October 25, 2016
October 15, 2016
Most of the photos in the previous post showed badly burned places within the area of the Copper King fire. The photos which now follow show many areas within the fire area that escaped the flames and which will help the whole area in its recovery. All photos in these two posts were taken from within the northeast sector of the fire area. The snow-capped peak that shows up in several of the pictures is Thompson Peak which is in the area of the Chippy Creek fire which burned 150 square miles in 2007.
October 12, 2016
At the end of July a fire named the Copper King started not far from my home in western Montana. After burning for two months and covering about 45 square miles it was finally contained about the end of September and the restrictions on entering the area where it burned were removed. Due mostly to adverse weather conditions, today was the first good chance I had to go into the burn area and look around.
This morning a good friend and I hiked for about two miles into the burned area on USFS road 17354 which branches west off USFS road 887 about 4 miles up Todd Creek from the Little Thompson Road. In the valley the temperatures was in the upper 20’s, and when we left the Jeep, at an elevation of about 4400 feet, it was colder and there was about 4 inches of snow still on the ground left from a storm a couple of days ago. Perfect hiking weather!
A forest fire is an awesome event, unpredictable, sometimes seemingly whimsical, and its effects are far from understood by even the “experts”. Fire has always been a part of the existence of the forest and part of its natural order. Its aftermath is fascinating to see.
Following are 20 photos taken today on a hike into the Copper King fire burn. The first photo shows a kind of overview of the variety within the area of a large fire, from areas which were extremely hot to areas where the fire left large swaths of vegetation practically untouched. The other photos are pretty much in sequence as we hiked along the road through one of the areas which suffered intense heat and burning. I will follow up later with another post with photos that show some of the variation of fire effects throughout the rest of the area in which we hiked.
July 2, 2009
A few days ago, while searching for a location in which to cut next winter’s firewood supply, I chose to visit the area burned by the Chippy Creek fire in the Cabinet Mountains of western Montana. It burned for nearly all the month of August in 2007 and blackened an area of 150 square miles, 10 miles wide and 15 miles long. This photo was taken on August 4 of 2007 from a distance of about 6 miles only a few days after it began.
The area I visited on Tuesday was located over the ridge and just about under the center of those tall smoke columns and was pretty thoroughly burned. As She always does, Nature immediately began the process of healing and regeneration, and in admiration I see that She has not forgotten how important the beauty of wildflowers is through the process.
One of the first wildflowers to grow in a burn, Fireweed beginning its blossom period:
Penstemons at the base of a burned Douglas Fir:
Fireweed in it’s bud stage and Penstemons with a section of the fire-killed trees in the background:
In a couple of our lifetimes or a brief moment in Nature’s eternity the forest will be completely whole again.
November 1, 2007
For the first two hours of today’s hunt, I thoroughly enjoyed walking in the footprints of deer and elk and moose. The temperature was in the 40’s but the wind was strong and cold. For about three miles, I stayed below the ridge tops and hunted the semi-open hillsides where the game would be bedded down out of the wind, resting up for their night time feeding forays.
After making about half of a large circle, it was finally time to cross over the high country and complete the circle back to where the Jeep was parked. On the route I chose, three ridges converged at a peak, and upon reaching it, this is what was there; not exactly what I wanted to see!
While it looks like flat, open country in the photo, it is actually just a level area atop a high ridge: the terrain falls off sharply in all directions. This is state land and it was selectively logged during the summer. Apparently a slash pile (tree limbs, branches, smaller trees and brush) had been burned earlier, but it didn’t burn completely and some coals still smoldered deep within the pile. By the time I arrived, the wind had reached about 30 – 35 miles per hour, blowing from right to left in the photo and fanned the coals into a very hot fire. Beyond the clearing and down off the sides of the ridge there were multiple canyons filled with thickets and some old-growth timber; not the place where you would want a fire with that kind of wind! It made an abrupt end to the hunt!
After a hard hour’s hike cross-country to the Jeep and a half hour’s drive into the local DNRC to report and locate the fire on their maps, I returned home feeling pleased that I had chosen that particular area to hunt today and had discovered early what could have developed into a very serious problem.
October 22, 2007
One week ago the last of the access roads into the area of the Chippy Creek fire were re-opened and so yesterday I was able to make my first brief visit into one small part of the burned area near Thompson Peak for a few photos.
The fire started on July 31, 2007 and burned from the west, ten miles east across the Cabinet Mountain range, then spread fifteen miles north and south, consuming a total of one hundred and fifty square miles. On August 14th from a mountain ten miles to the south of Thompson Peak I took this photograph which shows the smoke column from the fire then burning in this exact area:
Following are a few scenes of the southwest slope of Thompson Peak photographed yesterday, showing where all that smoke came from. As with any large forest fire, there are areas within its borders where the vegetation was totally consumed, other areas where the flames swept through too rapidly to burn everything but hot enough to kill the trees, and a few small areas which escaped with only minor damage.