I read a blog (High Park Fire) by a woman who lives north of me and is a whole lot closer to a fire that has now consumed over 49,000 acres in the Colorado northwest foothills and mountains.
Backtracking to my Byways Tour ride in the high country last Saturday (June, 9)…I saw the plume of smoke from this fire, which was about 80 miles as the crow flies and several mountain ranges away. At first, I thought it was Rocky Mountain National Park – where I and my riding buddies had ridden through earlier in the day – going up in smoke.
As we were riding back home, I was gazing off at the skyline and taking in the scenery of the mountain ranges and puffy white clouds ahead of me (eastward). As I looked more to the northeast, I saw a huge puffy white cloud, or at least I thought it was a puffy white cloud, but as we rode, that cloud had a different shape below it and it seemed to be attached to the mountains. That’s when I realized it wasn’t a “fair-weather” cloud, but it was a smoke cloud, or plume. This plume of smoke was huge. It looked as if a bomb had gone off. (I later found out that at that point the fire had grown from 2,000 to 7,000 acres.)
So, instead of following my group back home, I stopped on the shoulder of highway 40 just west of Granby and pulled out my camera and zoom lens. I then snapped a few photos, gazed in disbelief and horror…and then snapped a few more photos before climbing back aboard the Zed and continuing on my homeward journey. I watched cars driving by as I snapped the pictures and felt this sort of surreal feeling…like, was I the only one noticing this? I know June – who had been riding behind me before I stopped – had seen the smoke, because I pointed and motioned with my hand…but no cars were stopping. It just felt weird.
I thought about the location of the fire. I thought about the potential for loss of life, both human and animal. I thought about the enormity of it, because the plume seemed so big. I wondered how much of Colorado’s beauty was being destroyed and whether it was manmade again. Yeah, it kinda bothered me just a tad.
My last stop to view Colorado’s beauty was on Berthoud Pass. As I gazed down to the twisty road below me and out across the mountain range going northward before me, I could still see the plume. At this vantage point, I was maybe 100 miles away as the crow flies.
All my feelings of sadness at the loss have since been tempered by the idea that this fire is also part of nature. Despite the fact that so many people are affected by it…the fire itself is a natural occurrence, because it was a lightning strike that caused it…I keep reminding myself of the idea of renewal. And yet, even though I understand nature’s role, people, animals and plants have been affected by it for years to come. It’s a loss and with loss, we all grieve.
I am glad for having had the opportunity though, to learn to ride my motorcycle along the roads where that fire has charred so much of the landscape now. When I started riding in 2005, I rode along those very same roads reminding myself to look through the turns, keep my chin up, don’t fixate and roll on the throttle gently at the apex…and so much more. The fire rolling through those same hills and mountains now, has taken away a lot of the obstructions around those same turns and it will be years before plant life will be fully restored…as well as human and animal life. But, I do know that those who live in the mountains do so because of a special kind of love for the mountains, despite the idea of their sometimes harsh destructiveness.
Take a look at Kimberly’s WordPress page to see more from her eyes…
- High Park Wildfire on WordPress
Read more here…
- Colorado wildfire now over 49,000 acres, containment at 10 percent from the Denver Post
Watch a video from the local news channel…
- Day 6: Colorado wildfire – High Park Fire near Fort Collins now 52,000 acres, more than 118 structures destroyed, 1 dead, 15 – 20 percent containment from 9News
These are the photos I took from on top of Berthoud Pass along highway 40:
Epilogue: I awoke this morning around 2:00 to the sweet smell of rain and lay there hoping and praying that the rain was saturating the hills 60 miles north of me…it wasn’t, but there’s another chance for rain later today…crossing fingers.