Sunday, November 6, 2016

After the fire's been over a month now since the big wildfire on South Vandenberg Air Force Base. They still have signs up at the gate saying no outdoor recreation...can't say if that's because of the fire or the pending launch of the SLC-3 Atlas V with Worldview IV onboard, waiting for it's ride into space (hopefully TODAY!). The no rec signs were up a good week before Worldview's pending launch over a month ago, which was scrubbed due to a malfunctioning fueling valve. They postponed it a week, and then the fire happened 2 days before it's new date cancelling that until further notice. I'm HOPING if Worldview launches today they will remove the signs and let me back in there on my Mt Southbase ride goes right thru the burn area up on Avery Ridge over towards SLC-8 (an old pad that has nothing left but the actual concrete pad...the buildings and towers are long gone).

I did however drive up Arguello Rd last Friday and took some pictures of the carnage along one of my road ride loops. It's hard to reckon the land I knew with what's left. The soil on most of the base is pretty much sand, and over the years lots of various trees, shrubs and such have thrived in this pathetic topsoil layer. That's ALL gone now over a significant portion of Soutbase (over 12,000 acres worth). Now what's left is scorched sand and black sticks poking up out of the sand. The Manzinita chaparral is a very tough and THICK type of shrub/bush that grows like MAD in the sands of the base. It's branches are quite tough and pretty thick near the ground. It is typically SO thick that I can't fathom how the hordes of deer we have on the base can move whatsoever. But deer are amazing animals and they make the Vandenberg chaparral their home in vast numbers.

So anyway...without further adieu, here are some of the pictures I took (note: if you click on any picture it will open up in a much larger format, and you can then scroll thru all the pics via the icons at the bottom of that screen).

This is what the terrain looks like when it's NOT burned. Notice how THICK it can figure the brush is at least waist high and above. Like I said...pretty impenetrable...I can't even see how deer run thru this but they do.

Compare this picture with the first one. This looked the same until the fire.Notice the dirt...nothing but sand. And there's already some green grass coming up (it's been over a month since the fire, AND we had rain a week ago). 

To my eyes, the burnt areas look a lot like the old B&W photos from WWI and WWII...the burnt-crisp and bombed out areas of France, Belgium and Germany. So I've included a few in B&W.

This one shows what's left of some power can tell how hard they fought the fire here (with water-dropping helo's and slurry bombers) as evidenced by how much is remaining of the Manzinita areas where it burned unabated there's only a few sticks standing out of the sand. Here they're dead but pretty much must missing the leaves. And yet the power poles still burned.

Another B&W shot...this one reminds me pictures I've seen of the battlefields of Okinawa. 

Same shot but in color. I kind of like the B&W!

Even amid the devastation there are pockets of life. Not sure if this shrub will live but the fact that it still has leaves shows it was somehow spared the heat of the fire. Amazing!

This is a B&W shot of trees on a ridgeline. Not much between me and the trees...pretty crazy! It will be a long while before nature rebuilds this land.

Same shot of the trees in color.

This is Tranquillion Peak (or as it's commonly referred to, Tran Peak). Kind of hard to tell from the picture, but the ENTIRE hillside burned. They must have fought like MAD to save the buildings at the top (it's where they do the high-speed video of the launches from). The trees all look to be dead or dying, they must have taken some good heat. The hillside is nothing but scorched black. I really want to get up there and take a closer look sometime soon, whether by bike or car.

This is heading down Egress Road (a common descent of my Southbase road rides). 

LOVE this shot...I think it's my fav of the entire bunch. Definitely got the WW devastation thing going on.

Same basic view as the last pic, just a bit further north on the edge of the hill (and also zoomed in a bit).

Further north from the last 2 shots showing the vast nothingness that's left.

I'm thinking if we get any decent amount of rain this winter things will be pretty ugly in the burn area. This is nothing but sand.

Another view looking north heading down Egress Road. This is getting close to the northern boundary of the fire, as you can see trees and green at the bottom of that hill in the distance.

My OTHER favorite shot...this one has some sun glare coming in from the upper left, and the large burned tree surrounded by toasted shrubs. Definitely no-mans-land. I can just picture waves of soldiers running thru this hell on earth terrain, bravely charging the entrenched enemy.

A little panorama showing the little dip-climb on the descent of Egress Rd. There are areas on no-burn surrounded by total loss areas. Strange how fire works.

And this is another B&W no-mans-land shot. It blows my mind how sad this land all looks now, and how long it will take to get much other than grasses to grow here. However, I do see a HUGE opportunity to maybe make some new Mt bike trails. With the scrub-brush all gone, I could ride pretty much ANYWHERE I soon as they let me back in there I mean (which is MAYBE why they're not letting me back in there...that is a distinct possibility).

And looking at, there's no information about the Worldview IV launch that was SUPPOSED to be today...which I take it to mean that it's STILL sitting in the tower, darn it! That bird has GOT TO GO if they're EVER going to let me back mt biking on Southbase! And I can't even find any info on when it's next scheduled to try.

And with that I bid you good day. Oh, and Susie, if you're out there, so very sorry about your Terps yesterday...sadly the NCAA polls require teams to not only win, but to CRUSH their opponents. We're seeing HUGE blowouts all the time these days...cuz it counts a lot more than 'just a win'. I'm not a fan, but not sure how to change the system. Ol' Blue is having a pretty fantastic season tho (please don't JINX me on that football gods!) They still need to beat Ohio State (in Ohio) after Thanksgiving...that will be their real test this year! IF they can win that game, they'll have a real shot to play Alabama for the National Championship (assuming THEY don't collapse before the end of their season). 



  1. OK! Worldview IV is scheduled to fly THIS Friday at 10:30am (PST)...the launch window is open until's a link to the story:

    HOORAY! Now if it only FLIES on schedule this time! Keep your fingers crossed!

  2. flew! Right on schedule into partly cloudy skies...a perfect launch! I might even try to slip in a MTB ride on Southbase this Sunday...we'll see how busy I feel (still working on painting the entire inside of the house...that's a HUGE job). Happy Veterans day everybody!

  3. Wow. You made me say wow. Tran Peak! I spent most every Friday for two years up would be a wild treat to someday ride all over Vandenberg. I was eighteen! dang...feeling old these days


  4. Wow you WORKED at Tran Peak! I ride up there a few times a year (each time I seem to forget how HARD it is getting up there...those 15% grade sections really get your attention!)