2. I grocery shopped at La Jolla Village Square in La Jolla near UCSD. This shopping center has the most poorly designed parking lot of all time. It is even reviewed one star on Yelp!  ↩

March 2014 Playlist

This month I got most tracks from Blalock’s Indie Rock Playlist and a few from KCRW. This is also maybe the first time I could find them all on YouTube and put them in a playlist (embeded below the list). Hope that doesn’t mean I’m too mainstream (#hipster). I’ve put asterisks by my favorite tracks.

Andy's Mix March 2014

Groove out, chill, and connect with yourself, friends, and other loved ones to this playlist.

  1. Tobtok – Savanna (3:25)
    Tobtok Soundcloud. Tobtok Facebook. Tobtok Twitter.
  2. L W K Y – Higher (2:55)
    L W K Y Soundcloud. L W K Y Facebook.
  3. Alina Baraz & Galimatias – Pretty Thoughts (3:32)
    Alina Baraz Soundcloud. Alina Baraz Facebook.
    Galimatias Soundcloud. Galimatias Facebook.
  4. Odesza – Sun Models Feat. Madelyn Grant (2:40)
    Odesza website. Odesza Soundcloud. Odesza Facebook.
  5. * The Lijadu Sisters – Come On Home (5:17)
  6. Los Ángeles Azules – Cumbia Candelosa (2:44)
    Los Ángeles Azules website. Los Ángeles Azules Soundcloud. Los Ángeles Azules Facebook.
  7. MS MR – Dance Yrself Clean (4:34)
    MS MR website. MS MR Soundcloud. MS MR Facebook.
  8. Touch Sensitive – Slowments (7:03)
    Touch Sensitive Soundcloud. Touch Sensitive Facebook.
  9. Dena – Cash, Diamond Rings, Swimming Pools (Lou Teti Remix) (6:48)
    D E N A website. D E N A Soundcloud. D E N A Facebook.
    Lou Teti website. Lou Teti Soundcloud. Lou Teti Facebook.
  10. Sylvan Esso – Coffee (4:28)
    Sylvan Esso Soundcloud. Sylvan Esso Facebook.
  11. * Little Dragon – Klapp Klapp (3:37)
    Little Dragon Soundcloud. Little Dragon Facebook. Little Dragon Twitter.
  12. Mapei – Don’t Wait (3:35)
    Mapei Soundcloud. Mapei Facebook. Mapei Twitter.
  13. Airling – Ouroboros (4:30)
    Airling website. Airling Facebook. Airling Bandcamp.
  14. ANTHEMS – Up In Mine (3:45)
    ANTHEMS’ label’s Soundcloud. ANTHEMS Facebook. ANTHEMS Twitter.
  15. * Highasakite – Iran (4:07)
    Highasakite website. Highasakite Soundcloud. Highasakite Facebook.

Peace.

Backbone Trail Sunset

Backbone Trail in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area

Sandstone Peak View Jan 2014

View from Sandstone Peak, highest spot in the Santa Monicas and on the Backbone Trail.

I’ve been gathering together info on the Backbone Trail in the Santa Monica Mountains. It’s 67 miles and could be done in four days, with one 16 miler and one 25 miler. Backpacker Magazine has an awesome rundown, but was published some time ago.

Milage & Elevation

This information is based off of Andy M.‘s Backbone Trail Hike data on EveryTrail. I downloaded a .gpx file of it and loaded it in Adze, which is a GPS data editor for Mac. (You can grab the edited Backbone Trail data I used here, from my Dropbox.) If you have suggestions for other Mac GPS or trail programs, please let me know!

  1. Total: 67 miles. 18,497 feet climbed, 18,232 feet descended.
  2. Ray Miller trailhead to Circle X Ranch: 16 miles. 5158 feet climbed, 3089 feet descended.
  3. Circle X Ranch to Malibu Creek: 25 miles. 6541 feet climbed, 8127 feet descended.
  4. Malibu Creek to Musch Campground: 14 miles. 4900 feet climbed, 4013 feet descended.
  5. Musch Campground to Will Rogers State Historic Park: 12 miles. 1899 feet climbed, 3003 feet descended.

The NPS provides a west-to-east GPS guide, which shows different—but roughly the same—data. The distance is the same (67 miles), but cumulative ascent is 13,290 feet—more than 5000 feet lower than the data above.

Camps

The National Park Service has a brief guide to camping on the Backbone Trail; a lack of official sites makes thru-hiking the trail in one sitting a challenge. All of the campgrounds should have water and restrooms. I recommend calling each of the sites to double check on cost, conditions, and reservations.

  1. Night 1: Circle X Ranch ($2, 805-370-2300 x1702, 34.109681 / -118.935712). The NPS has a brochure about the site.
  2. Night 2: Malibu Creek State Park ($45 for 1 to 8 person tent-only site, reservation-only, 818-880-0367, 34.1033 / -118.7331)
  3. Night 3: Musch Trail Camp ($7, 8-sites, first-come, 310-455-2465, 34.10305 / -118.58443). This camp is near/part of Topanga State Park.

Weather and Seasons

Fall and winter are the most reliable seasons for good temperatures. Spring can also work, but sometimes it gets warm. Summer is reliably warmer and 25 miles with significant elevation variance in 80, 90+ F temps is not fun. Keep an eye on forecasts.

The NPS links to seven different forecast areas, so be sure to check the forecast site closest to the sections of trail you will be traveling each day.

  1. Day 1: Western area and inland west.
  2. Day 2: Inland west, inland central south, and inland central north.
  3. Day 3: Inland central north and inland eastern.
  4. Day 4: Inland eastern.

Other People and Resources!

There’s this dude who did it in one go and another dude who ran a lot of it.

The Ventura County Star ran a special on the Backbone Trail sometime in the past few years.

The NPS has a blog on their 2013 trip. Jeff Hester of SoCal Hiker put up a post on his blog planning a trip sometime in late 2013 or 2014. Casey Schreiner of Modern Hiker posted in 2011 about some final land acquisitions that almost complete the trail.

Maps and Map Pictures

The NPS has a Backbone Trail maps page with a brochure overview of the Backbone Trail system. They recommend the purchase of the following more detailed Tom Harrison maps:

  • Pt. Mugu State Park (Amazon)
  • Zuma-Trancas Canyon (Amazon)
  • Malibu Creek State Park (Amazon)
  • Topanga State Park (Amazon)

You can order them at the Tom Harrison Maps order page, which I did and they arrived completely fine. Or on Amazon using the links above; they are cheaper and can be shipped Amazon Prime, but I do not know if they are the most current editions.

The following pictures are from the Adze program mentioned above.

All of the Backbone Trail

Backbone Screenshot - all of it

Backbone Trail Day 1

Backbone Screenshot - Day 1

Backbone Trail Day 2

Backbone Screenshot - Day 2

Backbone Trail Day 3

Backbone Screenshot - Day 3

Backbone Trail Day 4

Backbone Screenshot - Day 4

Section Hiking

Instead of one sitting, it may be easier to do the entire trail in sections. In this case, any of the above resources can help, but Robert Stone’s guide to Day Hiking the Santa Monica Mountains is a great resource. At the end of the book he breaks down the trail into manageable sections.

Future Updates

I hope this is a useful starting resource for you! It is for me, at least. I will post updates on my trek to doing the trail, along with the actual trail trek. Let me know if it helps you, if you are planning to do the trail, or if you indeed do the trail—either in parts or sections.

Let’s run into each other sometime!

Danielson Ranch Multi Use Area Gate

A gate at the Danielson Ranch Multi Use Area. See ya out there!