Montana Outdoors

August 4, 2010

Thompson Peak (2)

As the access road to Thompson Peak entered the burn area, still about eight miles from the trail head, a stand of Fireweed stood beside the road to greet any visitors with the message, “It’s OK now; the recovery is already underway”. This prolific plant with its pretty purple blossoms is one of the first plants to start the renewal process after a big fire. It will flourish in profusion for many years until the new growth of trees starts to block out the sun, and even then it will bloom in the clearings. It is just now beginning its blooming season and much of the low green in the following photos are its leaves: in a week or so the understory will turn purple.

Fireweed

In this, as in any forest fire, there are islands within the burn that were spared, perhaps at a whim of the wind, or the relative shelter that a ravine provided from the fire storm and many of these can be seen in the photos. Some areas have had very little new plant growth at all. In these areas the heat was so intense it sterilized the ground. Recovery there will take much longer.

The photos that follow are scenes in the order in which I encountered them, an awkward appearing mix of devastation, of burned trees, of flowers and oases in a desert of black, and I offer them simply as glimpses of the pretty things and the ugly ones that exist inside a big burn.

Along trail to Thompson Peak

Along trail to Thompson Peak

Along trail to Thompson Peak

Along trail to Thompson Peak

Along trail to Thompson Peak

Along trail to Thompson Peak

Along trail to Thompson Peak

The tall mountain in the background of the following photo is Baldy Mountain from which I was able to take many photos of the Chippy Creek Fire. If any one is interested in seeing more pictures of the fire, you may click on one of the photos and it will take you to my Flickr site where there is a set of photos called “Chippy Creek Fire”: or, on the right sidebar of my blog page there is a category “Chippy Creek Fire” and clicking on that will take you to a bunch of posts and photos that were posted when the fire was burning.)

Along trail to Thompson Peak

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26 Comments »

  1. I love the flowers in your top and lower photos – the rest make me feel a bit spooked with their stillness.

    How tall is the fireweed?

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    Comment by Val Erde — August 5, 2010 @ 7:25 am

    • These photos were taken in what was one of the very hot spots of the fire and I agree, the scenes can be a little spooky.

      Fireweed will grow as tall as 8 or nine feet: it’s a large plant. It’s known as a pioneer species in that it is one of the first plants to establish itself in a burned area and will, over the first years, make the new growth of other plants possible.

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      Comment by montucky — August 5, 2010 @ 8:10 am

  2. During my time in Costa Rica, that was what I missed the most: mountains with their bare rocks exposed. However, I don’t think I would be ready to be exposed to those temperatures at this point. The reverse culture shock is bad enough; I don’t need temperature shock in addition.

    Like

    Comment by sciencedude288 — August 5, 2010 @ 8:08 am

    • At times I have also been away from these mountains, and always missed them terribly.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — August 5, 2010 @ 4:51 pm

  3. Some rather stark photographs, except for the Fireweed. Fireweed loves areas that have been burnt or otherwise disturbed by men or nature.

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    Comment by knightofswords — August 5, 2010 @ 8:14 am

    • It looked as though there would be a bumper crop of Fireweed this year, as you might expect. I hope I have an occasion to visit there again yet this summer and see it.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — August 5, 2010 @ 4:53 pm

  4. The flowers are great! I also appreciate seeing the burned areas. Sometimes people don’t understand that at times fires help the environment. The area that burned will grow a new forest and understory plants. Animals also benefit long-term.

    Like

    Comment by wildlifewatcher — August 5, 2010 @ 9:16 am

    • The Forest Service now, with a few exceptions is letting natural fires in wilderness areas burn themselves out naturally, which I applaud. Elsewhere though suppression is the rule, and especially problematic are the areas where houses are built in the forest.

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      Comment by montucky — August 5, 2010 @ 4:55 pm

  5. In this case the ugly is a passing phase as nature renews. Thanks for showing us both, Terry.

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    Comment by Scott Thomas Photography — August 5, 2010 @ 11:29 am

    • Realizing of course that fire is necessary in healthy forests, I always have mixed feeling about the big burns. Part of the problem of being mortal, I suppose: our lives are too short to see the final results.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — August 5, 2010 @ 4:57 pm

  6. Great shot of the fireweed. I wonder we have it here? Those last burned out shots are scary. I know fires are a part of nature, but still it is hard to take.

