- Andy Hitch
Cameron Peak Fire Destroys Storm Mountain Jeep Trail Near Estes Park Colorado
It all started miles away on Cameron Peak in early September. Those of us who live on Storm Mountain couldn't have imagined the fire reaching us. In fact, it was listed at 70% contained until Wednesday Oct 14th. That's when it blew up. The fire went from 136k acres to 200k overnight and broke the record set just a month prior by the Pine Gulch fire, becoming the largest fire in the history of Colorado. Here is a shot from my house on Storm that day.
The westerly winds pushed the fire behind my house (pictured below) and the the rocky mountain you see in the background. Even thought the plum of smoke looked scary, I still didn't take it serious enough. Believe it or not, on Thursday (the next day), the sky looked like this.
On Friday the 16th, it blew up again. The 70+ MPH winds swirled around in every direction and it took the mountain. We evacuated in front of a wall of fire a good 300' high. Here is a shot of the fire as viewed from Estes Park.
This is what it looked like as it burned on Saturday October 17th.
My home made it. Me, my wife, and my daughter were to get a police escort to our home on October 22nd so we could turn off water lines before the pending snow storm due to hit October 25th. Here is a shot of my daughter and I at the back end of our property.
This is the bulldozer line the emergency crews cut in order to stop the fire from reaching my house and others.
This fire and others around Estes Park have pushed the wildlife into new areas. We normally have plenty of deer, elk, and bear on our property. However, it's not like Estes Park. The deer and elk are not used to people. You can't normally get close at all. This doe had no desire to move. She laid there as if she was just plain tucked out.
We left the mountain after turning off water lines and decided to rush back our shop in Estes Park because the sky just didn't look right. You can see the deep orange smoke in the air. As it turns out, the East Troublesome fire in Grand Lake decided to blow. This was the scene as we pulled into Estes Park.
The entire town was being evacuated. So, we were homeless and living in the motel across the street from our shop, and out of business because of the Cal-Wood fire near our trail system toward the south, and now we were being evacuated out of the place we were evacuated too. This picture was taken at 2:30 in the afternoon. My camera pulls al lot of light. It was actually darker in person. Behind those cars you usually see beautiful white cap mountains just a few miles away.
As I write this on the evening of October 23rd, my wife and daughter are with my mother-in-law in Loveland with our dogs and cat. Our horses are evacuated to Estes Park, and I'm posted up at the shop, sleeping on the floor guarding the equipment. Estes is a ghost town right now. No gas, no food, no stop lights, no people, no nothing..............
Tonight and tomorrow won't be good for the fire. High winds are expected. The only saving grace is the 15" of snow due to hit on Sunday the 25th. Tomorrow we are set to deliver 6 machines to the Forest Service in order to help fight the fire.
I'm stuck between a rock and hard place. Spot fires are popping up around Storm Mountain and my home, yet Estes Park and my business can't be left unguarded from possible looters. There are some great mountain folk friends busting their asses right now putting spot fires out on neighbor properties.
The following pictures are some of the beautiful shots of Storm Mountain and other areas devastated by the Cameron Peak fire. I'll keep these in my memory forever.
Me and my daughter Mady riding an area that doesn't exist any longer.
Mady and Sal riding in Bear Gulch on Storm Mountain.
Mady on top of Storm Mountain with some friends.
Me on top of Storm Mountain looing down at Loveland below.
My wife and daughter on Storm after a ride.
My daughter at age 11 on the Storm summit and her riding an ATV through Foggy Park on Storm.
There were always lots of moose on Storm. I wonder where those that made it will end up?
More random pictures of Storm Mountain taken by me and some customers.
My parents move us up to Storm when I was 10 years old. I know every rock, trail, and tree. I learned to ride a dirt bike on that mountain. I broke my first horse up there. I got my first deer, broke my first bone, learned to drive, found my two best friends (still to this day), and met my first love on Storm Mountain. Everything I did as a youth and young man happened there. Having said all that, I left that mountain with the only things that really matter to me; The love of my life and our daughter.
We'll go back. I'm not sure I can handle seeing what it has become after this fire. So many spots contained many memories. I feel like I lost a loved one. Who knows, maybe things will change with the spring rains?