“While I was looking the other way your fire went out
Left me with cinders to kick into dust
What a waste of the wonder you were
In my living fire I will keep your scorn and mine
In my living fire I will keep your heartache and mine
At the disgrace of a waste of a life”
― Kristin Cashore, Fire
I took a sick day today. Pretty much just laid around, playing with my kids, napping, neglecting housework, eating junk food and watching “The Lego Movie”.
Unfortunately for me, I did have a meeting in the evening. So I went. And when I left I went to the nearest trailhead, which happened to be White Rocks, in the Colorado National Monument.
Since it was a recovery day I didn’t want to do the steep climb up the mancos, so I stuck to the wash, assuming it would dead-end in the black precambrian. It didn’t. I climbed up over boulders, and started to smell smoke. It got stronger the higher I climbed. Then I found what looked like the ash from a cooking fire- which was still warm- and a larger log pulled up and away from these ashes and still smouldering.
Now, I, like all of you, have been indoctrinated by Smoky Le Bear, about the danger of unattended fires. I didn’t know quite what to do. It didn’t look particularly harmful. I didn’t really have any way to put it out. Here’s how it was:
So what would YOU do? I took my mantra to heart: When it doubt, wait it out.
I kept hiking. And every time I hit what seemed to be a dead-end, I found a way to climb up to the next level- over and over- until I reached above the precambrian and I found myself in the red rock again.
Well I was thirsty. It was starting to get dark. I had to figure out a way down. I had been unsuccessful in my attempt at self-destruction.
When I got back to the burning log, it looked like this:
I know, right? Open flame is a whole other story. What if one of those hot ashes flew up and caught the trees on fire? I could just see 1/2 of the Monument going up in flame! That would be a nightmare! I would cry for days! Now would I rather risk calling 911 for nothing huge than crying for days because my backyard playground burned up.
So I called. The first question dispatch asked: What is the address of your emergency?
Ha ha ha! My reply: Well, I’m about 1/4 mile up Gold Star Canyon from the White Rocks Trailhead.
I quickly explained that this wasn’t a life-threatening issue, but just an unattended fire in an open wilderness area. She sent in the fire truck and sent me down the trail to meet them, which I did.
Then I led them up to where the fire was, now even larger than before:
Well they took to it with their shovels, and determined that it had been an entire tree that had been hit by lightning and probably burning all day. They said I absolutely did the right thing by calling it in.
That was nice to hear. It was pretty funny, actually, because they were like…So…you’re just up here….hiking? Yeah. Duh. Because apparently not everyone just hikes up the wash, climbs the precambrian walls, finds fires burning, calls them in, hikes back down to lead the firemen back up to the burning log….what? Well, I do.
On my way back to my Jeep I pointed another firefighter in the right direction, then gave a statement to the park ranger who just showed up.
I like to be helpful, you know.