Trauger column: Thoughts among the devastation
Those are the only words I can think of to describe my reaction to the Grizzly Creek Fire. I do not think I am alone.
This summer I had the opportunity and privilege to raft the Colorado River through Glenwood Canyon three times from Shoshone – which is about three times more than I normally go rafting. I remember looking at the walls of the canyon and being in awe at the beauty. The cliffs seemed works of art, alive with the light playing on them, enhancing the color and revealing nooks, crannies and caves. The contrasting varying shades of green of the lush vegetation, the spruce and pine, the scrub oak and willows – some growing in seemingly impossible locations along the canyon wall – softened the landscape.
Geese and ducks roosted along the banks. We spotted a mountain sheep on a rocky ledge. Our guide, Abbie Cheney, from Blue Sky Rafting, said she saw a river otter a week before. Groundhogs sunned themselves on rocks along the river’s edge.
Do not forget the people. From the rafts that were in the river to the people biking and walking the Glenwood Canyon trail, to the zip liners, people were enjoying the magnificent canyon and river’s edge. There is always a crowd at Grizzly Creek. Many of them are just passing through on their way to another destination, but they paused to get out of their cars and take in the beauty that is Glenwood Canyon and play at water’s edge.
I have been making the trip through Glenwood Canyon since I can remember. I remember winding through a narrow two-lane road on our way to Glenwood Springs. Sometimes we would pull off in various wide spots for a picnic. There used to be a statue – a monument of sorts to the California Zephyr. There were houses at Grizzly Creek and perhaps even at No Name at that time.
Throughout High School and after, groups of friends would run, literally, up to Hanging Lake. I was in better shape then. I remember taking my sons hiking to Hanging Lake when they were very small and discovering, while we were up at the lake, that one of them was coming down with Chicken Pox. We did not hang around long that time.
When an interstate was to be built through our beloved canyon people were alarmed. This canyon was special and called for a very special design. The residents of Glenwood persevered and it has a design that was years ahead of its time and has served the canyon and residents very well.
Now, as I watch the smoke billowing into the sky and choking the valley, I think back at these times and chastise myself for not appreciating the magnificent beauty that surrounds us. There is so much that we take for granted – assuming that it will always be there. It may not be. Life can change in the blink of an eye as we have witnessed.
For many of us, it brings memories of two other devastating fires Glenwood Springs has endured. We will never forget the 14 men and women who lost their lives fighting the Storm King Fire in 1994. We also remember the fear as the Coal Seam Fire jumped the river, interstate and railroad in 2002 to come roaring up, threatening to take Glenwood with it. Once again, the Hot Shot crews, air support and our own local firefighters and first responders saved the day.
Glenwood Springs and its surrounding communities are ever grateful to the over 700 firefighters, aircraft and helicopter pilots who are risking their lives to protect our property and lives. There are no words to describe how much we appreciate your service and dedication. We are praying for your safety as you come from all over the country to try to save and preserve our iconic canyon.
We know our canyon will be forever changed. Our lives will also be changed. For us, all we have is our memories and some photographs. It is a stark reminder of the cycle of life and the need to be mindful, aware and appreciative of what and who surrounds us. We should treat our surroundings with loving kindness, just as we should treat those we love with tenderness. We must be respectful of our environment and of each other. Let us gain something from this harsh reality, in a year of fear and separation. We are hurting. It is a time for unity.
One last comment. I know several guides and rafting company owners in Glenwood. The difficult part is picking one to use. They are all great and I would use any of them in a heartbeat. However, Abbie Cheney made my three trips through Glenwood Canyon very special this year. She is a delightful young woman and was exceptionally good with my granddaughters, who loved her. Abbie, thank you for some very special, once in a lifetime memories.
Kathryn Trauger lives in and writes from her hometown of Glenwood Springs. She has served the community as a member of Glenwood Springs City Council and chair of the Planning and Zoning Commission, and she currently serves as the chair of the city’s Financial Advisory Board. Her column, Perspective, appears occasionally in the Post Independent.
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