Monday, May 10, 2021

Closed Due to Wildfire

California National Forests, State Parks, Campgrounds, Trails

What is Closed off this Summer?
Last year it was multiple disasters on top of a pandemic. News about lightning caused wildfires was almost unbearable for me to watch. I knew the areas, the very best camp sites and the dirt roads. 
I studied the headlines daily, scoured maps, each new area, every forests, every acre of grove in flames. The Santa Cruz redwoods burning. The helicopter rescue at the lake campground.
My head was reeling with the destruction, the toxic smoke, when it hit home - hard! We were evacuated and on the run from flames. #BearFire
Now that all smoke has cleared and I am living in the aftermath of the 6th largest fire in state history, I am trying to make a tally of what is burnt. What campgrounds and dirt roads are open, what forests were affected by wildfire and what is actually closed. 
expect tighter campfire restrictions this season!

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Water Well Tips - from a homeowner

 Mastering the Well

Adjusting Your Water Well

Pressure Gauge needs to be mounted vertically to prevent water intrusion. If it gets very cold and water freezes inside the gauge, the Bourdon tube will be damaged. This can cause it to add an extra 30 psi to all readings, which is confusing. Having the gauge upright is better to read and keeps the water out. Oh yeah, if it freezes, it's best if the plumbing is insulated with pipe wrap, or the like. 

I learned these lessons the hard way.

Well Cap should not be loose. The cap is a sandwich of steel plates with a rubber seal that gets squished and becomes wider, sealing itself in the well tube. It is possible for the cap on a new installation to become loose after the rubber forms to its new shape and takes a set.
The fasteners on top (4 nuts on mine) should be evenly tightened. Don't over-tighten it, think valve cover gasket, not lug nuts.

Bladder Tank Pre-charge needs to be set correctly. Properly pressurized bladder tank is adjusted to 2 psi below the pump switch cut-in pressure. This is done with the system at 0 psi (open). Using a 40/60 pump switch setting and a 38 psi pre-charge is a typical setup. This setup ensures that the system pressure doesn't drop off and make it difficult for the pump to restart.

Checks and Adjustments - here is a safe procedure for the mechanically inclined individual. Note, strong fingers may be required for manipulating the pump switch lever.
Read entire procedure first, make sure you are comfortable with it. Water and electricity don't mix well. Have a clear head.

A) You may want to turn off the electrical power to the well.

B) Turn off pump switch. It's a small lever on the side. Mine goes up to switch from the auto to off positions.

C) Drain the bladder tank. You should have bib on the plumbing. Connect a hose and drain it somewhere good.

D) Make any plumbing repairs, such as mounting your gauge on a nice, vertical riser tube.

E) Check and adjust the bladder tank pre-charge pressure. It should have a Schraeder valve on top.

F) Close the bib.

G) Turn power back on and restart the pump switch. 


Pump Switch 

There is a little trick for restarting the pump switch. Basically, you hold it in the halfway position while the pump restarts and then move it to auto. This is necessary when you are restarting from 0 psi. You have to overcome the diaphragm spring pressure since the switch operates between 40 and 60 psi. There will be some resistance.

I like to remove the pump switch cover and watch the contacts when I do this but I said safe, so, wear some leather gloves once you get it open - as there will be exposed 240V AC.

Move the small pump switch lever slowly from the "off" towards the "auto" position. It will feel like the resistance of an eccentric cam. About half way, one of the two pairs of contacts will close, you may see a small blue spark, hold steady. The pump will start audibly and the resistance in the lever fades as the pressure builds. Now, push the lever the rest of the way to the "auto" position and carefully replace the switch cover. Smile.

H) Watch the pump cycle on the pressure gauge. You can open the bib to drain it after it clicks off. Watch and listen. The gauge should move between the 40 and 60 psi set points. When the well restarts, there should be a click followed by a hum, maybe some gushing sound and slight vibration. It's pretty smooth if setup correct. Otherwise you can have a big clunk or no restart.

I) The pressure switch can be adjusted, if necessary. There are two nuts. One changes both settings. The other changes just the lower. Details for this are printed inside the switch cover, usually. Do wear gloves around the live, uncovered switch and take care when draining the system for restarting.

rural wells

mountain well

mountain water

see the current drought map for California

 Drought Map US West - May 2021

Watering Sprinkler

Mountain Homestead Living  w/ Total Escape

Monday, March 1, 2021

Inciweb, Inciwhat?

Our government has a way with acronyms, and broken URLs.

.gov broken links

It always amazes me that the most link repairs I tackle on Total Escape is predominantly for the dot gov web links. USFS has a fondness for the PDF pages w/ Alerts & Notices being almost cryptic. Outdated, old search features rarely produce what you are really looking for. Instead you get some long document from a meeting a decade ago.

The US Forest Service has changed their URL structure at least half a dozen times since they came online, back in 2000. No need for redirects, or better forethought, old broken links are found all the time within the government managed web.

wildfire info

Incident Web
Incident Information System
INCIweb for short

You would think that something as serious as wildfire information and maps would be a high priority, but the web site responsible for tracking individual fires - could not decide on a stable web address. The URL has changed a few times over the past decade; it was a .org and now is a .gov (old) (new)

Inciweb is the site to check for current, up-to-date wildfire data, for fires occurring on federally managed lands: National Parks, National Forest and BLM

Sadly, Inciweb does not keep the individual fire information online very long, so if you are searching for a specific wildfire from 2012 or 2008, sorry! They have already removed it and you will find a broken link (404 page). 

