I have known George since 1964. We were 17, working at a youth camp as ranch hands with a couple of other guys who have continued to be lifelong friends, some closer than others, but we continued to stay in touch, brothers in life by any measure, George, Clark, Terry, Stan, the guys I particularly remember. George loves living in the mountains and is a great host. His story is an epic journey like each of ours but suffice it to say that today he lives an idyllic life nestled beneath the Mummy Range on the northern edge of Rocky Mountain National Park. Idyllic, but changed for the foreseeable future due to last year’s fires.
Clark, the another ranch hand in the summer of 1964, joined me in a visit to George’s house on a weekend in June, 2021, a year after the fire. George lives on a small parcel of land immediately adjacent to Hourglass Reservoir, a mile or so east of Comanche Reservoir. Although Hourglass is on private land, Comanche Reservoir sits inside Roosevelt National Forest. Unfortunately, the entire terrain around George’s place and the neighboring CSU Pingree Park and Sky Ranch Lutheran Camp was engulfed in the Cameron Peak Fire, the largest fire on record in Colorado, burning 326 square miles of forest.
The New York Times last week published a full-page story about the effects of fire on water quality from scorching, slow-moving fires. (Google NYTimes “Wildfires threat to urban water suppliers”). The article specifically references Cameron Peak. We experienced the aftermath of such a fire walking to Comanche Lake, our destination for the weekend. While the lake was surrounded by fire, the lake itself survived the burn. Still, after hiking to the base of the last ridge, it was impossible to go further because the trees that were teetering half on the ground were unstable. Remaining trees, half-dead half-alive were oozing with raw sap. The fire’s extreme heat destroyed everything on the ground incinerating all organic material. It was raining. The soil unable to absorb moisture caused the rain to immediately charge downhill quickly becoming eroding torrents.
The point of all this is to recognize things have and are changing. It’s not like we can go hiking in the 60s and 70s. I generally write about my experiences in Kenya, the people there, their commitment to animal welfare, conservation, and the notion of “one health.” One Health, everything is connected. Habitat, climate, weather, biological diversity, water quality, these are common natural elements changing or under attack. After our Comanche Lake hike I realize and appreciate the efforts in many places to save our environment for our children. We keep at it.
A special THANK YOU to all the Firefighters who worked all summer and into December to bring the Cameron Peak Fire under control. Anyone with buildings still standing owes the government and those involved a ton of gratitude.