Friday, December 31, 2010

The California Prairie: A final journey for 2010

I started 2010 talking about California's prairies (here and here), and with a nice sunny afternoon (another few storms are bearing down on the state at the moment) it seemed appropriate to make one last journey to see how the prairie in my backyard was faring. We took off to follow Crabtree and Willm Roads in the Sierra foothills and enjoy some sunshine (while it lasted). Not too surprisingly, water was everywhere; the recent bout of storms has left the soils saturated.
Our first intention was to check on the Tuolumne River where it flows through my little town. The Tuolumne starts in the Yosemite National Park high country near Tioga Pass, and has a larger drainage than the more famous Merced River that flows through Yosemite Valley. The river was very high...the flow was at 5,600 cubic feet per second (flood stage is 9,000 cfs). A check of the stats revealed that nearly 16,000 cfs of water was flowing into Don Pedro Reservoir upstream. Sometimes flood control dams work the way they are supposed to...
The prairies of California are bounty and famine. We've seen times of plenty in the spring (and even in the depths of winter like today; look at the greenery!), and we've seen plagues of grasshoppers (only a few months ago). In summer, the prairie bakes under the unforgiving sun and fires can sweep across the landscape.
It's been that kind of year for my family and friends. It's been a tough year for so many, with unemployment and foreclosures touching way too close to home. The economists are fond of telling us that the Great Recession is over and has been for months. I guess it is for the bank executives and stockbrokers and the cocktail party pundits on TV. I'm sure glad they aren't suffering anymore. The economists should visit central California sometime instead of studying their spreadsheets and statistics. It's painful to watch so many people who are ready to work and ready to contribute, and yet are not given the opportunity. It's frustrating to work in an educational system that can no longer provide enough seats and resources to our students. My prayer is that the coming year holds blessings and good things for all of my friends, family and readers, and that we will find our way out of this morass. Wishing you a happy 2011. May the road ahead beckon and lead to tremendous places!

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