Where There’s Smoke…

There’s Fire!

This is what the skies over the Coachella Valley Preserve looked like Saturday, August 1st, in the late afternoon.

Dubbed the Apple Fire, dry conditions and triple digit temperatures became the ideal conditions for a small vegetation fire to burn out of control. The fire began Friday, July 31st, in the late afternoon. It doubled in size from 1,900 acres on Saturday morning to 4,125 acres by 3 p.m. and by 11:00 p.m. 12,000 acres, or more than 18 square miles, were on fire with 0% containment. (ktla.com)


google maps, Apple Fire

The cause at this time was still undetermined. An ignition spark from a car, a trailer dragging a chain, and arson were all being investigated. Later I read that witnesses called 911 on Friday afternoon to report seeing a man lighting 3 fires in the area.

Here are some pictures from news footage I gathered online:

courtesy of Terry Pierson

CBS News

CBS News

KESQ News, Channel 3

KESQ News, Channel 3

According to an article published in the Desert Sun, a Palm Springs newspaper, the Apple Fire started as at least 2 small fires shortly after 5 p.m. Friday in a community known as  Cherry Valley, a few miles from Beaumont, CA.

Here are some more pictures taken outside of the RV…

Sunday, August 2nd…

I took these pictures in the early afternoon as we headed toward Ramon Road from Thousand Palms Canyon Road.

And from the online news later in the day, I learned the fire continued to grow, scorching some 20,000 acres so far and forcing 7,800 people to evacuate. It is only 5% contained as of today.

CBSN, Los Angeles

CBSN, Los Angeles

CBSN, Los Angeles

CBSN, Los Angeles

CBSN, Los Angeles

CBSN, Los Angeles

CBSN, Los Angeles

CBSN, Los Angeles

CNN, Alta Spells

Monday, August 3rd…

A news update from Cal Fire and Riverside County Fire Departments reported that 26,000 acres have burned so far. The official cause of the Apple Fire is determined to be a malfunctioning vehicle shooting out “hot objects” from its tailpipe. (CBSN, Los Angeles)

Wednesday, August 5th…

As Jeff and I returned from a day trip to Green Valley Lake outside of Big Bear, we cut over from CA-247 and took Pioneertown Road back to CA-62.

We noticed an intermittent scattering of parked fire vehicles and hiking fire persons along the route. As we descended from Yucca Valley into the Morongo Valley we were met with murky skies…

Friday, August 7th…

As we drove toward Palm Springs on Ramon Road, we could still see clouds of smoke from the Apple Fire.

Friday, August 14th…

With 90% of the Apple Fire now contained, the command of the fire has been transferred from Cal Fire to a local team led by Incident Commander Matt Ahearn of the San Bernardino National Forest. Suppression repair efforts will continue for several weeks. Rehabilitation includes mopping up along the fire line and repairing impacts on the landscape.

Fortunately no one died as a result of this fire, but 4 people were injured and 4 structures were damaged. (fire.ca.gov)

On August 16th lightning ignited a new fire in the San Francisco Bay Area, named the CSU Lightning Complex Fire, CSU being the geographical code  used by Cal Fire to designate the Santa Cruz Unit.

google maps

The very next day, August 17th, another fire started burning out of control near Sacramento, CA. The Sonoma-Lake-Napa Unit (LNU) fire was also the result of lightning.

google maps

Then, on Saturday morning, September 5th, a pyrotechnic device used during a gender reveal party sparked a fire at the El Dorado Ranch Park in Yucaipa.

Here’s an example of such a device:


And here’s a map of where the fire is burning:

google maps

You’re right for noticing that the area looks familiar. It is not far from the Apple Fire from the beginning of  August…

On Sunday, September 6th, we noticed a dark cloud billowing from the Little San Bernardino Mountains over Joshua Tree National Park. Smoke clouds… On Monday the air was gray and dingy and smelled like a campfire.

Tuesday, September 8th, Jeff and I pulled tamarisk seedlings from the stream. I took some pictures of the sky. The mountains had disappeared.

To date, California is burning up!

google maps

The overcast skies and smell of smoke surrounding us on the Coachella Valley Preserve is nothing compared to the orange skies in San Francisco and the terrorizing drives evacuating residents are documenting as they flee from fire zones!

Sam Cobb Date Farm

We Grow Good Dates!


We’ve seen the homemade sandwich-signs with arrows every weekend from late October through late April, since last year, on Ramon Road and Dillon Road advertising Sam Cobb Dates. Today, we finally meet Sam himself and buy some Medjool and Safari Dates.

Located in Sky Valley off Dillon Road, tucked between 22nd Avenue and Henry Road, lies a paradise of date palm trees.

We pull up to an unassuming farm stand…


…and meet Sam and his wife Maxine…


Sam’s date farms, established in 2002, are family owned with ranches in central and eastern Riverside County (Sky Valley and Blythe). They grow and sell 7 varieties of fresh dates:

  • Medjool
  • Black Gold
  • Barhi
  • Zehidi
  • Safari
  • Empress
  • Candi

You can also schedule a walking tour with Sam himself and learn firsthand how dates are grown, their sustainability in desert environments, how new varieties are developed, and even sample dates right from the tree. (samcobbfarms.com)

Sam Cobb’s story is quite interesting:


“I was three years old when I saw my first tractor from my parents’ porch in Fresno, CA. From that moment on, I wanted to be a farmer.” (from Profile Author, Sally Hedberg, on samcobbfarms.com)

Sally’s article continues…

He started by earning two agricultural degrees at Fresno State University in the 1980s. During this time he met and fell in love with Maxine. He only had one prerequisite for marriage. “Would she be willing to be a farmer’s wife?”

Her answer was yes, and they began farming vegetables in Fresno. But times were tough for farmers then, so when Sam was offered a job in 1989 with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, he took it.

By 1996 he moved his family to La Quinta. Through his job in Soil Conservation, Sam visited many date farms and started doing research on the process of cultivating dates.

When the opportunity came to buy 5 acres in Sky Valley, Sam and Maxine invested in their own date farm and began planting date trees. Realizing the process would take years, Maxine and Sam kept their day jobs, he with the USDA and she as a fifth grade teacher in Indio.

Sam’s education, research, years of experience, business skills, and careful long term planning made his dream possible.

As Sam walked me through the 300 trees, consisting of seven different varieties, he spoke passionately about his dates.

Here’s what I learned:

  • Date trees grow from suckers and seeds. There are female trees which must be pollinated by the male trees. Sam’s farm has a ratio of 30 females to 1 male. If a sucker is planted then he knows for sure what variety of dates will be produced. It’s like cloning. If grown from a seed, no one is sure who’s the daddy and therefore one can’t be sure what variety will be produced.
  • The dates must be covered with bags while maturing to keep away the birds.
  • Date trees take 15 years to mature but can live for more than 100 years.
  • A healthy tree never stops producing. It’s a generational crop, and Cobb hopes his kids and their kids will continue the tradition of date farming.

I sampled each one of his seven varieties, three of which have Sam’s trademark. They are Black Gold, Safari, and Candi. These aren’t available elsewhere in the world and have distinct flavors. Safari chews like a cookie and has a mild nutty taste. Candi has a caramel aspect, and Black Gold has two textures and at least three amazing flavors… caramel, chocolate, cherry, a hint of vanilla and maybe more. Sam quipped, “I don’t grow anything I don’t like.”

All Cobb’s dates are fresh and grown pesticide free.

(Sally Hedberg)





And I really love the dates from his farm!