Hiker recounts early view of Grizzly Creek Fire, from the Grizzly Creek trail

Flames can be seen on the ridge west of Grizzly Creek Trail at 1:45 p.m. Monday.
Courtesy Jennifer Angeloro

It sounds like the last place you’d probably have wanted to be hiking when the Grizzly Creek Fire broke out was on Grizzly Creek Trail.

Thankfully for Jennifer Angeloro and her children, the fire started a bit west and on the other side of the ridge from the trail near mile marker 120 on Interstate 70. The fire was even called the 120 Fire at first. 

The fire later burned downslope into Grizzly Creek and up and over the slope to the east. 

“I had my three kids and dog only about a quarter of the way up the [Grizzly Creek] trail. We stopped to eat a late lunch at that beautiful picnic table,” she said.

Before they smelled any smoke, the wind picked up.

“There was a big gust of wind, and I was saying to my kids, ‘Isn’t this nice, feel that wind,’” she said.

But that wind most likely was fanning the flames that were at that point out of sight.

“My daughter smelled smoke, and I looked up at the sky, and there was this orange cloud. [It was] creepy,” she said.

Photos she took show flames on the ridge about 15 minutes after the fire started nearly at the Colorado River.

Their immediate reaction was more excitement than fear.

“At first we were a little excited because it was far enough away we didn’t feel threatened initially, I just knew it was time to head back to the car. The kids wanted to take pictures and were asking how it started, like a million questions, so I said, ‘Let’s just talk while we walk.’” 

She said the hike of about a mile took her and her kids about 20 minutes.

“We saw ash on the walk back, too,” she said. 

What frightened Angeloro was being out of communication.

“The thing that was scary is my cell phone wouldn’t work,” she said, adding that although it normally doesn’t in that area, this time she really wanted to use it to call 911.

She was nearly early enough to drive back west to Glenwood on I-70.

“I tried to leave and jump right back on the onramp to get back on I-70 West, but CDOT had just put their cars and trucks in my way, blocking it,” she said.

She ended up driving home over Cottonwood Pass.

“It was slow going, lots of cars, but I think we missed the worst of it because we got through,” she said.

Later, a semi truck turned over on the Garfield County side of the Cottonwood Pass Road.

Cottonwood Pass between Gypsum and the Cattle Creek area north of Carbondale is now closed to through traffic, and is only open to local passenger vehicles.

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