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    Comment by sandy — August 5, 2010 @ 1:53 pm

    • This was an especially intense fire which grew unusually fast because of some terrible logging practices near the point of origin and a weather pattern of high wind that blew the initial fire right up the mountainsides into the forest.

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      Comment by montucky — August 5, 2010 @ 5:00 pm

  7. These pictures are stunning! One reason I enjoy walking in the woods is that it reminds me that in nature death and decay are part of the circle of life, and the reality of that is well illustrated. As Deepak Chopra wrote in “The Way of the Wizard,”…”The ego judges gain to be good and loss to be bad, but nature doesn’t make such distinctions.” Thank you for showing us that this is true everywhere…

    Like

    Comment by Barbara — August 5, 2010 @ 6:37 pm

    • Thank you for visiting, Barbara! Yes, there are many facets to the natural cycle of life. In a way it doesn’t make sense to describe them as good or bad; they just are. Our short life spans tend to make us think that a fire like this is a real tragedy. From the infinitely longer span of nature, it is simply a part of the whole.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — August 5, 2010 @ 9:29 pm

  8. I really like the burned tree shots.

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    Comment by burstmode — August 5, 2010 @ 7:58 pm

    • I find them interesting too. I don’t know how many folks ever have the chance to walk for miles through a burn area, but it is an unforgettable experience. Visiting such an area as the years go by is also an education in the awesome resilience of nature.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — August 5, 2010 @ 9:32 pm

  9. I feel so sad when I hear about forest fires…. though I know they do “things” for the ecological system. There is still beauty among the devastation though….

    Thanks for the quote in your comment today – loved it!

    Like

    Comment by Stacey Dawn — August 5, 2010 @ 9:51 pm

    • There certainly is a paradox with wildfires, but they have always been a major factor within the forests. I have seen evidence of past fires in every forest that I’ve visited some obviously from long ago.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — August 5, 2010 @ 10:14 pm

  10. The scenery is really spooky. Great shots to relieve how it is after fire.

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    Comment by sartenada — August 5, 2010 @ 11:21 pm

    • Being inside the burn area does create a rather spooky feeling. Also a feeling of reverence for the dead forest.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — August 6, 2010 @ 7:29 pm

  11. Indeed, it is a paradox concerning with wildfires. I remember a time in my childhood while in Colorado walking in the area that had suffered from a wildfire… death and rebirth… and your photos remind me of then. Stark and natural your photos are showing the remnants of the wildfire and the renewal. Lovely purple flowers!

    Like

    Comment by Anna — August 6, 2010 @ 10:42 am

    • I’ve always thought the purple blossoms were a message from nature; the green plants by themselves would have been enough of a beginning of renewal, but the flowers went beyond that.

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      Comment by montucky — August 6, 2010 @ 7:31 pm

  12. Thank you for showing us the resiliency of nature. I’ve been to a few homes in AZ that are built right at the forest’s edge or even in it and, beautiful as their landscape and view are, I would not want to live there because of the fire hazard.

    Like

    Comment by Candace — August 7, 2010 @ 4:47 pm

    • There are many homes like that here too. Building in places like that is taking a big risk and, I think, a foolish one as well. There is an area like that not too far from where I live and we know most of the homes will be gone if a big fire starts there: we simply cannot defend them.

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      Comment by montucky — August 7, 2010 @ 7:52 pm

  13. absolutely amazing. as I have thought before on your “fire” posts, I am so glad to see that regrowth and beauty can, and in fact, do come to areas that are burned. even if scars remain, something beautiful can grow….

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    Comment by silken — August 7, 2010 @ 9:05 pm

    • This series of photos were taken about in the middle of that fire that I photographed in 2007. I knew then that I would have to visit the burn at some point. I will visit it again in a few more years too.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — August 7, 2010 @ 9:38 pm


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