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Bike Ride Back to the Past

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Part 1: A Little History

On January 29th I had reconstructive ankle surgery that took a lot out of me. I was in a cast for 6 weeks, which seemed like an eternity. After the cast came off, I had 8 weeks of physical therapy. I finally got the okay from my doctor to run and ride.

I have always been very active. I found rest and recuperation like being in prison!

Part 2: Riding for Fitness

I have a lot of bikes. Each bike has is different. My all-purpose bike is a Surly Cross-Check. My Surly is decent pavement bike that can handle rough dirt roads and easy trails.

For my mountainous neighborhood, the Surly is a perfect fun and fitness bike.

I made a few changes to the Surly including lower gearing, knobby tires, better brakes and more comfortable saddle.

Part 3: High Meadow

Yesterday, June 22nd, I jumped on my Surly and took off for a long ride. Since it was likely to be dark by the time I got back home, I put my headlight and tail light on the bike. I wanted to ride a few miles on pavement then hit the dirt.

I decided to ride the High Meadow area. Fourteen years ago, on June 12, 2000, a carelessly discarded cigarette started a forest fire on High Meadow that burned 10,800 acres. We had to evacuate. On the ridges above my house was a 170 feet wall of flame.

This is a photo of the High Meadow fire. This condition is known as a "crowned-out" and reaches temperatures of over 2,200 °F.

The fire flared-up so quickly that many residents had to evacuate between walls of flame. We had less than 15 minutes to pack-up and leave. I was sure I had seen the last of my house.

As luck would have it, the fire burned directly away from my house. I was let through the police road blocks to get back to my house during the day. My house would shake when the slurry bombers would fly over. These planes came in very low.

The pilots that fly these planes are brave and skilled.

Part 4: High Meadow is Beautiful and Quiet Now

During the last 14 years the burned trees have fallen down and enriched the soil. The burn area is now a rich grassland that is full of berry bushes and wild flowers. I like riding through High Meadow because it is so beautiful.

As I rode along High Meadow the sun was starting to set.

I stopped to take a drink of water. There are very few houses in the burn area. There was no sound and it was a little spooky. I noticed I was near an overgrown driveway. For no good reason, I walked my bike down the driveway to the houseless foundation.

This house used to belong to a nice young couple that were our friends. Where the far end burnt log now sits, we had many dinners together and shared great conversation.

In the setting sun, I could remember what the house looked like. The house was nearly new and the view was spectacular.

There was a forest here once. The burned trees fell over as the years went by. This area provides great grazing and browsing for deer and elk.

If you have a good eye, you can see the burn area on the other side of the valley, which is slightly to the right of my bike.

Our friends never came back. They lost two dogs and cat in the fire. They were not allowed past the police roadblock to get their animals. My wife talked with them afterward. There was just too much pain and they did not want to rebuild.

I got back on my bike and rode home. I am not going to stop by the sad foundation again. I should not have stopped in the first place. The view is so pretty though.

Thanks for reading my blog.

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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    What beautiful pictures. You are such a good writer. I love reading your blogs. I was just checking in to see how you were doing.
    1764 days ago
    1764 days ago
    Coming from New Mexico, I know also what those wildfires can be like! I lived in town and never had to evacuate but saw devastation around me from various fires. I have also hiked through areas that had been burned and seen the devastation, but also seen how things can grow back in a few years and both the good and the bad. My daughter's brother-in-law and family was living in Show Low several years ago when a huge fire went through the areas in and around there and they had to be evacuated. We had a fire that started on a main road into Silver City when a car pulled over and the catalytic converter started a fire on the dry weeds one spring when the winds were terrible. The area it started didn't have houses, but there were gusts up to 70 mph and the fire spread very very rapidly to a subdivision and the people there had minutes to evacuate. Due to the hard work of a whole slew of fire fighters from different levels of government only 5 houses were lost. That's still too many but it could have been worse. Last summer, in June, there was a huge wildfire about an 45 minutes by road from where we lived in the Gila National Forest. I'm so sorry for your friends and their loss and anyone else that has losses. I'm so glad you got to get out and ride the bike. Healing is a long slow process sometimes but you are making great strides now! I know what you mean about being in prison!
    1766 days ago
    So sad and scary!! I would be devastated if I couldn't have saved my cats.
    1766 days ago
    Wow, what a tragic story. And scary too! I can't imagine being chased down by walls of flame. I'm so sorry for your friends. I would feel terrible pain over the loss of my pets also. The pics of their foundation are haunting. Do you still keep in touch with them even though they didn't come back to the area?

    I am always awestruck at stories of fire and the terrible devastation it leaves behind, as well as the rebirth afterwards.

    Thanks for sharing this.
    1766 days ago
    Thank you for sharing, quite a story!
    1766 days ago
    How tragic for your friends and everyone else who lost a home. I can't begin to imagine how scary that must have been for all of you. I hope that ride gave you some sort of closure. 14 years ago must have felt like yesterday during that ride.
    1766 days ago
  • BA5454
    Sad story--and sorry for your loss, because 'losing' friends to them moving away *is* a loss (I know the feeling). Good to hear the land is slowly coming back, Mother Nature can be a wonderful thing. And congrats to you for getting out there on the ride--here's to many more!
    1766 days ago
    Wow, you were very fortunate. I'm with your friends - I would have not wanted to rebuild either. So sad.
    1767 days ago
    Thanks for the pics and the story. I imagine the bikes are probably some of the best exercise for you after the surgery. Best wishes, Glenn
    1767 days ago
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