Wednesday, October 29, 2014

West Fork Deeply

I like this place and could willingly waste my time in it.” 

― William Shakespeare

Returning to the West Fork trail after the Slide Fire.
My first hike back into the Enchanted Forest since the fire. To be honest, the damage was more than I'd expected and as I hiked through my beloved trail and surveyed my old friend, I felt I was blaming myself, my kind.

The fire damage is quite evident and although the colors were beautiful and for the most part this area of the forest was not totally destroyed, I couldn't help but feel a bit of the loss. The creek is changed, the flow, the crossings, the color and sounds. The low water level has completely changed the cove. The images I've taken over the years here are of scenes that no longer exists.

A dark soot adheres to everything, the ground and lower canyon walls in some areas are stained with it. The sandy areas near the creek are now muddy and black. Strange substances cling to the tree trunks, I'd guess some sort of fire retardant. Each crossing that previously had a distinct personality now seemed like a stranger. Course and flow changes, debris and damage, carnage of the careless and I feel responsible. Not sure why.

I came in mostly to reacquaint and secondly to photograph but the emotional impact of the destruction left me doleful. As much as I wanted to celebrate and revel in the brilliance of the autumn spectacle, I couldn't get my heart into it. I couldn't shake the melancholy and I felt culpable. Not sure why.

I wanted to see the things that reminded me the most of this canyon trail. I wanted sit and remember, touch the canyon wall and pay respect. So that's what I did. Don't get me wrong, West Fork was strikingly beautiful when I saw her and it could have been so much worse. I'm so grateful most of the trail was spared.

My hand...lovingly laid on your sandstone. I'm sorry for this, if no one has said it.

Getting healthy will take years and I'll be back often to watch your recovery and I suspect you'll return brilliant and keep returning and renewing long after I've left this place.