Saturday, January 19, 2013

Weekend Wanderings - Montana Forest Fires of Summer 2012

While every summer in Montana and the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem means hundreds of thousands of acres of forest ripe for forest fires, and most of us understand the necessity of these fires to the health of our beautiful forests, it is always a bit harder when it is closer to home than on the other end of our sizable state. Summer 2012 was one of those years.....

This first set of pictures shows the fire that hit Hyalite Canyon, a strikingly beautiful mountain area just SW of Bozeman, MT. Hyalite Canyon holds a reservoir that provides drinking water for the city as well as a plethora of recreational opportunities (the Hyalite Peak trail allows access to something like 7 waterfalls in 11 miles!) in addition to the natural beauty. These photos are taken from the Paradise Valley (eastern) side of the ridge where the fire fortunately didn't have too much of an impact on the residential areas dotting the hillsides as most of the fire stuck to the west side of the mountains.

Looking towards Hyalite from Daley Lake - Emigrant, MT

Toward Hyalite from junction of Sixmile and East River Roads least 2 hours before sunset - Emigrant, MT

This next set of photos hit even closer to home, in the Pine Creek area of Paradise Valley. In addition to the fire damage done to a much loved scenic wonderland, several homes were lost and many people evacuated for extended periods of time. This fire occurred about 40 miles north of my little town of Gardiner, in an area populated by many people who commute those 40 miles to work in Yellowstone National Park and Gardiner, including many friends of ours. One evening towards the beginning, when the fire was spreading quickly, saw me frantically washing sheets and prepping the guest room for my 7 months pregnant best friend whose husband had just received word from neighbors that their neighborhood was on evacuation standby. Wind was on their side though, and while the air wasn't much for breathing and lent to more time spent inside than usual for the summer, they never did have to leave. Another inspiring story came across my path this fall, about a local hiker from Livingston, MT who miraculously made it out of harms way, along with his loyal pup, by hiking through the night up and over the ridge into the watershed east, in some cases less than a mile ahead of the fire that had just ignited that morning. They were dog tired but happy to be safe when they wandered up to the cabin owned by a family member around daybreak the next morning.

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