Oregon · USA
A walk along the Old Vista Ridge Trail oAffers numerous glimpses of Mt. Hood’s bold north face as well as an overview of the broad brown scar left behind by the lightning-induced Dollar Lake Fire of 2011. I was actually in the area of The Pinnacle (the pyramidal promontory situated nearly dead-center in the image) as well as the tiny silver dollar-shaped lake the day after the fire started in Coe Branch Canyon, but it was still in its infancy then and hadn't yet quite learned to crawl. But once it did, it skipped the toddler stages altogether and set a blistering Usain Bolt-like pace through a vast swath of high-elevation evergreen forest before merciful October rains finally delivered its death knell. By the time it was all said and done, some 6,300 acres of pristine subalpine forest had been immolated down to mineral soil, leaving behind a ghostly yet hauntingly beautiful army of charred snags in its wake.
The amazing thing was that just one year on, life was already returning to the fray. Beargrass and avalanche lilies, still sparse yet starkly verdant against the jet-black soil, were the first to flaunt their re-pioneering spirit. I've hiked into the burn several times since then, and each year the flora burgeons in breadth, density, and height. Ecology tells us that snags are rich habitat for woodpeckers, while deer and elk are moving in and gladly adding the new abundance of brushy understory to their menus. None of this life, I suspect, is led under a suffocating pall of trepidation about the next burn that will inevitably come, or the next one after that.
It just goes on: Living. Breathing. Growing.