Nature’s Fury

On January 4, 2018, a harsh dose of winter fell over New England. People prepared as storm predictions of significant snow and bitter cold were broadcast. Most shopped for food, but the warning also saw gas lines and shortages. Absolute freezing temps, snow accumulation, floods and rising tides wreaked havoc along the seaports. Water mains were bursting everywhere. Our own area saw up to five breaks and it only got worse. DPWs were stretched thin, working in extreme conditions. Our house is connected to one of the oldest mains in our town and thankfully water in our home was restored after two days. Some were not so lucky. Being prepared in any way possible is something we need to do. Water is precious when you don’t have it. Honestly though, our situation was small in comparison to some.

January 4, 2018. From my window.

My thoughts have been all over the map lately, but especially thinking of my former home, the nearby city of Ventura, and also Santa Barbara County. Montecito’s devastating mudslides saw the 101 freeway unrecognizable with lives and homes lost in a river of mud and debris. So tragic. In 2005 I remember making a stop in the town of La Conchita (not far from there) to pay respects to the people killed in a landslide. Sad thoughts all around.

My California experience in a heavy rain season happened in ’04-’05. At that time I did not understand the magnitude of rain in that region so I’ll take from it the consequences and accept responsibility for the results of my actions which left a few marks on the landscape. Riding mostly mountain bikes at the time, the Santa Monica Range offered a lot, and close to home Sycamore Canyon was my favorite place to ride.

Top of Overlook on a beautiful day

Any chance I got was spent with a fanny pack full of art supplies traversing up and down the hillsides enjoying beautiful views and exceptional riding. I really loved venturing off by myself for quiet solitude and late day sun over the ocean.

The mountains and canyons became stunning shades of greens, purple, blues and oranges. One such visit was to hit the canyon early for a quick ride up Backbone and down Overlook with just a “little rain” in the forecast. About three quarters of the way up the trail, light drops formed on my glasses prompting me to quicken my pace and look forward to the fast fire road descent down the Overlook fire road.

’05. The 101 freeway at Sycamore. Camping/trails parking left across from picnic area at bend in road.

On this day, thunder and lighting caught me completely off guard. I’ve mostly experienced extremes of this nature on the east coast. Panic set in after catching a glimpse of the turbulent ocean and surrounding area — atop a small mountain, with not a person or car in sight–empty lot and beach far below. The clay soil was giving way beneath me, encasing my bike in quicksand-like mud. I was never so scared, cringing all the way, trying my best to keep negative thoughts out of my head. Being struck by lightning was one of them. My family had no clue where I was. It was a lonely feeling. Perilously sliding down the canyon on and off bike, an eternity of  time seemed to go by before finally managing to make it out. I was covered, bruised and unrecognizable, but in one piece. Wrapping myself in a blanket with no concern of my car because the impossible task of washing was not going to happen, I shivered all the way home wondering what if… I’ve always been respectful of Santa Ana winds and Red Flag Warning, but today I had not noticed.  It could have cost me my life.

Hope and prayers to all everywhere, that you are safe as we continue to live through uncertain times. Be respectful of nature and be prepared as best you can. And hug the ones you’re with.

January 2004 sketch from Sycamore Cove beach on a bright day

2004 sketch from home, Camarillo

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