My final trip up to the top of Graham to survey the damage left from the Frye Fire before the November 15th winter closure. I met up with Preston and together we headed up the mountain as we have done so many times before. Plan was to survey as many sites as we could and also get in a hike at the end of the Swift Trail. We drove the entire road to it's end and this is what we saw & know .....
We first stopped on the way up for a quick trek up "secret canyon" for some fall colors, looked good and is only gonna get better. A return trip up will be made soon.
Second stop up was made at Ladybug Saddle to show Preston where & how I dislocated my shoulder last week, I was in need of some sympathy.
Then around to the backside/top and into the burn -
Snow Flat - Road down to the CG hit with med intensity burn, campground unaffected and beautiful.
Treasure Park CG - Road down med burn, meadow and CG mostly unaffected and beautiful, the "back" CG hit hard and now gated with "forest closed" sign.
Cunningham CG - Intact, but high burn all around CG. The trail-head for Grant Creek & Moonshine has "closed forest" sign. We could see golden aspens down in Moonshine and a later overlook view showed that lower Grant Creek from Ft Grant TH was unaffected, the upper trail has burned. At Cunningham we talked with a high up Forest Service employee who gave up permission to hike a bit into Ash Creek for a look a little further up the road.
Soldier Creek CG - One of my favorites and I was very happy to see an intact CG with minimal burn around it. The Grant Goudy Ridge (and Ice Caves) TH is open with the standard "caution burn area" sign.
Deadman-Highline Trail - The feel good story of the day! We drove down Bible Camp road to see if the trail-head sign that Preston made and posted back in 2010 made it through the fire. We hiked a bit up the trail through a hard hit area to find burn all-around the perfectly intact sign! It damn near brought a manly tear to my eye to see Preston's joy that it made it through -
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Columbine Corrals CG - From the happiest part of the day to the saddest. We parked at Columbine visitor center and hiked in across the road to the corrals. This whole area is closed including Webb Peak & Ash Creek due to high intensity burn. As stated earlier we had permission to hike a bit in. We took the trail just to where the switchbacks start down and that's about as far as you can go. Of all my trips up since the re-opening, this one punched me in the chest the hardest. I just could not believe I was looking down Ash Creek Canyon ..... black sticks as far as I could see down and on both sides of the canyon. We were told by Forest Service earlier at Cunningham that a decision was made to close and not work on Ash Creek & Frye Mesa Trail (where the fire started) for at least the next 3 years. Webb Peak is also black sticks, but was told that a loop may be re-opened next year.
Riggs Flat Lake - After Ash Creek we continued down the road through much more burn until finally reaching Riggs where the west end of the fire came to an end. We drove down to the lake that does have some minimal burn down, then through the campgrounds & ended with a nice hike around the lake on the Lakeshore Trail. Riggs Lake area for the most part was unaffected by the fire. Merrill Peak was hit on top and I'm sure the backside was too. There is a "burn" sign posted for the Jesus Babcock Trail behind the campground.
CP Flat - Finally on to the end of the road to hike CP Flat. A very needed break from fire damage with an autumn walk through Letty's Grove. I knew we were late for the golden aspen leaves up high, but just as beautiful hiking on the golden leaf road!
Blair Canyon - On the drive back out we stopped at Chesley Flat to see how Blair Canyon fared and as expected ..... not well. High burn and I'm sure Chesley Flat to Webb Peak looks the same.
Quick last stop at the Shake Trail to show Preston the red slurry covered trees at the start of the trail, this entire trail survived and is one of the very few left unaffected.
Our trip ended on the straightaway where Preston dropped me off at my truck, we said our good-bye's & I drove home still processing what I saw on top.
I have now seen the entire top of Graham and have a good understanding to the condition of the majority of the forest & trails. As stated in other logs - I am still shook, bitter & angry over this fire. The damage is much worse then I ever expected. There is still a lot of green up there and I have found a few places that still holds some un-burned beauty that will keep me looking for more. I have spent my entire life going up that mountain and this will take many years to come to peace with ..... I just hope someday I will get there.
I understand that most don't want to read about others personal hardships as I honestly don't like reading them myself. What has happened has happened and I cannot change it only move on - This will be my last log about the Frye Fire of 2017!
To close I just want to thank Preston for taking me up the mountain to view the destruction with me. Seeing it with a good friend made it more bearable. There will be many more great trips up & around Ole' Graham my friend!!!