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789 Summer Stories

Pointing to the High Park fire

In the summer of 2011 the statewide snowpack for the state of Colorado was 128 percent of average. The snow lingered into the summer and many mountain trails were covered well into July. Then, in 2012 the snow didn't come to Colorado and the average dropped to 68 percent. (Info from SNOTEL)

By the time we reached Colorado in the middle of June, the northern mountain area was already on fire. From hikes in the mountains it was easy to spot the gigantic High Park wildfire near Fort Collins. The fire was huge, but was not really close.

Soon after arriving in Rocky Mountain National Park, we were hiking with a friend on the ridge of Horsetooth Peak (a small peak near Meeker Park in the Wild Basin area of the Park). As we traveled together, we discussed the High Park Fire, as it was easily seen in the distance. Then while taking a break on the summit, our friend spotted smoke to the north. The smoke was not coming from the High Park fire but we could not actually tell where it was located. The smoke seemed to be at least in the direction of the town of Estes Park. We had not heard of a fire in the area, but something was definitely burning. Sirens from unseen vehicles on the highway far below confirmed our suspicion.

helicopter helping to extinguish the Woodland Heights fire

We later found that the sirens were headed toward the Woodland Heights fire near the Beaver Meadows entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park. The fire was just outside of the Park boundary and did not burn the Park, but it did burn numerous homes before it was contained.

Fires did not threaten us at any time of the summer, but they did change our plans. Our friends, Jon and Laura were on their way to join us. They soon became our wildfire news source, as we tried to adapt our traveling schedule. We were basically looking for mountains to visit that were not on fire. You don't want to visit the beach during a hurricane or the mountains during a wildfire. In both cases, the emergency management teams are busy enough caring for the folks who belong there, they don't need any more headaches. Whereas, the Chamber of Commerces were doing their best to put out the loss of tourists fires and pretending like everything was normal.

A few vacationing in wildfire tips ...

Obey all fire regulations. In 2012, fire bans were posted on all campground and trailhead kiosks. It is your responsibility to know the fire threat level.

Regardless of the fire treat level, you still don't want to be the one that started the fire, for any reason. Control campfires or do not have a fire at all. Cook on stoves. Be careful.

The smoke from a fire is dangerous. It can harm those with respiratory problems even if they are miles away from the flames.

Be informed. There is a relation between the moisture in the ground and wildfires. Sites such as SNOTEL provide valuable information.

When there is a fire, stay away. Don't be a gawker.

Be prepared to change plans. We altered our plans to try to avoid fires, but for short period, the fires seemed to be everywhere. It finally started raining and the conditions improved.

Happy wildfire-less trails


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