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Monday, August 3, 2009

Fire on the mountain

Finally, after days of dead and tired legs, I woke up feeling energized and ready to zip around the woods. K and I headed out, and she trotted smoothly and easily by my side.
We visited our lookout where we discovered the softball-sized colony of ladybugs in a Limber Pine Tree yesterday. Today, they'd dispersed into two plum-sized colonies about 6" apart - and many of the beauties crawled on the trees and the surrounding granite rock. I'm guessing that our cold weather of a few days ago drove them to search for hibernation buddies. Now, the sunny dry weather has cut off the denning instinct - but I'll check that tree again when it gets cold.

After our relaxed ride, I pedaled east on my own. As I climbed up a ridge that parallels the road I live on, I kept thinking that I smelled smoke. And that worried me because thunder storms building on the Divide sent great gusts of wind toward the east. Wind and fire are a scary pair. But, I didn't see smoke so I shoved my worries into the dark recesses of my brain.
As I climbed toward the ridgetop, I spotted a newly blooming, star-like purple plant. In fact, it's called a Blazing Star (Liatris punctata). It stood out stunningly from the fading grass and yellow flowers that dominated the landscape.
Lavender asters complemented the Blazing Stars, adding even more purple to the palette. What an amazing year of wildflowers!I spun up the long hard climb, enjoying every instant of feeling strong and energetic. I was almost sad when the climb ended. At the pinnacle of the climb, the smoke combined with the view almost overwhelmed me. The tall cumulus clouds over the mountains signaled dangerous storms that bring gusty winds with them.Then, I dropped over to the west side of the ridge, and I saw smoke very close, too close for comfort. When the wind calmed, it wafted straight up toward me and seemed to emanate from the forest slightly lower than me, as in the photo below. But, when a gust of wind kicked the ridge, it would send the gray plumes streaming over top of me and the ridge. I was too close to see the source of the smoke.
As I wound along the side of the ridge, I moved further from the fire, and the sick feeling of dread that it had triggered faded. The cliff-side view to the southeast, shown below, always amazes me. This cliff has enticing raspberries lining its base, and I even stopped to enjoy a few. But, only a few, because I felt urgency to get home to my canines and to make sure that someone had already reported the fire.
But, then I rounded a curve, and the fire engulfed my consciousness again. As soon as I arrived home, I made some phone calls and found out that dedicated crews have been fighting the forest fire for hours. I'm concerned about the eerie absence of the usual cacophony of helicopters and airplanes who have always responded to the smallest of fires in our forest. I'm guessing that the wild wind has grounded them. For the moment, the wind is blowing the fire away from my home but I'm worried about the people and animals in the fire's path.

Carpe Diem.You never know what might happen even one minute from now.

Here's a view from our last road trip. We're starting another one tomorrow to southwest Colorado - with no internet - so this blog will take a vacation also. I hope that you all find the time and energy to enjoy the beauty of of our waning summer.


  1. Hooray for feeling better!!! I do so hope your vacation is absolutely wonderful. Have a safe trip and loads of fun.

  2. Can't wait to see photos from your trip. I hope the fire was put out. I'm considering moving to southern California near my sister but the fires in CA worry me. I've read about people trying to get their horses out and not being allowed to take them. That would be awful.

  3. Have a great trip down south- looking forward to lots of great pics and posts!

  4. Fires are always scary, but I have become very impressed with the fire fighters ability. When the fire last spring crept onto our property - a section that has no roads and is very steep - they fought it both by hand and choppered in (and then out) a small dozer to cut a fireline. Weird to walk through the woods and stumble onto a firebreak that both starts and ends in the middle of this rocky, wooded terrain.

  5. have a great trip! look forward to your stories and pics!

  6. Hi KB

    That was I great ride and a good way to see your terrain - so different to where I live. Are the roads that you are cycling on sealed or gravel...

    Enjoy your break...

    Happy days

  7. An update: the fire is out. The chief says that it produced a ton of smoke for not too much area burned. So that's good news! But, the specter of fire is a huge fear around here in the summer and fall...

    Delwyn: I actually ride on dirt trails, little paths that wind through the woods. That's why my dog K can join me. We see absolutely no cars and almost no other people.

    Thundering Herd: Whew - that sounds like a very close call on your property. Fires are so scary.

    Mary: I've read of the same thing about horses and even dogs. If an area gets evacuated and you happen not to be home when it happens, usually they won't let you back in to get your animals. I lived in Ca for a little while around the time of the 'Oakland Hills' fire, and I heard from dog owners first-hand about how they couldn't go get their dogs. That's part of why I'm so paranoid about fires.

    Watcher: Thanks for your comment over at your blog. I'm going to look at those places on our maps!

  8. Hi KB,
    Hope your trip yields lots of adventures and great pictures. Bear in my yard at Noon yesterday - not a bit scared when we yelled and stomped. (Of course, I did get a picture!) I may take your advise about the spray. Another friend also suggests a boat horn (sold at WalMart) which is extremely loud - she carries it when biking in the UP. I am on high alert for fires in the forest near me - the dead and dying lodgepoles present high fire danger.


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