Along the Paraná

Vacation Homes Along the Delta of the Paraná

I was talking to my friend Bill Korn a few minutes ago. When he happened to mention that there were massive fires in the delta of the Paraná River, I was shocked. I was familiar with the Paraná Delta, having taken a boat tour of the area in 2006 and 2015. I pulled up an article The Guardian, which described parts of the delta upriver from Tigre, around the city of Rosario: The area with which I was familiar was where the river feeds into the Rio de la Plata. It is an a weekend getaway for the residents of Buenos Aires that is densely vegetated, very pretty, but full of mosquitoes.

The Drainage Area of the River Paraná

The Paraná is the second longest river in South America. Its drainage area includes Argentina, all of Paraguay, and parts of Brazil and Bolivia. As you can see from the above map, Rosario is not far from Rosario, a city I went through on a night bus on the way to Puerto Iguazu, where the boundaries of Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina meet, The river is some 3,030 miles (4,800 km) long and is navigable for much of its length with several deep water ports along its length. In Puerto Iguazu, I dined on surubi, a fresh water fish caught on the river.

View from a Boat Ride on the Delta

I have been to Argentina three times and fallen in love with the country. I hope that, what with Argentina mired in the coronavirus, they manage to save some of the beautiful places I have seen. It is along the river that much of Argentina’s Yerba Mate crop is grown. I remember from that bus ride passing through almost a hundred miles of fields where the tea leaves are grown.

 

California Burning

Scene from the Tick Fire

Today, as Martine and I returned from the Eastern Sierras, we passed where the Tick Fire jumped the Highway 14 Freeway and turned the wooden posts holding up the steel guardrails into a line of torches. We also looked toward the summit of a hill and saw a ruined mansion which had been burned to a crisp. The traffic slowed to a crawl as the motorists stared at the devastation—and this was just the southern boundary of a fire that had scorched 4,600 acres (1,862 hectares) as of a couple hours ago.

As we drove south, we weren’t 100% certain that Highway 14 (the Antelope Valley Freeway) was open to southbound traffic. It was only when we drove into Mojave for lunch that we were relieved we didn’t have to go by way of Tehachapi and Bakersfield to Interstate 5, which would have added more than an hour to an already long ride.

The climate change which so many nincompoops deny seems to be turning the Golden State into charcoal.

Martine and I live in the flatlands of Los Angeles, which are not susceptible to brush fires. It’s bad enough, however, to have one’s lungs filled with fine ash. It makes me sneeze so hard that I burst the capillaries in my nose and have to cope with a stubborn nosebleed.

 

Who Will Hold Back the Floods of Change?

A Forest of Dead Trees Killed by the Pine Bark Beetle

The following is a reprint from an Autumn 2009 post to my blog site on the late, unlamented Multiply.Com.

I first became aware of the problem in 2003, especially at Bandolero State Monument in northern New Mexico. For mile after mile, Martine and I saw dead forests with dry brown pine needles. When I asked a park ranger what was the matter, I heard for the first time about the pine bark beetle and its many relatives, which has been ravaging the forests of the Rocky Mountains in the United States and Canada.

There are approximately 220 genera comprising some 6,000 species of bark beetle. Trees which are healthy due to normal rain tend to be resistant to beetle attacks; but in areas of prolonged drought, the trees are successfully attacked and end up as tinder dry skeletons, waiting for a spark to set off a giant conflagration.

As weather patterns change, I see bad times coming for the drought areas of North America. We have already seen the worst year in recorded history for brush fires in Southern California—and they are still raging in San Bernardino County [in 2009]. While these are unrelated to the ravages of bark beetles, they are all part of a new pattern that will result in massive changes to the type of vegetation growing in the mountainous areas of the Southwest. Gone will be the giant pines, to be replaced by fast-growing trees that can withstand the increasing heat and dryness of the region. What these forests will look like is anybody’s guess.

I realize as I write this that one result of living a long life is to mourn the changes from the world of our youth. I remember the cathedral-like stateliness of the elms at Dartmouth College—all fallen prey to Dutch Elm Disease. The American South has been overrun by kudzu and other non-native plants. The face of the earth is changing, but, alas, our memory is still there. And with photography, we have a record of the world of the recent past.

But what of the massive forests of the 18th and 19th centuries, with flocks of millions of passenger pigeons and huge herds of bison. Read Chateaubriand’s novels Atala and René and the works of naturalist William Bartram for a picture of America’s interior that you will not recognize today.

