Montana Outdoors

September 18, 2018

Sheep Gap fire; one year after

Filed under: wildfire — Tags: , , — montucky @ 9:58 pm

It has been a very hot and dry summer in these parts but now the weather has finally cooled off and it feels like the start of fall. After several months without a good hike because of the heat I decided yesterday to visit the area of the Sheep Gap fire which, during August and September of last year, consumed thirty eight square miles of heavy timber on steep mountainsides in the Coeur d’ Alene Mountains just south of here above the Clark Fork River. It was possible to drive on a Forest Service road for about four miles up into the burned area at which point it is closed to motorized vehicles. I then hiked for about four more miles past the barricade to get roughly into the center of the fire area to see what it looks like now. (This first picture was taken of that area last year when it was on fire:)

Sheep Gap Fire at night

The following pictures were taken yesterday during that hike and in them you can see the progress of the colonizing plants as they have begun to rejuvenate the land, the patches of grasses that somehow were able to survive, the sections of timber within the boundary of the fire that were relatively untouched, and wonderfully, the flowers that have been able to bloom already despite the devastation in the burn. The resilience of the forest is incredible!

Clark Fork Valley


Sheep Gap fire



Sheep Gap fire


Sheep Gap fire

Indian Paintgrush

Sheep Gap fire


Sheep Gap fire


  1. Wow..amazing how the earth will come back to life..

    Liked by 2 people

    Comment by Mother Hen — September 18, 2018 @ 10:42 pm

  2. The forest always returns. step by step.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Malcolm R. Campbell — September 18, 2018 @ 11:13 pm

    • Even in the worst of the wildfires, nature always leaves some of the elements necessary for renewal.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by montucky — September 19, 2018 @ 9:09 am

  3. How wonderful, and the pictures are lovely!

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Candice — September 18, 2018 @ 11:55 pm

  4. Amazing how Mother Nature survives and regenerates. Good to see the wildflowers back too. I’ve become rather partial to the Indian Paintbrush flower since you’ve been sharing it online 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Vicki — September 19, 2018 @ 3:07 am

    • I find it significant that many of the first new plants are flowers. That’s a statement by itself.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by montucky — September 19, 2018 @ 9:11 am

  5. Welcome back. It’s been awhile

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Pokey — September 19, 2018 @ 6:17 am

    • Thanks Pokey. Most of my posts are of excursions into the mountains and forests but with the extremely hot and dry conditions of the past summer, there have been very few of those. Now that it has cooled off I hope to make many more before winter.


      Comment by montucky — September 19, 2018 @ 9:14 am

  6. Wow! So good to see the restoration. New growth and renewal as nature does. It’s no less than amazing, is it?

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Mama's Empty Nest — September 19, 2018 @ 9:33 am

    • It’s amazing how soon after the fire it starts to recover and how quickly so much of the vegetation grows.It will be one to two centuries before the big trees reach maturity, but the ground cover and the understory is well on its way. I would expect to see elk and bear in there by this time next year. I did see bear scat in one of the isolated areas that escaped the flames and a small snake sunning himself in an area that had been badly burned..

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by montucky — September 19, 2018 @ 10:06 am

  7. Good to see that you are back in nature. It’s a relief to witness nature’s own recovery ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Hanna — September 19, 2018 @ 12:02 pm

  8. The one good thing about fires is the regeneration.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by wordsfromanneli — September 19, 2018 @ 12:13 pm

    • Fires can be pretty ugly, especially if there are structures and homes involved, but they are also necessary for the health of a forest.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by montucky — September 19, 2018 @ 4:21 pm

  9. Stunning photos – I’m so happy to see the place is healing!

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by M.B. Henry — September 19, 2018 @ 3:40 pm

    • Thank you M.B.! It will always recover from a fire and it’s reassuring to see the process and the speed at which things do recover.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by montucky — September 19, 2018 @ 4:25 pm

  10. It really is amazing how fast nature rebuilds. I don’t think we could stop it if we wanted to.
    The flowers are beautiful, especially the fireweed!

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by New Hampshire Garden Solutions — September 19, 2018 @ 3:52 pm

  11. When we visited Glacier last year I saw some of the same grass (I think) that’s prominent in your fourth picture. It seems particularly good at recolonizing ground after a fire.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Steve Schwartzman — September 19, 2018 @ 5:56 pm

    • That grass thrives in disturbed areas, a very useful plant!