Thank goodness Wikipedia does a real decent job rebuilding wildfire data lists, but many reference links listed at the base of their pages, are often directed to broken pages on Inciweb.  

Additional links on wildland fire:



NIFC - National Interagency Fire Center   

USDA FIRE Information 



Saturday, January 2, 2021

2020: The Year of Loss

California terrain was the main reason I relocated to the Golden State, way back in 1984. I had just graduated from high school and like millions, decided to head west to see what the West Coast was all about. I immediately fell in love with Southern California, the desert and Baja California. Enrolling at a community college in San Diego County, I began a journey of exploration, artistic dreams, documenting and in the field photography. 


As a starving artist student, I would spend my free time (away from work and school), out camping in the nearby deserts or local mountains. It was always a gorgeous place to do my reading assignments, homework, and it was a cheap way to spend a weekend.

Now 40 years later - I'm still here in Cali. Northern Sierra. Loving it, traveling, working and documenting all the wild landscapes that I came out here to enjoy. Created a web site (back in 1996), just so I could follow my passions of working for myself.

However, the last decade of wildfires in California has me frightened and very worried. The wildfires are so large and destructive these days, that they are now deemed mega-fires

As burnt acreage increases on the West Coast, so does structural damage, destroying parks, camps and ancient forests. Historical museums, rustic cabins and lodges. Whole towns and neighborhoods are being wiped out - by flames. Overgrown forests, lack of firefighters and then perfect conditions, for uncontrolled fire. 

As we oscillate between drought and deluge, with record setting rainfall, erosion brings landslides collapsing down on highways, or debris flows on to coastal mansions. The winds are stronger and dry lightning is a significant issue with starting remote wildfires. The healthy forest we once knew, weakened with insects, overuse and now bigger fires. The weather systems and wildland fires are getting more destructive and this cycle doesn't seem to be slowing down.

In the year 2020 - everything changed. All of a sudden.

Actually my first 'personal collapse' began with the 2008 meltdown, and loosing my home in the Kern County mountains.

Pine Mountain Club, from San Emigdio

Global Pandemic + Huge Wildfires

One after another, I had 4 friends pass away in 2020. Camping buddies, dear freinds and a college roommate. Middle aged, healthy people - who were into the outdoors, like me. Individuals who died way too young. I was shocked, saddened and dismayed. I poured through photos and online posts remembering them, thinking about our travels together and crying, knowing I would never see them again. 

You never think that your cyberspace profile will outlast YOU, as a live human, but it probably will.

Then after emotionally dealing with the death notices, the real panic began - the record breaking heat and wild fires. Just as Death Valley set record breaking temperatures, millions of Joshua trees were burning in the Mojave Preserve. We watched in horror as old growth redwoods burned in the Santa Cruz mountains. Then the helicopter rescue at a Sierra campground made the nightly news. 

The air got toxic, the winds picked up, the power got shut off - and then we evacuated. 

Running for our lives, we escaped the Northern Sierra - due to the BearFire. Most of my neighborhood was wiped out by the fast moving blaze, but somehow our house still stands. Talk about a miracle. 

We have no power poles or phone lines yet, but I am still (after 25 years) 'working from home' with a loaner generator and satellite dish internet. I so honestly plan to update this blog more often, starting in 2021.

California Skies

Like everyone, I am glad the year 2020 is over - but I have so many good memories and photos I want to share with the world. Discover my favorite outdoor places that we lost this year, plus see my groovy friends in action.

Wet, Red Dirt = Slippery

people that will be dearly missed:

Happy Boy in the River

California 2020


places that were ravaged by wildfire in 2020:

Mountain Home State Forest = Sequoia Groves
(Castle Fire)

Big Basin State Park - Santa Cruz Redwoods
(CZU Complex)

Mojave National Preserve = Joshua Tree Forest
(Dome Fire)

Shaver Lake, Huntington, Red Lake, Coyote, Mammoth Pool
(Creek Fire)

Berry Creek, Middle Fork of Feather River
(Bear Fire)

Austin Creek State Park @ Russian River
(LNU Complex)

Mendocino National Forest
(August Complex)

California 2020

In 2020 alone, old growth Redwoods, a million Joshua trees, and hundreds of giant Sequoias have perished. Shocking reality from the New York Times

Sunday, November 3, 2019

New Navigation for 2019

Yes indeed, Total Escape is alive and well - and still online!

the redesign is finally here

2019 October marks the 23rd year of our presence on the world wide web. Site founder, DanaMite has been redesigning the site and making it easier to find everything - over 10,000 pages on just California. This particular overhaul has been years in the making and I needed to 'hire out' on certain skills in to accomplish it.

Big thanks goes to Jamison who helped me get CSS headers in order and looking great, and the new navigation launched last month on Total Escape.

Mobile users will be pointed to the main URL

Desktop users can still use the classic feel

Search Bar is located back on top, the Outside Blog now visually matches the rest of the site, and we have created some new sub-sections of the site, which include:

seen it all over the decades

Most outdoor blog creators "give up" after a few years of not getting rich on the web. The affiliate earnings don't pay what we thought they would, and getting consistent web traffic (followers) is harder than it looks. DanaMite posts here (to blogger) just to make sure the word is getting out there - about maps now available, new web site additions and of course, the unheard of places.

the escapees

Super serious appreciation goes everyone who keeps on using my web site, from travel planning, to campsite research, to lodging reservations, to books found on Amazon - and all the map purchases, I really appreciate all the clicks and referral commissions. It's the only thing keeping this site going!