Autumn colors are as brilliant as ever in the unburned areas.
My feet crunched through the pink leaves on the ground as I walked up the trail looking for the best places to take photos. It was fall in Carbon County and the canyon surrounding the area are glowing with color.
The September equinox was that day, and the sky was blue with a few clouds in it. Later in the afternoon as we drove in the side by side from First Water Canyon there would be a small shower, just enough to get us wet; but for now in the middle of Bob Wright Canyon, the sky, the air and the color was perfect.
My dog spotted a squirrel by a tree just off the trail and she ran through the yellow fallen leaves to get it. The small animal ran up the tree and made a chirping sound, like it was sassing my dog. Other than that peace reigned; no one else in the canyon, the water in the stream gurgling below, and the rustle of a small breeze through the leaves carried to my ears.
I was there to see how much the fires of this summer had affected the canyon. At the lower part of Bob Wright fire had slipped its hot fingers onto various kinds of trees. Their leaves were brown or totally missing. That was unfortunate, because that entrance on Benches Road from Consumers used to be one of the most beautiful views of all when crossing over from the Gordon Creek Wildlife Management Area.
But as the road to upper Bob Wright turns off Benches, it looked as it had always looked; green, yellow and red, a mark of late September. The only difference was in the stream below where black gunk still resides, a remnant of late summer thunder storms that brought burnt wood and black mud down from the denuded hillsides.
The small grassy meadows where many a camper had dwelled over the years remain intact. They were still damp from a rain storm weeks ago, being shaded by the large trees that surround that part of the canyon.
Further up, what I call the "color tunnels" were as brilliant as ever. The "tunnels" come in spurts. The trees and bushes hanging over the road make it look enclosed, but not in a dark tunnel kind of way, but with wisps of sunlight coming through the colorful leaves.
I hiked up to the area where the fire had come down the mountain to the edge of the center part of the canyon. It looked to have burned to the creek and not beyond. However, I had the feeling that up above that I would see destruction, so I turned around.
We drove over to Second Water Canyon along Benches Road and found some very burnt out spots along the way. What we found in Second Water was a far cry from Bob Wright. The lower part had burnt in places and many of the trees were dead. Up the canyon to where the trail is blocked to motorized vehicles, patches of blackened oak brush with it dark stocks still sticking into the air remain. One large pine tree on the side of the road was black to the top. It was the opposite from Bob Wright. Stark, almost colorless, ugly. The hitching posts for horses at the bottom of the canyon are intact, but the trail above is still closed.
All along Benches Road and into first water the ever standing mountains above had patches of color on them, often in the lower slopes where the fire had not affected them. Otherwise there was a lot of brown and black.
Fire is a natural thing and the life that comes from a blaze is amazing. I walked across one meadow to get some photos of a glowing red bush I had seen from the road. That meadow was missing all its Sage and Rabbit brush. All that remained was stumps. But already green grass and shoots were coming from the ground.
But that walk also made me think about more than burnt trees, brush and grass. Along the way were thousands of snail shells, burnt out. How many creatures of all kinds had lost their lives in that fire? Some could run away; others like the snails and insects were vaporized by the heat.
In a generation or two, all will be grown back, barring no more fires in that area. It may be better than it was. But as natural as fire is, for those creatures such as us, with short lives, it will be changed forever in our minds.
And those that come after us, the stubble and burnt falling trees that will take a hundred years to disappear, will wonder what happened there,
The great Seeley Canyon Fire of 2012 will only exist in newspaper stories, long forgotten by new generations of human beings.