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Anyone who knows anything about fires, especially in the Rocky Mountains, has heard of the Hayman Fire.
June 8, 2002 the fire was started due to negligence by none other than a ranger. It burned 138,114 acres and there were 6 fatalities, making it the largest fire in Colorado’s history still to this day. I was 8 years old and remember it vividly. Many of my friends were evacuated. My family built houses extremely near the fire. Even “in town” the smoke dropped ashes.
Burn severity map of the Hayman Fire of 2002.
I’ve visited the area several times of the course of the last 17 years since the fire blazed. The last time I multi-day tripped through Lost Creek Wilderness I was in part of the burn area. It’s the driest area of an entire wilderness that is mostly full of water. Last time I was there was 14 years after the fire and the new trees were only 3-4 feet tall.
Take that in for a minute. At elevation, AFTER FOURTEEN YEARS, trees are only a few feet tall!
The looming storm. This photo was taken around 9:30 am which is extremely early in the day for storms to roll in in Colorado.
The burn area is still full of many of the trees that burned. Many have fallen in storms, many remain standing dead as lighting rods. The only other thing in the area is large granite formations. They are gorgeous, don’t get me wrong, but also spooky.
You see big cats live there. One of two mountain creatures I’m truly afraid of. The last time I was in the area there was cat scat on the trail, fresh, and a looming storm. It was dead silent. No birds chirping, no squirrels bickering, no hawks screeching…NOTHING…not even a breeze. I found myself in the midst of what became a massive thunderstorm and the only place for shelter is where the cats live…and I knew for sure one was in the area- probably watching me.
The burn area after 14 years (2016)
Thinking about it gives me the creeps. This year I will be spending a lot more time in the burn area. At lower elevations you almost can’t see the remnants of the fire and it’s not really that big a deal. At higher elevation it’s definitely still noticeable and I’ll have my precious wee man with me.
So as creepy as it was, I keep hoping those days will be sunny and full chirping birds and bickering squirrels and go on knowing I will just have to face that fear…again.
The storm rolled in within 20 minutes, bringing lightning, thunder, and over 5 hours of torrential downpour.