After a pleasant rest at the worst Hilton ever, I used the hotel's PC with 10 free hours of
AOL to collect a little more up-to-date data on the wildfires, after they figured out
how to get it to connect--I could have done something to help, but I figured why could I possibly
want to do tech support for them on my vacation. If only I had set up a dial-up account
for my laptop before hand.
Using a county map purchased at a gas station and satellite imagery from the US Forest Service
web site I tracked down the burn zone of the Hayman fire. At this point Hayman was over 90%
contained. Most smoke or open flame was burning in the interior of the national forest on a
remote mountain side. I talked with a fire crew I met along a road which nearly bounded the burn,
they told the remaining fire was going to be monitored but not actively fought. The
one fire fighter that did most of the talking thought it was
"pretty cool" that I drove from Michigan to see the fires, but I could definitely hear the
hesitation in his voice. I can readily admit that this is weird. I smiled and continued on.
Civilians were allowed to drive along the road but they were not allowed to stop. The National
Forest was closed and the rest of the land was private. Of course they didn't want
people wandering into the forest while fires still burned and I think there was
also worry about looting. With all the signs clearly stating these facts, I was a little
worried about stopping and hiking in a little bit. I did see several fire crews and
two county sheriffs, one while I was stopped, but no hassle was given and I headed into
the burned forest.
In the approximately 2 miles I hiked the fire had burned hot. All the ground cover was gone,
leaving only charred sand. Many trees had been burned down 6 to 10 inches under ground,
and the one power transmission line I found had been either burned down or well-melted. Not too
far off in either direction, though, trees still stood with yellowed needles, they had faired
much better. The sand was granite based, giving things a reddish color--for a while I pretended
that I was on Mars, a very hot and dry Mars.
I took a lot of pictures this day, you can find them all here.
With my quest for fire extinguished I decided against driving to South-Western Colorado
to the Durango fire. This left me with some extra time before I needed to return east. I originally
considered driving west to the Dinosaur National Monument but not-too-many miles on the road made
it clear that winding through the mountains to the other side of Colorado was going to take too long.
After some lunch I changed directions and headed towards Rocky Mountain National Forest, thanks
I had no idea this place would be so beautiful. I drove in from the south and followed the
road around to Estes Park. I started in a green valley--I really missed seeing green as most
of Colorado is brown and desert like after a third year of drought--and drove up above 14,000
feet. The forests were great, but I really liked the alpine area. Unfortunately it is such an
effort to actually do anything up there. I walked to the top of the mountain at the Alpine Visitor
Center. It was about a 300 foot vertical climb but it frustrated me. "Walk slow, walk slow", I
repeated to myself.
Half a day there was not enough and I stayed the night in Estes Park with the intention of
returning the next day.