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South Sierra fire

June 23, 2008 |  6:10 pm

It seems that fire season is upon us, and threatening Pacific Crest Trail hikers. On the way back from a Sierra trip Sunday evening, we saw smoke in the distance while heading south on Interstate 395. The plume was visible north of Independence. Here’s a shot of it from 395 near Owens Lake.

Fire_near_owens_l A not-so-quick search on the iPhone (Internet service is fairly awful on 395) revealed this as the Clover Fire, burning in Sequoia National Forest, near the South Sierra Wilderness.
As we got closer to Lone Pine and then Olancha, the cloud got huge, with high winds blowing smoke from the mountains across 395 and sweeping across the Owens Valley.

Lightning sparked the fire May 31, according to a report on the Sequoia National Forest website, but was originally thought to be started by hikers, since it’s so close to the PCT.

We saw the thinnest trail of smoke on our way up on June 14 and were shocked to see it had grown so huge. Here’s a shot from Haiwee Canyon Road, a turnoff from 395 to Haiwee Pass Trail. The wind was blowing so hard I had to brace myself against our car to take the photo.

Fire_from_haiwee_cyn_rd_2 The fire threatened PCT hikers, who were swept off the trail on Saturday, according to the forest’s update on Sunday.

According to the National Interagency Fire Center, the fire is about 3,900 acres in size, located 32 miles north of Weldon, and “is being managed for resource benefit.”

This is an area northeast of Lake Isabella, and nearby attractions are the south fork of the Kern River, Troy Meadows and the Domelands Wilderness.
Sequoia National Forest reported that the area south of Beck Meadows and north of Kennedy Meadows was temporarily restricted. Access to the PCT was also restricted from Kennedy Meadows trail head to the north end of the fire.

Not long after taking the above shot near Haiwee, the smoke completely blackened the sky for about 10 miles. We skipped our usual pit stop at Coso Junction, and rolled up the windows to keep out the smoke, hoping all those on the trail were safe from the fire.

—Julie Sheer

Photos by Julie Sheer