In October, I participated in a landmark experience in the Klamath Mountains, sketching prescribed/cultural burning as part of the Klamath TREX training event. I met so many amazing people and watched such dedicated and skilled fire practitioners; I am filled with gratitude. I was there with a group of talented and highly experienced nature journalers: John Muir Laws, Laura Cunningham, Laurie Wigham, Marley Peifer, Miriam Morrill, and Fiona Gillogly. The training was hosted by the Karuk Tribe and the Mid Klamath Watershed Council and our participation was thanks to support by The Nature Conservancy and Bureau of Land Management.
Miriam was the guiding force that made all of this happen, and I accompanied her to the site a day early to scout locations and prepare for the workshop. Everything was made more dramatic by the PG&E power shutdowns that week in response to high winds. We drove up on Wednesday 10/9 and spent the first night in our hotel with no power. Flashlights and battery packs to the rescue!
The next morning, we set out to visit some of the planned burn sites and other good spots to journal from. The Karuk Tribe and TNC obtained an unprecendented exemption from the statewide ban on burning, since the conditions in this area were entirely within acceptable burning parameters.
Learning about measuring moisture content in the forest and about what to expect when observing fire the next day:
A map of the burn sites we will visit over the next two days and some more details about Bull Pine, tomorrow’s site:
The next day, 10/10, we started out early at the daily briefing for the TREX participants and then went out to the Bull Pine site to watch final preparations for the burn that day. We got to see the checks of moisture conditions using the tools we had observed the day before.
Finally, at about 11:00 am, the conditions were right and the This was our first experience with live fire, watching the cultural/prescribed burn. It was such a thrill to see the drip torches prepared and follow the flames and smoke as they moved away from us into the forest. An inspiration to see #goodfire given back to the community.
Watching the eerie tree shadows cast by the flames and following air movement in the patterns of the smoke:
In the afternoon, we were given an inspiring talk by Margo Robbins, the President of the Cultural Fire Council of the Yurok Tribe, about how fire maintains all of the plants that are important for basketry and other cultural practices. She showed us the progression of a couple of nearby sites that are burned twice a year and how the basketry plants look as they regrow.
Bill Tripp, the Deputy Director of Eco-Cultural Revitalization for the Karuk Tribe, met with us at an overlook in the late afternoon to talk about the history and significance of cultural burning. He also gave us an overview of Karuk cultural geography and the importance of the landforms around us.
From where we stood with Bill, we could see the smoke rising from Bull Pine, the site we observed at the beginning of the day. It was a great way to learn more about smoke and its behavior in the atmosphere as it encounters warmer and cooler air layers. It was the perfect way to make the day come full circle.