The Camp Fire in November 2018 burned the site at Lake Concow Campground, near Chico, CA, where we hold Buckeye and Pathways: here is how we are moving with the changes. This page is where we will post updates.
As of late January, we are not sure how many people we will be able to host in 2019. If you are interested in joining us, set aside the same dates as we had planned on Pathways: May 8~14. By the first of March, we hope to announce what it will look like. It is highly likely that there will be at least a few dozen spots available to register for learning about fire ecology, for plant and animal tracking, and possibly for earthen building. We are taking this as an opportunity for us to learn how to observe and listen to the land, and may be inviting some folks experienced in west coast fire ecology.
Below is our letter to the community in January, which you may have already read as an email. It speaks to what we learned from visiting the land, and why we are running a minimal event this year.
From the Ashes
Hello, friends. Amid the wet winter tempest of coastal California, here in Pomo / Miwok lands, it’s a little challenging to imagine, to recall, the intensity of the fires in early November in our state. As many of you may know, Lake Concow Campground, where we hold Buckeye and Pathways for five years now, was in the burn zone of the ‘Camp Fire‘ this year. A Buckeye crew of us went to the Sierra Nevada foothills to visit just after the Winter Solstice in December, and have news to report, which feels belated, about the site and our plans this year. It’s taken us a while to figure out how to move with these big changes; thanks for your patience. There are still unknowns this year, but we are planning on being onsite May 8~14, the same dates as Pathways was intended. We will be a smaller group this year, listening for what land tending is needed and offering a few classes focussed around fire ecology. A modest registration will open in early March. Keep reading for the juicy details…
The photo above is from the headwaters that feed the reservoir, (which you can see in the distance), where the fire moved quickly from ridge top to ridge top, and for the most part burned very hot. Lake Concow is muddier right now than we have seen it, as the rains are washing soil downhill.
The photos below are at the campground, where the effects were complex, and, in our understanding, beneficial in many ways. Only a few of the tall pines, oaks, and madrones were severely scorched. In several places, low, thick brush, was burned out. As many of you know, this is healthy for the ecosystem ~ to clear out the dead fuel load that has accumulated in so many places due to fire suppression and lack of intergenerational human tending.
Most of the structures on the land did burn: the ’roundhouse’, the stage, the community house up top, most of the trailers and vehicles onsite, some of the pit toilet bathrooms, and a Buckeye trailer full of mostly kitchen gear. Here is our page of photographs from the Camp Fire at and around Lake Concow.
Lake Concow Campground is stewarded by a partnership of families, all of whom had pretty major losses, including, for some of them, their homes offsite. Like thousands of folks in Butte County, they are now in whatever temporary living conditions that they can find during the housing crunch. There is a hopeful and proactive sentiment in the air though, for instance in securing a grant already to repair the water systems. Many of you know Monica and Carl, who live down the road and turned us on to Lake Concow five years ago. Sadly, their place burned pretty hot and they lost a treasured home and several structures, hand built with love and skilled craft. This all speaks to where the grief, quite real throughout the region this winter, lies: in the human losses, in the loss of -home-, and in the impact of toxic remains of human industrial production running into the watersheds and into the soils.
For Buckeye and Pathways as annual events, the timing of the fire is auspicious. We had just announced a Chrysalis year, a hiatus from the main week of Buckeye to just focus on Pathways, take a rest, and do some internal re-visioning. We have spent the subsequent months ruminating on what to do with the week that we set aside for Pathways, May 8-14. Thanks to the numerous folks who offered to host us, or help us find a new spot this year! Despite this generosity, it has been an easy decision to return to the lake, to the little creek that roars now and gurgles in the summer, to our ongoing relationships with that place. It’s also more than we want to bite off to move our whole operation to a new site, especially with our loss of gear; we know how much work that takes. Also big thanks to all the folks who have inquired, and offered to help. There is obviously a lot of care in our community for Lake Concow and Buckeye!
For a spectrum of reasons, we have chosen not to run Pathways as usual this year. On our visit to the land, we were both happy to see how resilient and healthy it is, and noted how tender it still feels; too early to host a big group. Since much of our kitchen gear burned, our capacity to feed lots of folks is tempered for the moment. It is also unknown how available the campground will actually be in May, for a couple reasons. The FEMA-funded Butte County cleanup team is in high demand, and may still be working onsite. When the campground does open back up, some partners and community members will be living there temporarily, and none of us are sure what that looks like yet. In 2008, after the last fire, dozens of locals lived at the campground, for up to a few years. The amount of time we have until May to organize an event has gotten shorter since November when we were starting to work on Pathways.
Basically, the situation is full of unknowns and emergent properties, and we want to be able to be flexible, especially to watch for what is actually helpful on the land, come this May. What we do know is that the land itself knows how to recover, and it would be shortsighted of us to do too much too soon.
Though it’s tough to know exactly what our presence will look like this year, we will host a small group dialogue about fire ecology, with an openness to some land tending work, as appropriate. Whatever happens, it will clearly involve italics. Practicing being adaptive seems pretty wise, anyways. One aspect of Buckeye and Pathways that will continue this spring is our effort to track the plant and animal communities, and extend our efforts to long term curiosity and monitoring of the local ecosystem in relation to post fire changes; this will likely be a a class offering. A few other possibilities are in the mix, including building a small earthen structure at Carl and Monica’s place.
How to Help
When you click on the button below, there will be three choices of where to direct your donations:
Land tending work at Lake Concow Campground: to clean up some effects of the burn; to encourage the benefits of the fire, informed by indigenous knowledge and permaculture, to materials for rebuilding basic needs such as bathrooms, and to revisioning and building new simple structures from natural materials.
Land tending and rebuilding at Carl and Monica’s place
Replacing the burnt Buckeye kitchen trailer & gear (big kitchen tent, stoves, propane tanks, tables, sink, water heater, shelves, lumber, lots of misc)
Stay tuned here for details on our revised vision for this year!
If you want to support the greater community affected by the Camp Fire, you can donate to the North Valley Community Fund for Camp Fire relief who is poised to dole it out to local groups that are working directly with those in need.
Don’t forget about other Ancestral Skills Gatherings coming up: Wintercount, Arizona, February 10~16; and Acorn, SoCal, March 25~30.
Thanks for taking the time to read this, and for being on the journey with us!