John & Anne Wiley

2016/09/22

Beauty & Beast

The beauty of the Big Sur Coast greeted our Wednesday flight from SJC to SBA. But look at the mountains just above the coast and you see the ashen scars of the beast named the Soberanes Fire, still pumping smoke all over the lower half of CA. According to the LA Times it’s the most expensive firefighting effort in U.S. history, and it’s still going strong as you can see.

3767 The Soberanes Beast

3767 The Soberanes Beast

We decided to try the coast, since at takeoff from SJC it looked like the thickest smoke was over Salinas Valley. Bingo! Though both fuzzy with coastal humidity dotted by clinging clouds, and hazy with the lingering smoke that spews in one direction and then another, views like this at Point Sur were refreshing after so many smoky months.

3769 Hwy.1 Spared

3769 Hwy.1 Spared

Unlike prior Big Sur fires we didn’t notice any places where fire had reached the road, though it’s been closed sometimes for firefighter access. Traffic was relatively light, but plenty of people were touring this enchanted coast. Not far South another monster named the Chimney Fire got this close to the popular Hearst Castle.

3861 Hearst Castle Saved

3861 Hearst Castle Saved

That’s the “castle” at the bottom-left, and the red along that grassy ridge is where they stopped the flames. Thanks to valiant efforts by fire crews, there were able to save the landmark and we saw tour buses carrying visitors on the road from San Simeon. A few minutes later we started seeing thicker smoke from the Canyon Fire at VAFB, cloaking the feet of the Sisters range from Morro Bay to SLO.

3889 Shrouded Sisters

3889 Shrouded Sisters

We were happy that the plume had been knocked down so that we could fly in relatively clear air across the Santa Ynez range (peeking above the distant smoke) and glide into SBA and the gentle greeting of Our Town.

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