Natural Highs: Scars on the Mountain

Awhile back, I did a post about the Golden Gate Canyon fire and the effects of fire on our natural environment. The smoke blanketed the sky as I watched from my cozy little home in Golden. About a month or so later, I had the chance to see the repercussions-and the rebirth-of the exact phenomena I spoke of in that very post. By hiking the locally famous Mt. Galbraith, located about 1.5 miles up the Golden Gate Canyon off of highway 93, I set out into the middle of a landscape that was recently engulfed in flames to find out just how that area was coming along.

Not knowing that the hike I was partaking in would lead into these recently burned areas, I was excited to simply be out in nature once again. The air was crisp; the sky was dark, and off and on I kept wondering how close we actually were to where the flames had roared. Winding up the trail with my roommate and his dog, we talked frivolously of the summer to come and the winter we were leaving behind. Rocks jutted harshly from the trail as we edged our way up the winding side to where the Mt Galbraith loop would take us around the top of the mountain and back again towards the trailhead.

Crossing over a clearing into a valley full of shrubs and coniferous trees, we were surprised with images of blackness scattered amongst the green. Small areas beneath trees lay scarred with ashy tissue, and the trees themselves varied in colors from green to orange to yellow and black. I thought about the hot embers singing the land, and the violent crackles which now laid buried in time. The charcoal colored branches that lay strewn across our path seemed to speak out from their experience in the now quiet and greening land. Whole tree trunks flaked with blackened bark, dying from the outside in, as if locked in chains and screaming for escape. Yet there was a quiet and still peace among the images of death and decay, as if to say everything is as it should be.

This reassurance came with the sight of fresh blades of grass poking through the ash-ridden earth while saplings humbly enriched the landscape with their wiry stems, showing little green leaves against the black splotches littering the valley. The proof that I had been right in my judgment of regrowth gave me a feeling of ultimate satisfaction, and although I mourned for the loss of older trees, I sensed the greater powers of natural cycles at play, and meditated on the thought in silence as the dark clouds passed by overhead. It was a moment of maturation in my bond with the natural world as I realized it isn’t always about sunshine and happiness. There are moments in our lives, and the life of earth, where plaintive moods overtake the joyful ones and an understanding of death is necessary to delve deeper into the true meaning of things. For the first time in a long stint with nature, I was humbled by the decay that lay right in front of me, as well as renewed by the rebirth of the land. The world was blooming right in front of me. And that, my fellow nature-lovers, is why the raw emotion and conviction that lies deep within me boils to the surface and leaves me bare and breathless every time I get my natural fix.

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