Drought

by Jonah

Lake Arrowhead, CA

Yes, we’re still staying with Berck’s dad. A huge storm is supposed to roll in tonight, delaying us further. Berck wants to finish writing a letter against the cop in Lorena, who pulled us over to search us, and has been studying court cases and the Texas penal code to gather ammunition. Apparently, this is a rather common thing, and the ACLU is interested in hearing testimony about them. That and he’s reading the prequel to The DaVinci Code, mainly because it takes place in Rome and describes all the sites Berck visited while he was there. He’s spent the last two days in bed all day reading.

I walked down to the lake today. The town of Lake Arrowhead wraps around the lake, houses stacked up the sides of the mountains, and a labyrinth of roads connecting them all. It’s a private lake, meaning that only people who own water access are allowed to launch boats. It’s tricky to get down to the lake at all, but I found a couple of trails that wound between properties so that people who live further up the hillside can still get down to the water.

At least, that’s the way it used to be. The lake has dropped something like 20 feet, so there’s nothing but a steep, muddy slope if you want to reach the water’s edge. All the surrounding houses have docks that end in mid-air, far above the water. They’ve solved that by attaching temporary floating docks down at lake level. Some company probably made a killing installing those.

Right now the business is tree cutting. The huge pine trees are suffering from the same drought that emptied the lake. The trees are infested with a pine beetle that burrows into the tree. Usually, the tree can protect itself by secreting a protective barrier of sap. But if the tree can’t get enough water, it can’t produce enough sap. The beetles have been killing trees by thousands. Even trees by the water’s edge are dying. So the brown trees have to be cut down before they fall on someone or exacerbate a forest fire.


That’s exactly what happened this summer. The mountains around Lake Arrowhead are still black.

So the tree cutting business has been booming. I watched a cutter in someone’s yard cinched up to the trunk of a huge pine, his heel spikes dug into its sides. From the top, he cut the trunk into two and a half foot pieces with a chain saw, hung the chain saw from his belt, and then pushed the disassociated log from its home. It crashed to the yard below. Then the man worked his way down the trunk until he was another two and a half feet from the top of this shrinking stump and began cutting again.

I passed another house where a tree had been felled in bigger sections, but no one had bothered to remove them. They just lay there, semi stacked, the remnants of a split-rail fence beneath them.

No one knows how long the drought will last or how many trees will die. The folks who live up here are worried about the town’s water supply, as we found out at supper last night. We ate at the Royal Oak with Roy and Edith, an older couple with whom Carol Ann is required to have supper every Tuesday night. Roy is a retired car dealer…he used to sell Roll Royces. He’s also a Republican, which Carol Ann does her best not to hold against him. He’s retired now but very actively involved in local politics. Edith thought we were both precious and made us to promise to stop by for drinks if we passed back through.

Berck is demanding the computer now, so that’s all.

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