We woke very early, piled into the Jeep and headed for Ventura before sunup. It was Jeanne’s idea to leave early to avoid the traffic, which can be squirrelly on Saturday with everyone running weekend errands. Good idea. The drive was long but do-able.
As we drove through the Santa Clarita valley, it was apparent how much damage the storm had done. Typical for Southern California in winter, the hills are covered with an emerald blanket of grass. However, this year you could clearly see breaks in the green where the hillsides turned to mud and slumped. Driving along the river, we were very surprised to see the level of the riverbed had risen several feet. We thought the rushing water would have cut the riverbed deeper but just the opposite happened, there was so much mud in the water the riverbeds silted up. In fact, certain drainage ditches were completely silted up and workers were frantically working to clear them before the next rainstorm. This went on for miles.
Approaching Santa Paula, Jeanne suggested we drive up to the campground to see how they were doing. Having narrowly escaped less than ten days ago I was not crazy about going anywhere near the place, but Jeanne was driving too fast to bail out. Heading up the narrow canyon, the amount of damage was startling. The water trickling out of the hillsides meant the area was still unstable and capable of sliding at any moment. There was a lot of repair work underway — on a weekend. Obviously the cleanup would be very expensive.
Arriving at the campground we found the workers busy with the cleanup. It looked like the cliff was the same as we left it, but the crack across the road widened a little. County engineers determined no structure could be closer than 65 feet from the edge, which is the amount of vertical drop to the river below. To comply, the office structure would have to be moved onto the campsite we were staying in; the workers were busy getting this done. Overall, the RV park lost our old campsite and several others. Making matters worse, the county restricted the number of motorhomes allowed to travel up the canyon until the road was repaired, which meant the campground was not allowed to book groups during the busiest part of the season.
It was clear the workers were nervous. The emotional impact of the storm was taking its toll and there was the constant threat of slides. Nobody wanted to be anywhere near the cliff. A mudslide almost anywhere along the road would mean being trapped in the canyon. It went unsaid that they should get out of there asap. After all, the rainy season is nowhere near over. I was relieved when we exited the canyon.
After stopping at our storage area to pick up the kayaks, we spent the rest of the day at CeeCee’s.
That evening, we had dinner with Andy and Dannette. Their friend Doug prepared the sumptuous meal. It was good to spend a few ‘bonus’ hours with the family before moving on.
For various reasons, we decided to return to the coach that night. We left Santa Paula a little after 9:00 PM and arrived at the coach about 12:30 AM. What an ordeal. At least the drive was behind us. We hadn’t pulled a nighttime drive like that in years.