Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Storm King

 A day hike today up a steep trail brought Laurie and me to the memorial overlook for the firefighters who died fighting the South Canyon Fire at Storm King in 1994.


More frequent and less destructive than volcanic eruptions, perhaps, but forest wildfires are terrifying natural forces in their own right.

  Storm King
A wind change sent fire rolling up the mountains here at six to nine feet a second. Two of the firefighters were trapped below the ridge shown below, and twelve were caught in a firestorm that swept up the valley shown on the right.

They are remembered at the memorial trail here, still tended in their memory with fresh flags, ribbons, and flowers 23 years later.

The trail itself leads to an observation site that looks over the valley; the firefighters' trails lead onward, but they were too steep and rough for us to follow.

There are still blackened stumps, but the Gambel oak undergrowth that spread the fire has regrown.

Time passes. Some day these hills may submerge, and the tree stumps become fossils that will tell their story to future archaeologists. Will the records we have made survive as well, to tell them that there were heroes here, people who died serving their country?

Coins in a stump on the trail

Farther down the intensity scale and the geologic timeline, there is a coal seam nearby that has been slowly burning out the insides of the mountain range since 1899. How many added deaths has the pollution from these fires triggered by human acts around the world caused?

We should remember all of these as well.

As Laurie and I climbed, we exchanged thoughts on the irritation of having to push our bodies to scramble around the way we did a few decades ago, stopping instead to recover our breath and let younger spirits fly past.

Well, not fly, perhaps. The trail was a steep climb, no easy walk in the woods, and it felt good to get back to the car knowing that we still can do it. It just takes us a little more time and determination.

No comments:

Post a Comment