Trail Talk: Remember the fallen at Storm King’s Memorial Trail
Getting there: From Glenwood Springs, take I-70 West to exit 109. Take a right off the exit, and another right at the stop sign. This frontage road leads directly to the trailhead parking lot.
Length: 4.2 miles
Things to know: Parking is readily available at the trailhead. This is a steep, rocky trail, and it can become muddy and sloppy after rain or snow.
Learn more: visitglenwood.com
“Fire on the Mountain: The True Story of the South Canyon Fire” by John Maclean is available at the Garfield County Public Library District and Book Train. The New York Times bestselling book recounts the events of the fire in detail.
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In July 1994, a lightning strike ignited a fire that would cost 14 firefighters their lives. Those who fought the South Canyon Fire are remembered on the Storm King Mountain Memorial Trail, a 4.2-mile hike.
The trail is intentionally rocky, left natural so hikers can imagine themselves in the shoes of the firefighters. It begins with a 700-foot, 1-mile climb that will get a hiker’s lungs pumping. The firefighters, of course, traversed this terrain in heavy gear and in brutal heat. Equipment would weigh between 30 and 60 pounds, signage indicates, and firefighters would have arrived prepared to stay for several days.
Along this stretch of trail and beyond, markers tell the firefighters’ story. Signs also invite hikers to reflect on the effects of fire on terrain and the bonds firefighters must share as they work together.
You can relate to the heat the firefighters faced on Storm King if you hike it in summer. But in winter, its exposed path allows time to slow down and take in the memorials.
Storm King begins within earshot of I-70, and quickly ascends to a view of South Canyon and its surrounding terrain. The beginning of the hike is the toughest part, thanks to a steep incline. As it continues, the trail is interspersed with longer, flatter stretches and more climbing.
There’s also an unmarked footpath that continues to the spot where 12 died, and it’s often lined with mementos to honor them.
Stop and remember
Signs at the trailhead pay tribute to each of those who died on the trail. Pause to read the stories of Roger Roth, Jim Thrash, Richard Kent Tyler, Jon R. Kelso, Don Mackey, Bonnie Jean Holtby, Rob Johnson, Robert E. Browning Jr. Douglas Michael Dunbar, Terri Ann Hagen, Scott Alan Blecha Levi Brinkley, Kathi Walsleben Beck and Tamera Jean Bickett. There are also memorials in Glenwood’s Two Rivers Park and Ochoco Creek Park in Prineville, Oregon, which sent 20 Hotshots to help fight the fire.
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