this photo is looking at the Gaviota Pass with the ocean to my back.
I tell people that I have the most beautiful commute in the world. I leave my house and drive south about 9 miles through the foothills of the Santa Ynez mountains and then through the Gaviota Pass. In some areas the mountains are covered with Live Oak trees, others with chaparral, others with golden grasses swaying in the winds, and still others with dramatic rock formations. I catch a few glimpses of some vineyards but most of them are to the north of my commute. I go through the pass and within about 1/4 of a mile I come to the ocean and make a left turn. For about the next 20 miles I drive with the ocean on my right and the mountains on my left. There are almost no buildings. The mountains continue their variety and occasionally are dotted with cattle or llamas grazing. I see the pelicans swooping along the shoreline and birds of prey watching for lunch or just enjoying the thermals. Every now and again, I glance out to the ocean and see a pod of dolphins swimming by. Traffic is generally pretty light. The final 5 miles are in the city of Goleta, traffic picks up and the view of the ocean is obscured. The mountains move a bit away from the coast but are still the dominant feature. It is easy to see why people refer to this area of the country as paradise.
heading west, about 7 miles east of the Gaviota Pass
But we can't forget the fury... The Jesusita fire is our third big fire in a very short time and this one was both dramatic and frightening. The flames have burned nearly 9000 acres as I write and at times the flames stretched over a five mile line along the mountains above the city of Santa Barbara and Goleta. The last I heard, 80 homes were confirmed destroyed. Many of my church members live in the mandatory evacuation zone and the church is located in the warning area. It is possible that one of our members lost a home and we know that some friends did. And then there was a small earthquake in nearby Ojai. At times the ash falls from the sky like snow and the ground looks like an old ash tray. Air quality is terrible down wind from the fire. When the rains come next fall, all of the areas burned will be subject to possible mud slides.
this is an AP photo by Keith Cullom
The beauty comes with a price and sometimes it is a high one.
Just as information, my home is far to the west of the fire. We can see the plume of smoke but haven't even had ash here.