Colorado is Burning

I’ve never been one to wish away a season, especially summer. I love farmer’s markets, outdoor concerts, and having the sunlight stretch into late evening. I love going barefoot and drinking iced tea and spending days on end with my wild children. I love listening to the show-offy trill of meadowlarks trying to out sing each other, and watching my dog disappear into tall grass as she chases a rabbit on the trail.

But this summer is different. This morning, the air was heavy with the acrid scent of smoke  from the High Park Fire, burning fifty miles north of us outside Fort Collins. More than 43,000 acres have burned so far, an area larger than Fort Collins itself. One hundred structures have been lost, as well as one human life and countless animals. The fire is only five percent contained. There’s no rain in the forecast.

High Park Fire, courtesy of Guardian LV

The West is one giant tinderbox, thanks to the mountain pine beetle who destroyed millions of trees these past several years. Last summer, I rode through a particularly devastating  section of beetle kill pine outside Grand Lake, and the feeling was akin to being in a graveyard. Perfectly quiet – no bird song, no usual sounds of the forest.

A forest fire will burn, even without the added kindling of beetle kill pine, but coupled with the abnormally dry season we’ve had, I’m afraid we’re in for a rough summer. The grasshoppers arrived in May this year, two months ahead of schedule. Mid-June is usually green and lush, but the landscape around here is a sun scorched yellow already.

My heart goes out to everyone who has lost forests and trails special to them, and especially to those who have lost loved ones, and their homes. Keep the brave firefighters in your thoughts and prayers. They have a long, hellish summer ahead of them.

Unless we stumble on a rain dance that actually works, the first frost can’t come soon enough.