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Hiked to a B-17 Crash site in the Rockies today

Sunday, September 25, 2011

My husband (RANDY175) heard about this hike from his female barber and it sounded interesting but on the edge of our limits. 12 miles, tons of elevation gain (and losses, and regains), hard to find. We decide what the heck, it's the first day of the Fall 5% Challenge, let's challenge ourselves!

***If you find this disturbing in any way and don't want to read about us visiting a place where airmen died or see the many pictures in this blog, please go somewhere else now....***

The wreck was a training mission during WWII for the air force, night flying and they confused Fort Collins with Laramie, which is further north and pretty much past the mountains. So the plane was not where they thought they were. The story has it that someone on the plane thought they saw something go by the window so they turned on the landing lights and saw trees and the mountain ahead. Can you imagine? The pilot had just enough time to pull up the nose. Four crew members died but six managed to survive. Two of them hiked down and found some fishermen who drove them to the closest telephone at Vern's, which just happens to be a lunch place/country store we take a long bike ride to sometimes. The crash happened in June, 1944 during World War II. And the army for some reason, dynamited the crash 6 weeks later so the debris is even more strewn than is normal for an incredibly large plane flying very fast and hitting a mountain side in the middle of the night. It was cool to explore and we kept saying, how'd they survive THIS? There were silk roses left in places in memory of those who weren't as lucky.

This is me at our first pretty view spot. This hike is AMAZING in the views and I say that as a veteran Colorado hiker!

That's our trail heading up the next hill. It went up and down, up and down, through beautiful woods and over rocky terrain. When we turned off the first trail onto the one leading to the site area, we had to navigate by the cairns in spots.

An old shepherd's cabin about half way to the site.

The location is off a rarely used trail, this was our marker to the site.

About 100 yards off the trail we started coming across stuff. Mostly pieces of torn up aluminum and rubber and rusty stuff and lots of glass. Then, bigger pieces and then some real huge piles of stuff. Keep in mind it's been out there for 67 years and was dynamited. This is one of the engines.

Randy was thrilled to be able to identify this as a radio. (It's a federal offense to remove anything but that didn't stop us from trying to identify some of the stuff we came across. We just put it right back.)

One of the five or six bigger sections of debris. It was amazing how much was still here and how spread out it was.

This piece of what we think was a wing is one of the few that gave any clue as to the fact that this was an US Air Force plane.

Wings? and stuff.

This gave us pause. Everything else there was so militaryish, all airplane ruble and equipment. This toolbox made us really think of the men.

I did some research once we got back home and seems there were three B17 crashes in our county between 1943 and 1944. Also seems there were a heck of a lot of casualties from training. One of the other crash sites is eerily close to this one. I read that the survivors of this crash had a reunion later but there weren't many details. So glad we did this hike. Was great exercise and got us thinking about WWII and U.S. history and how sometimes things just don't go right.
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