I didn’t realize how closely associated fire and flood could be… But then as I looked into things a little more I found that there was a third word being added to the mix that initially confused me even more: Straw. Specifically Rice Straw, but lets start with the fire.
So how is Ladybug Canyon? Unfortunately we really can’t say yet. With all the instability that a fire brings, a large region is still closed to all public access while the Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) team works the scene. We suspect that the 2 mile dirt trail we take to get to the river got hit pretty hard, so the hike to the river will likely be a bit hotter and a little less beautiful. But the bottom of the river canyon (where we spend the most time) should recover quickly, since most of the vegetation is seasonal anyways – getting washed away during winter snow melt, and growing back in the spring. Unfortunately, the biggest problem isn’t actually anything to do with the areas we hike, but rather about the roads we use to get there.
When the SBS is high, not only is vegetation removed but also the stability of the soil structure can become compromised. This results in changes in the ability of the soil to absorb rain (like the water droplets in the image at right) and dissipate energy from rain water surface runoff.
So how do we minimize this potential damage? Clean out and inspect culverts and ditches, remove berms, add log erosion barriers, and aerial mulching.
Update Dec 4, 2014: With the recent storms that came through, the Aerial Mulching has been postponed until drier weather ((https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/article/4126/24828/)).
It looks like the King Burn area is going to be closed until the spring as they work to clear the hazards from the area, and shore up the hill sides (and especially the hill side roads) from significant damage from what will hopefully be a good water year, full of light regular rains and not a lot of deluges. In the mean time, we’re making plans as if we won’t have access to Ladybug canyon in 2015. So we’ve been actively exploring new canyoneering locations and have adjusted our office booking procedures to ensure we don’t run into any overcrowding in any of the remaining canyon’s that we’ll be canyoneering with youth groups in 2015.