The Golden State burns red in California’s most destructive wildfire in history

A couple stands at the remains of their Paradise, CA, home after it was destroyed by the Camp Fire on November 12, 2018. Photo: Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images

“I got out within an inch of my fucking life, but I made it. Thank God,” were the first words spoken by my uncle Eric Henson when we arrived to pick him up in Chico, California.

He was referring to the Camp Fire, now the most destructive wildfire in California history, a qualifier that has been reattributed an unsettling amount of times over the last two years. He lives—or, perhaps, lived is more accurate now—in Paradise, the town sitting just miles from where the blaze began. By all accounts, the town is no longer standing. …

The mind is a hell of a thing. One moment it is clear and capable and the next it is conspiring against you, making foggy what you know to be real. For the last few months I have been trying to grapple with the fact that things are not okay. And coming to terms with the notion that that is okay.

I am the kind of person who takes all of their negative emotions — anger, fear, anxiety — and bottles them up until they inevitably blow the lid off like a shaken soda. It’s a defense mechanism; in order…

June 24, 2018. It has been quite a few months since I’ve put pen to paper. I tried to start writing a piece about California and discovery and self and well, you haven’t read it so you know how that went. I find it increasingly hard to focus my head for long enough to be able to string together a coherent sentence; somewhere in the last few months I lost the center. However hopeless that may sound, know that I have written that very sentence on many more than one occasion in this life. In fact, that sentiment seems to…

Bridalveil Fall, Yosemite National Park. (Jordan Gorostiza)

The last time I drove out of Yosemite National Park, I had one thing on my mind. It was not one of the many cascading waterfalls. It was not the preternaturally smooth walls of granite that enclose the valley floor. Nor was it the sugar pine forests that served as a great refuge during the midday heat. All of these things certainly left a lasting impression on me. However, what I came away focused on after this particular trip was something far more banal: the crowds.

Early that morning, when a friend and I had arrived, there were only a…

Grappling with the Golden State Killer next door

Composite sketches of the Golden State Killer. (FBI/AP)

It is 6 a.m. in Sacramento, California. I am waking up for work just as the sun is making its way over the crest of the Sierra Nevada mountains, visible from my bedroom window. I shower. Get dressed. Head out the door. The usual.

I get on to U.S. Route 50, or “the 50” as we call it — a habit of inserting determiners into places they do not belong has gained us Northern Californians no lack of mockery from our counterparts to the south — and head east. U.S. 50 bisects the entire Sacramento area as well as, in…

My younger sister, Kameryn, at the trail head — July 9th, 2017 (shot on 35mm film)

“The mountains are calling and I must go.”

Those words, uttered by John Muir over a century ago, are perhaps the most overused and commercialized when referring to any outdoor adventure in the #neverstopexploring age — but damn, are they accurate.

Once one experiences a warm afternoon under the pine trees that line one of the many wild rivers rushing through the Sierra, it is impossible to not feel an insatiable urge to return. …

It doesn’t happen like that. You don’t just wake up one day and find that everything has worked itself out. You must get out of bed, morning after morning, and make a conscious effort to control the circumstances of that given day. You must learn to handle your issues with grace because you respect what they are attempting to teach you. You must drown your insecurities slowly, one self-realization at a time. You must allow yourself to feel the fear bubbling just beneath your skin but you must never allow it the satisfaction of crippling you; grit your teeth and march on. You see, they never tell you how hard these things will be. This fight to reclaim yourself is not easy or straightforward but, my god, is it necessary.

Jordan Gorostiza

Writer and science communicator living along the Colorado front range. Contact:

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store