Sunday, March 08, 2009

Fire in the Mountains

We dropped the boys off at Stevens Pass to ski and continued on toward Leavenworth. We've done a lot of hiking in the Icicle Creek canyon and thought we'd try a snowshoe hike today. I'd forgotten, but huge fires swept through the Icicle Creek area in 1994. Irony would have us visit today - a recent fire at a candy store outside of town left a smoking ruin. We never stopped there, but it was a landmark telling us we were approaching the town.

The forest fire was in the news in 2004 but other fires had pushed it out of our memories. It was an interesting drive as we entered the canyon. The memories came back as we studied the hillsides for evidence of the fire. It's easy to see after a while. At first, the area looked like a clear cut - there were stands of a few trees here and there that survived. But then it became clear there were none of the slash piles left by loggers, and there were bare spires standing that loggers would never have left. On the ground, it was obviously a fire. We walked up a Forest Service road and the undergrowth was thick on one hand; and there was virtually no undergrowth on the other. The fire had demolished it all.
The area is restoring itself. Recreation continues. But the scale of the fire is astounding; in a city, it would be blocks and blocks. Our drive through the fire-scarred area went for miles and the burned areas climbed the hillsides for nearly a thousand feet. I don't know if it crossed the ridge into the next valley. I hope to do a backpacking trip into the Alpine Lakes this summer, and that should reveal the secret.

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