There was no mistaking who he was that morning of June 13, 2005, when I turned my car into the Sweetwater River overlook off Interstate 8 in the wilds of eastern San Diego County. He had on his signature California-style, tropical shirt and sunglasses along with that classic smile that brought warmth to all those who knew him. Huell Howser. When I walked over to him, he grabbed my hand and I experienced one of those handshakes you’ll never forget. It was one of those US Marine, best friend, I’ve got your back, this is the guy I want to know for the rest of my life type handshakes. He then turned and introduced his assistant Cameron with a wry smile as, “Cameron the Camera Man.” The two worked together seamlessly.
Our purpose was to film an episode about the chaparral for Huell’s popular public television show, California’s Green. I’d been bugging him to do it for months.
We visited four different locations for the show: the overlook, chaparral recovering from the 2003 Cedar Fire in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, beautiful, old-growth chaparral in Guatay, and the outskirts of Pine Valley. Each time Huell would tell Cameron to roll it and without any rehearsal Huell asked exactly the right questions, constructing the entire shot in-process. It was an incredible experience to witness. Before I knew it, Huell would declare, “That’s enough,” and we’d move on to the next location. He never re-shot a scene. When each is perfect, there’s no need to complicate the process with more film to edit. This man was clearly a master of his craft.
There are a thousand ways to show that you care for the environment you share with others, the legacy you will leave to future generations, and the life that surrounds you. Yet running through each caring action is the fundamental belief that we all are in this together and that together we can make the world a better place.
Photo below: An inmate on a CalFire fire crew surrounds a killdeer nest with a barrier of sticks and tape to warn away trucks and people at a fire camp in northern California. You can see the eggs at the very center of the circle. Close-up below.
In light of some of the commentary regarding the recent effort by the USFS to plant trees within the Station Fire scar, I wanted offer some information regarding the history and ecology of the Angeles National Forest.
NOT A FOREST
Calling the Angeles National Forest (and especially that portion within the San Gabriel Mountains) a “Forest” is really a misnomer. The region is actually dominated by native shrublands, particularly chaparral. This is why we (the California Chaparral Institute) have proposed changing the name to the Angeles National Chaparral Recreation Area to better reflect what’s there and how the land is used. There are obviously lots of trees at higher elevations, but they really represent isolated “sky islands” of habitat that have been slowly reduced because of climate change over the past 14 million years. With the influence human activity on climate, this displacement has been accelerating over the past 100 years. The Station Fire, as unfortunate as it was, merely accelerated a change that has been occurring for a very long time.