…another visit to Simpson Camp…
A lucky person finds his or her special Eden. In my case, it is a place where the only sounds are of soughing pines and the occasional cry of a hawk, where the passing air is fragrant and fresh, where views stretch from my feet to forever, where memories are rich and fulfilling, where decades dissolve each time I visit.
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The old sheep camp near Mendocino Pass is that place for me.
In the 60s, our family met up with the sheep man’s clan for long weekends in the lost high country of the Coast Range.
An easily forgotten Jeep road wound away from the forest highway climbing to the top of a ridge that overlooked a sweeping glade and a distant stand of firs.
Mom and Ellie cooked on an abandoned Wedgewood.
When it came time to allow Mom her rest last year, this would be the place. We left her shillelagh – a hickory walking stick she'd purchased when visiting Ireland – under a fallen log on the off chance her spirit might want to hike over to the Yolla Bollys and catch up with Dad who’d had a twenty-five year head start.
Scanning up the meadow to the top of the ridge, a copse of oaks stood “like a Greek Chorus,” Dad had said all those many years before.
The 'chorus' still stood in 2020.
From the vantage point of this little grove, on a clear day, you can see the fog hugging the Pacific coast forty miles to the west and the crest of the Sierra 90-plus miles east. Eden indeed. Accompanied by my granddaughter and my nephew, I drove a stake into the ground in that stand of oaks. Eye contact with the two told me they knew why.
Then, on August 16, 2020, all hell literally broke loose. The word ‘literally’ is often misused – not in this case.
Folks at CalFire suggested that the August Complex fire started as a result of lightning strikes, but I wouldn’t be surprised if investigators ultimately found that the devil himself had slipped out of a fissure somewhere in eastern Glenn County and exhaled his damnable, fiery breath over 1,032,000 acres of mountain and range land. Large areas of the Yolla Bolly and Yuki Wilderness would be burned. And my little Eden lay smack in the middle of the largest wildfire California had ever experienced.
On a Monday in April 2021, we decided to revisit Simpson Camp, see what survived and maybe grab Mom’s stick. Here’s what we found.
Turnoff to Simpson Camp – May 2020:
Turnoff to Simpson Camp – April 2021:
View up the glade – May 2020:
View down the glade – April 2021:
Simpson Camp kitchen – circa 1966:
Simpson Camp kitchen – April 2021:
Ash from Mom’s hickory shillelagh:
The fire roared through the treetops and turned the grasses and skunk cabbage and understory to ash…
…revealing artifacts (read: refuse) from earlier days…
…including a church-keyed Coors can…
… and a remnant of the old Wedgewood.
The trek up the hill would prove melancholy. The beauty of my Eden was gone.
Or was it? At the top of the hill, that copse of oaks was in the process of budding out. And a little white fir had joined the chorus.
Taking a closer look…
Simpson Camp’s rebirth may be slow, and it may be painful but I’m thinking I’ll be close by to monitor things.
Church of the Open Road Press