Friday, August 31, 2012

Fire Season



On Tuesday a fire broke out across the valley, about seven or eight miles east of us. We happened to be outside when it started, so we watched it for a few minutes. It spread so quickly we were worried, but after two hours it had burned itself out. That fire started on a ranch when the rancher drove across his grass pasture in his pickup. We were very lucky, as was he. The fire burned all around his house, but because he had cement siding and a metal roof, the house didn’t burn down, though it did sustain some smoke damage.

Down in Paradise Valley, south of Livingston, our good friend and hiking partner, Nancy, was lucky as well when a fire broke out in the rocky gulch below her house where a construction crew was working. The crew was clearing a pad to build a house on, but officially no one yet knows what started the fire. It burned right up to Nancy’s house, and even singed a few of her fence posts and the bushes just below her upper deck, but didn’t catch her house. Ben and I drove to Paradise Valley to meet Ursula and Dee Dee so we could help, but the sheriff had the road closed and wouldn’t let us drive through. Nancy was trying to douse the hotspots around her house by herself; we were so worried about her that when a neighbor suggested we drive down the ranch driveway next to the roadblock and hike across the pastures to Nancy’s house, we immediately took off with hoses and shovels. I don’t really know how long we were there mopping up, but just about the time we felt her house was safe and all the nearby smoldering fires were doused, the electrical lines died so we had no more access to water.

Everything for Nancy is fine for now and the evening after the fire started it seemed that Pine Creek, which was one of my two favorite places to hike, was safe from the fire, which was roaring up the drainage to the north. Today, however, we heard from Nancy that Pine Creek and Pine Creek Lake burned up. That makes me terribly sad – it was one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen on this spectacular earth – but even harsher than that, Nancy’s neighbor, Mary, who lived just across the gulch from Nancy, lost her house the day the fire started. Mary had the most beautiful, well-tended garden I have ever seen in this area, with a collection of irises that the everyone who knows her envied. She loved her house, which she and her late husband planned and had built; and she spent time every day during spring, summer and fall she could out working in her garden. I barely know Mary, but I know her story (she is 74 years old and was recently widowed from a fairytale romance with a man she loved very deeply and cared for at home while he died of cancer) so I ache for her. It sounds horrible when we hear of homes lost in a fire, but when we actually know someone who lost their home and all their beloved possessions, our minds cannot reconcile the loss. Yet Mary has stayed strong and buoyant through the ordeal.

I don’t have much that I actually treasure, possessions are just that to me for the most part, but to lose what Ben and I have worked so hard to create for the last eighteen years: our home and studio; the garden and greenhouse; the barn, chicken coop and sheds; the rows of trees and bushes we have watered, nursed, tended and protected . . . well, I cannot even imagine how I would react. The loss of Pine Creek is harsh, but there is still my other favorite hike and I can find solace there (Sunlight Lake in the northern Crazy Mountains) but to lose everything else . . .


From our hike with Nancy up Pine Creek last week:


The creek along the trail


The falls below the secondary lake


The secondary lake, just below Pine Creek Lake


The spillway from the lower, secondary lake

How peculiar it seems to me now that I didn’t even take a picture of the lake itself, just above this spot. Had I only known . . .

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