Montaigne’s words on mutability in his Apology for Raymond Sebond come to mind as I think about this subject:

And we and our judgment and all mortal things else do uncessantly roll, turn, and pass away. Thus can nothing be certainly established, nor of the one nor of the other, both the judging and the judged being in continual alteration and motion. We have no communication with being, for every human nature is ever in the middle between being born and dying, giving nothing of itself but an obscure appearance and shadow, and an uncertain and weak opinion. And if, perhaps, you fix your thought to take its being, it would be even as if one should go about to prison the water; for how much the more he shall close and press that which, by its own nature, is ever gliding, so much the more he shall loose what he would hold and fasten. Thus, seeing all things are subject to pass from one change to another, reason, which therein seeketh a real subsistence, finds herself deceived as unable to apprehend anything subsistent and permanent, forsomuch as each thing either cometh to a being and is not yet altogether, or beginneth to die before it be born.

Then I ask myself, “Is this as dire as it seems, or is it all just part of life?”

In Tofino, next to Jamie’s Whaling Station on Campbell Street, there is a huge cedar which is buttressed with steel and held standing by massive cables. It is called the Eid Cedar, after an early resident, and is determinedly protected by the ecology-conscious locals. Will this be the fate of the great Ponderosa and Lodgepole Pines of the Rockies? Will they be watered by irrigation and protected by a plastic shield from voracious bark beetles? Who will hold back the floods of change?

No one.

The Death of P-64

Mountain Lion P-64 Survives Woolsey Fire, Dies Weeks Later

Yes, there are actually mountain lions in the Los Angeles Metropolitan Area. Unfortunately, the recent Woolsey Fire in Malibu led to the death of mountain lion P-64. All the mountain lions have been tagged with GPS collars; and their whereabouts are tracked by rangers with the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. P-64 was nicknamed “Culvert Cat” because he was known to use culverts to cross the two freeways (U.S. 101 and California 118) that crossed his territory between and Santa Monica and Santa Susanna Mountains.

Although P-64 was still in action when the Woolsey Fire was contained, his body was found with burnt paws subsequent to that announcement.

When Martine and I visited Banff National Park in Saskatchewan, we noticed that at several points along the main access road, there were bridges for wildlife to cross in safety. Trip wires connected to video cameras have enabled wildlife authorities to determine how just how successful these bridges have been. I can imagine it will be snowing in hell before American politicians commit any funds to do the same here. Perhaps they could be induced to cross the freeway during rush hour to show how it could be done.

The Brown Area in the NASA Photo Above Shows the Massive Extent of the Woolsey Fire in Northwest LA County

Although dwellers in Malibu would not agree with me, I get a thrill when I see a coyote or a mountain lion near where I live—but then I don’t have any dogs or cats that could be eaten by natural predators.

 

Malibu Up My Nose

This Is What I Have Been Breathing for Weeks

Take a deep breath: You will notice a certain burnt flavor to the air, because it is full of ashes … from brush, from houses, from unfortunate pets and wild critters, and from God knows what all. When the devil wind blows in the autumn, it doesn’t take much to turn Malibu into a charnel house. It’s not so much the trees that burn as the underlying brush, which thereupon sends up flaming embers that land on roofs hundreds of feet away. And when one house goes up in smoke, there’s a good chance that surrounding structures will as well.

All evening, I have been blowing my nose constantly, turning several handkerchiefs into soppy messes. There have been times in the past when this constant sneezing and nose-blowing is the prelude to a nasty cold. I hope that this is not one of those instances. I got my flu shot six days ago, and I am not sure it is protecting me just yet.

I often wonder why people want to live in Malibu. There is only one real highway in and out, with a couple of mountain routes that connect California Route 1 to the San Fernando and Conejo Valleys. There is something to be said for a nice ocean view, but the people who could afford to live there get pretty blasé about the view after a few weeks. And there is a near certainty of destruction by fire or flood over a period of several decades. I suppose it is one of the things people do “because they can.” Regardless how stupid it is in the long run.

 

On Fire—Again!

Firefighters Battling Flames in the Woolsey Fire

Consider this a recipe for disaster: High winds blowing from east to west, bone dry humidity, and large swaths of dry brush. The result? One of the giant fires that sweep through California destroying trees, brush, and houses. Martine and I have been sneezing all night from the accumulation of ash in the air. Tomorrow, my car will probably be covered with a thin layer of the stuff, because I am parked in a carport rather than a closed garage.

Please let me begin by assuring you that I do not live in a zone that is susceptible to brush fires. The people whose housing is threatened are, generally speaking, wealthy. Such top-drawer areas as Malibu, Bell Canyon, Calabasas, Agoura, and West Hills have been requested to evacuate their homes. Those who don’t are in danger of burning to a crisp with all their possessions.

I don’t sympathize much with the home-owners so much as I do with the poor firefighters. Combating these blazes is like working overtime in hell. In addition to the local fire departments, many prisoners and professional brush fire fighters are involved.

As many houses are destroyed will be rebuilt, paid for with insurance money. In a few years, during another drought, they will go up in flames again. And again. And again.