Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Wildfires Blaze a New Appreciation

Since I was a young child, I've vacationed regularly in Colorado. I grew up with Smokey the Bear admonishing that only I can prevent forest fires.

I never took that message lightly. When our family tent-camped throughout Colorado in the '60s, we always took special care with our campfires and paid close attention to the daily fire danger ratings. But, admittedly, after seeing Smokey all those years, the message became like white noise.

My husband and I recently made a much-needed, but short, vacation to Colorado. We took a nice day trip up the Cache la Poudre Canyon west of Fort Collins.

The first thing we noticed was the toll the 2012 drought has taken on the river. While the water flowed swift and strong, in most areas, the banks of the river had expanded noticeably. We could walk further out on the rocks than when we were there two years ago. A black sandy bank was significantly wider than when we last visited.

We weren't too far into the canyon before we started to see signs of the Cache la Poudre Wilderness area fire that had occurred here in June. Most of the fire, known as the High Park fire, occurred within the designated wilderness area, burning more than 80,000 acres before it was 100 percent contained.

You can read more about the High Park fire at Project Wilderness 150 and see an eerie and unsettling photo of the fire taken from the air at night.

The fire, which is thought to have been started by lightning, did reach some areas outside of the designated wilderness, such as this spot near a campground in the Roosevelt National Forest.

Fire can be unpredictable, seeming to have no reason to burn some trees in a stand and jump across others. In numerous spots along the canyon, a couple of charred trees stood surrounded by stately green specimens.

Seeing the devastation is sobering. At the same time, forests generally benefit from occasional low-intensity fires, that clear out much of the dead timber and vegetation, making way for new growth.

The Cache la Poudre canyon now is strewn with signs ranging from handmade gems such as "If you love the Cache la Poudre, thank a firefighter" to the national forest's standard signs such as the one seen above.

Today, I take those messages more seriously than I have since I was a young child who genuinely took Smokey's words to heart.

A Postscript:

Driving any one of the gorgeous river canyons of Colorado never fails to deliver Christmas-morning style surprises and delights.

Roaring water, towering canyon walls, proud pines, quaking aspens, the occasional deer or elk . . . 

And, 'round any curve in the road, those gifts of nature share the gifts spawned by Americans' love of this beautiful, wild, and occasionally treacherous landscape. I'm talking about the wonderful cache of vintage and classic motels and cabins our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents built along the streams and mountainsides in a paradise they clearly loved.

Many of those wonderfully kitschy structures continue to host family gatherings today, as they did in the early days of the previous century. Others, like the Kinikinik Store and cabins shown above stand as a salute to a bygone era even as their owners have gone fishin.'

Make it a great day!
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  1. Very interesting post.
    Liz @ Shortbread & Ginger

  2. Those forest fires can really do so much damage. A few years ago when we were headed to northern Michigan the forest along the major highway we were on was burning, we had to detour, it was very scary. That stretch of the highway is still damaged, new trees are starting to take root but it will be a very long time before that area recovers. Looks like you still managed to enjoy the beauty of the area. Love those quirky cabins, we stayed in ones like that as kids, Laura

  3. Wow the fire looks devastating. I enjoyed this post. I wanted to stop by and say thanks for letting me know you liked my stenciled wall. It was nice of you to let me know!

  4. Great post! Thank you for sharing. Visiting from Ivy and Elephants. Would love it if you would share this at my Make it Pretty Monday party at The Dedicated House. http://thededicatedhouse.blogspot.com/2012/09/make-it-pretty-monday-week-13.html Hope to see you at the bash! Toodles, Kathryn @TheDedicatedHouse

  5. How beautiful. I love the mountains. Thanks for for sharing this.

    Have a blessed Sunday...♥

  6. What a lovely trip and photos are fantastic ~ Excellent ~ (A Creative Harbor)

  7. very nice! love the "closed gone fishin" shot!

  8. Interesting post, great photos!

  9. The fires seemed to be everywhere this summer. Informative post and great images. :)

  10. i'm from southern ca and forest fires are a terrible threat. sad too when people deliberately set fires....


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