I think that almost everyone in the US, and many people overseas, is aware of the horrible fires Colorado suffered during the late spring and early summer of 2012. One of these wildfires was burning out of control about seven miles (as the crow flies) away from the spot I then parked most frequently for the night.
The town of Estes Park had been very lucky with regards to smoke, it had been lingering at lower elevations, and the smoke had only drifted ever so slightly into this little mountain town. On this particular night in June, 2012, I’d parked my vehicle, and enjoyed the mostly clear air and a beautiful sunset, and I was not alone at the national forest access area. There was a young couple camping in a tent on the hill nearby, who’s car was parked near mine, and a climber who stayed there occasionally who worked in town like myself, and at some point after dark another SUV showed up, and I saw the shadows of two more people climb into the back of their vehicle to sleep.
I had been sleeping like a baby, when the smell of smoke woke me from a very sluggish sleep. My first thought was that some idiot was having an illegal campfire, and I peered out between my scarf curtains groggily, but didn’t see any signs of life. Then I considered a fire might have started nearby from the dry lightening we’d had that day, and previous days, (I knew this was possible, as I’d been a volunteer wildland fire fighter for a number of years) but the smoke was making it difficult to see much.
Then I heard voices on the hill, and saw two headlamps coming down, I could just make out the young couple with their arms loaded with gear, which they threw into their car. They were talking loudly, and they knocked on the SUV’s side panel as they passed it to wake up the sleeping couple. The couple in the SUV climbed out, jumped into the front, and took off. The young couple with the tent then split up, and the girl came to my vehicle, while the guy went to the other two vehicles (a Subaru had pulled in at some point).
“The smokes really bad,” she said through my window crack, “I think we should all leave.”
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I climbed out of my car, and joined the small gathering in the middle of the clearing. “What do you think,” was the general question being asked, “Is it bad enough to leave?” and “Where is it coming from?”
We came to the conclusion that is was smoke from the really big wildfire a few miles north of us, and just then the smoke grew so dense we couldn’t see each other, and also ash started to fall around us. About the same time, we all started rubbing our eyes as they were burning and stinging, and we started coughing simultaneously. There was no doubt now, we would all have to evacuate, or possibly die on our camp pads.
So we all evacuated the area, and I have no idea where they went. It was 11:40 PM, and the smoke was thick for miles.
I decided to drive uphill with hopes that the smoke wouldn’t be so bad the higher I went, and sure enough, on the uphill end of town at a higher elevation, it started to thin. When I left the camp I could barely see through the thick smoke, headlamps were almost useless, and town was very eerie, with the street lights casting a brown glow all around like a doomed halo. My friend’s house was right on the edge of the smoke, and I parked there and hoped that it wouldn’t reach my vehicle. If it reached me here, I would have nowhere left to go to park that was legal, and would have had to risk parking in Rocky Mountain National Park, at an even higher elevation. I know there are kind and understanding people around, but not everyone is compassionate to people in emergency situations and I didn’t want to put myself at risk of dealing with one of those types, or possibly the police.
Anyhow, I fell back to sleep, and the smoke stayed at bay, and all was well. By the morning, the wind had shifted, and the smoke was gone. Very few of those that lived indoors even knew it had happened.
A few days later it rained, and the firefighters were able to get a hold on the fires. The rest of 2012 passed by without any more fire incidences, at least to myself.
Till next time…Savor the Journey
Roxy ~ A Nomad for Nature