After living in the shadow of the High Park Fire for a month, my girls and I decided to head up to one of our favorite places (Gateway Park) and acquaint ourselves with the post-fire Poudre Canyon.
We’ve seen the photos in the paper, the footage on TV; but seeing the aftermath up close is so much more personal–less dramatic and profoundly more sad. As the curves of 287 revealed my first look at the burn area my stomach sank. Charred hillsides topped with a fringe of black trees. As we turned onto Highway 14, I found myself trying to remember what the Canyon looked like before–all I knew for sure was that it hadn’t looked like this.
Instead of the usual feeling of ascending into the foothills, I felt my daughters and I were descending into a place that had suffered a sinister fate. Many of the hillsides are black and dusty and dead. That is right up to where they aren’t; where the firefighter drew their protective lines.
Steps from the black stand houses untouched, surrounded by green lawns. On one property a shed right behind the house burnt; while the house itself stands as it always has. It’s enough to make you want to thank a fire fighter in a way that would make him (or her) blush.
From what we saw the greenery by the river was spared. The lush lawn and river side trees at Gateway Park look as beautiful as they always have. It’s only when you cross the river and see the incinerated hillside that the Black Powder Trail ascends that you remember all that has been lost. That trail is closed; as are so many of the backcountry areas near the canyon. I know that when they are reopened the destruction will be heart-breaking.
Near the barricade closing the trailhead my youngest found a pine cone so burnt on one side it had literally melted. But on the other side of the lodgepole pine cone were seeds. Seeds that fell onto the ground around her feet–ready for the impending storm clouds to water and bring to life.