The Great Valley Oak Death Rattle, Fish Creek Camp

‘Tis yet another devastating blow.

Like the death of the live oak of Mono Narrows Camp. The immolation by wildfire of the disjunct relictual stand of Ponderosa pine along Dry Lakes Ridge. And so too the palisades of tall timber that once stood around Happy Hollow atop Little Pine Mountain.

All dead. And so the places will never be the same in my lifetime. The end of it all, as I knew it.

The trees were defining features of the land and experience. They lent ambiance to settings where they stood for which there is no substitute.

Certain places out there in Condor National Forest are important to us because of, in part or entirely, the kind and arrangement of plants. Plants are elemental to land’s character. They are the reason why these places are even known to us as they are and why we visit. Otherwise there’d be no attraction to capture our attention or soothe our souls.

The creekside grassy hollow surrounded by trees is a place always attractive to humans and has its own special word we all know, meadow.

Unlike the same-sized patch of uninterrupted and dense chaparral, which does nothing for us but perhaps trigger fear and loathing in some. 

To the extent that a defining feature is lost that place loses its essential character. It is no longer the same, but something else. 

In the case of Fish Creek Camp the place will be something much less when the great oak falls.

I loitered at the camp before moving on, because the tree makes it a very nice place to spend time and I always stop when in the neighborhood. And that’s when I heard it.

I could not place the sound at first, didn’t know what it was or where it came from. I thought for a moment it was an animal. Then I found it. It was the old oak groaning.

A large crack had ripped through the grey-white sapwood long exposed on one side of the tree, which is hollow at its base enough for a child or small adult to crawl into.

Every so often in the light breeze a deep and resonant, ominous pop would issue from somewhere within the tree.

I wonder when it fall.

The place will never be same.

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2 Responses to The Great Valley Oak Death Rattle, Fish Creek Camp

  1. Chester says:

    This makes me sad.

  2. Rod Nielsen says:

    This past November my friends and I camped at the Mono campground and were so disheartened to see so many of the shade providing oaks dead or dying.
    Seems like the willows might be drinking up the limited amount of water that fell in 2021.

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