      Comment by montucky — September 19, 2018 @ 6:16 pm

  12. A little experience has taught me how quickly regeneration can take place, but it’s no less wonderful to see. It tickled me especially that I could identify so many of these flowers, although I had to be reminded of the arnica, and don’t know the grass. My favorite photo of the group is the landscape image just below the arnica. The combination of new growth and the beginning of autumn color is intriguing, and the fire-scorched trees set both off beautifully.

    I’m glad the weather’s cooled for you, too. I’ve done a little summer hibernating myself, and I’m ready to get out and about myself.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by shoreacres — September 19, 2018 @ 6:35 pm

    • It’s certainly a landscape of contrasts, isn’t it. Death and new life, autumn colors and summer flowers, old and new. Well worth a little effort to visit such a place.
      This cooler weather has made a huge difference in my attitude, enthusiasm and endurance. It was 33 here this morning and I’m looking forward to at least a couple of months of cool weather before the snow starts to build up. I have a lot of making up to do!

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by montucky — September 19, 2018 @ 7:27 pm

  13. These are all beautiful Terry !!

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Bernie Kasper — September 19, 2018 @ 7:32 pm

    • Thanks Bernie! We’ve finally gotten into some pleasant weather and it will get even better going further into fall. What a relief after the hot summer we had!


      Comment by montucky — September 19, 2018 @ 7:52 pm

  14. Nature’s resilience in the face of adversity is astounding! Thanks for sharing these lovely photos with us, Montucky – apart from being beautiful to look at they convey a profound message!

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by de Wets Wild — September 19, 2018 @ 8:55 pm

    • For many years I have been drawn to visit such places and always see the same forces in motion. It is always comforting and I am always filled with awe for the natural world.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by montucky — September 19, 2018 @ 9:29 pm

  15. It is very comforting that nature does this. One of my favorite quotes by John Muir, “Earth hath no sorrows that earth cannot heal.”

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Candace — September 20, 2018 @ 2:12 pm

  16. Lovely photos! What a hike that must have been!

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by heartandsoul974 — September 20, 2018 @ 5:56 pm

    • Thanks! It’s fascinating to hike through a large burned area and see what happened there and what nature is doing about it. On of my favorite trails is on the top of the mountain and I plan to hike it before the snows come. I know parts of that area have burned but also much of the forest remains. I hope there won’t be too many trees down over the trail.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by montucky — September 20, 2018 @ 8:08 pm

  17. Gorgeous and interesting post.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Sartenada — September 24, 2018 @ 2:20 am

    • Thanks Matti. Nature’s response always includes some beauty


      Comment by montucky — September 24, 2018 @ 7:42 am

  18. Beautiful photos .. lovely to see nature bouncing back 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Julie@frogpondfarm — September 24, 2018 @ 1:04 pm

  19. I am glad you took this hike and shared the rejuvenation that was able to occur this past summer. It is bittersweet to see the devastation along with the beautiful, new green growth of hope. The success of the seeds that survived and those that are arriving by wind to renew the mountainside(s) forest’s life that will bring also the amazing wildlife back. All for you to find and continue to share with us!

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by bayphotosbydonna — September 25, 2018 @ 5:04 pm

    • While strange to us (and interesting too), a natural fire like this one is to nature, just a normal part of the life of the forest. The life cycles of a forest are so long compared to the life cycles of our species that it’s difficult for us to understand.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by montucky — September 25, 2018 @ 8:24 pm

  20. beautiful strand of images. I also like to look at burned areas, even burn piles a year later to see what is growing. Moss, fungi and some tiny plants seem to appear first.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Tammie — September 27, 2018 @ 3:15 pm

    • I’ve visited the burned areas of all of the large fires near here, some many times. It’s a real education to see what happens there with all of the flora and fauna.


      Comment by montucky — September 27, 2018 @ 4:17 pm

  21. As Dr. Ian Malcolm said in Jurassic Park: “I’m simply saying that life, uh… finds a way.”

    Sadly, this year fires in western North America has gone beyond the norm and I fear will take decades of recovery if given a chance.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Scott Thomas Photography — October 3, 2018 @ 7:37 am

    • Fortunately, time means something a lot different to nature than it does to us. I know of three huge Ponderosa pines that died in that fire that must have been well over 400 years old and many Douglas Firs that were several centuries old too. It will recover, but not in our lifetime. Maybe even not in the lifetime of our species, the way things are going.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by montucky — October 3, 2018 @ 7:57 am

  22. Gorgeous photos of nature’s cycle!

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Watching Seasons — October 11, 2018 @ 6:48 am

    • Yes, but it is a little sad that with our short lifespans we don’t get to see the full cycle of recovery.


      Comment by montucky — October 11, 2018 @ 10:47 am

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