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Grand Canyon National Park slices the Colorado Desert like a deep, open wound, the Colorado River flowing freely like a severed artery. Teetering on the South Rim, I imagined the canyon’s visitors as something akin to being medically corrupt-a throng of grunge surgeons hovering above the imposing gash.
The backfiring operation was put into action when, yesterday [August 17], the fire became established on the southern flank in both Agua Caliente and Diablo Canyons and an increased threat to our densely populated areas. Tonight officials from the incident command post said today’s back firing strategies went according to plan.
The Santa Barbara County Sheriffs Department and fire authorities have issued an “EVACUATION WARNING” for East Camino Cielo Road from Gibraltar Road east to the Ventura County Line including Gibraltar Reservoir and Jameson Lake. Residents of these areas should consider what they need to take and be prepared to leave upon notice of the Sheriff’s Department, as they may not be able to come back to retrieve personal items due to potentially rapidly changing fire conditions.
Just off Highway 33, as you enter the upper Cuyama Valley, a dirt road cuts across the river leading to the Tinta OHV (off-highway vehicle) route and Rancho Nuevo Canyon, a part of the Dick Smith Wilderness. In a few days, this area will be fired out along the Cuyama River northwest to Santa Barbara Canyon. The fire is getting that close.
Since kayaking is a favorite mode of travel of mine, I was curious about exploring Salton Sea, California’s largest inland lake, which sits 228 feet below sea level in the Colorado Desert. Not dissuaded by its occasional piercing sulphuric stench, schools of dead fish, or stinging sandstorms, I drove up to its eastern shore and unloaded my gear, before paddling six miles southeast to a sparsely advertised kayak camp known as Salt Creek.