Lost Creek: When Fire Changes Cherished Places

[this post inadvertently got published as ‘Glenn F Cowan’ when I was using the short post creator tool here – sorry for the mix-up!]

[post updated 8/26/12]

Have been reading Montucky’s recent posts that document a wildfire in a range he knows well, entitled “Little Thomson Peak 1-4.” Reading how a trail he used to use was “all but completely obscured by the fire” reminded me of wildfires in areas I have known. It inspired me to share a mountane I knew in younger days that was hit by fire 10 years ago. The Hayman Fire, in Pike National Forest southwest of Denver, burned 113K+ acres in the wilderness area known as “Lost Creek.” I backpacked to a particular spot on the Lost Creek 3 times from 1974-1980. We saw Mountain Sheep there that first trip in 1974, backpacking with Lynn and Gary. We tried our hands at fishing in 1980, backpacking with Jill, Greg and John. And the 3rd time, in between and kind of a faint memory, we found an exhilarating waterfall.

At the time of the Hayman Fire in summer of 2002, living 400 miles away, all I could do was imagine what was happening to such a beautiful area. That summer I spent a tile week with Carolyn Barford at Ghost Ranch and created this tile from my memory of the area:

Ode to Lost Creek © 2002 CSniderBryan all rights reserved

I was remembering this area this past winter and found this photo on the Wikipedia page for Pike National Forest:

by Glenn F Cowan
from Hermit’s Peak in Pike National Forest

“A picture of the Pike National Forest taken from the trail to the Devil’s Head Lookout in Colorado. Tall tree is Picea engelmannii, with Pinus flexilis right of it, and Populus tremuloides left of it.” photo and description by Glenn F Cowan via Wikipedia

Glenn F Cowan’s shot shows no burned trees. When I saw this, even though it is not the same view I had from the Lost Creek drainage, I was elated. The forest was still alive in the vicinity of my visits. I remember searching the internet for more photos to see if I could find the exact location of the fire – I could not. But saw the more recent fire in the same area and how close it was to a friend’s childhood home. Memories flooded back of that area, too. How many generations does it take for a ravaged forest to regenerate?

Last summer’s (2011) Las Conchas Fire in the Jemez mountains (40 m. NW of ABQ) devastated over 156K acres. When we drove through the ancient volcanic caldera (called the Valle Grande) in those mountains last October, a major portion of the eastern rim was burned. (for photos go here – http://www.flickr.com/photos/swa-fires-2011/page2/ )

Burns are important to forest and tree health. But wildfires these days occur on lands that have been protected since the movement in 1911 (?) to put them all out. So when they burn, they devastate. Luckily forest policy has changed in the last 20 years, and prescribed burns in areas not close to human habitation will help those areas avoid future ravaging.
I am joining in with Montucky’s spirit to honor special places.


3 Responses to “Lost Creek: When Fire Changes Cherished Places”

  1. August 26, 2012 at 9:21 pm

    It can be very sad when a favorite place is the site of a wildfire: of course it will recover and we can rejoice in knowing that, but we will not be here to see the complete results.

  2. August 28, 2012 at 11:43 am

    So you’ve been to Ghost Ranch! Lucky you! I traveled through the area years ago – had to go to California for a month and decided to drive. It was the best trip of my life, or at least in the top 5. I wanted to go to Abiquiu because of Georgia O’Keeffe, and… well, I could ramble forever.

    The Pike National Forest is where I first saw mountains – or at least it was that trip. I was young, and the family went to Pike’s Peak for vacation. I still remember the name of Zebulon Montgomery Pike! Not to mention Sweet Betsy, who may have started out from a different Pike, but I still sang her song all the way from Iowa to Colorado!

    As for the fires – they are a grief. We lost some irreplaceable trees in Texas’ fires last year. But, regeneration has begun here, too. As montucky says, we’ll never see it completely regenerated, but seeing the process begin is good.

    • August 30, 2012 at 6:29 pm

      Linda –
      Our family vacations starting when I was ten were to Ghost Ranch, with a stop to visit my grandma first in Albuquerque. So glad to know you have been there too! It’s so lucky to have a retreat place in that country – the “Land of Shining Stone” as the Spanish name for it, “Piedra Lumbre” describes.

      And at the Ranch, we have experienced the drought’s toll on the Pinon – the long lack of moisture caused Pinon to weaken to the Pinon Bark Beetle. The Ranch saw most of its elder Pinon succumb. So the years after 2004 saw many of the huge old Pinon first turn orange, then black, and now those trees are falling over. Either fire or beetle will thin … controversial whether it’s too little too late to allow controlled burns. …

      Neat that you knew Pike Forest as a kid!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

clay & log posts

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 12 other followers


%d bloggers like this: