On the first Saturday of September I hiked to Upper Welcome Lake in the Bull of the Woods Wilderness, less than 60 miles southeast of home as the crow flies. It was another hot, humid and very hazy day (lots of smoke from wildfires).
It had been quite a few years since I had done this 10-mile, 2,200-foot gain hike. And, like the last time, I saw no other people on the trail. However, the changes in the scenery were dramatic.
The hike began by following a tributary of the Collowash River along a canyon. This was an old growth forest with large, old hemlocks and Douglas fir trees prominent along the trail.
After two miles I turned uphill through a series of steep switchbacks before ascending to the top of the Welcome Creek Headwall. Unfortunately, after beginning the steep switchbacks, I soon entered a large area destroyed in a wildfire. I later learned the forest fire occurred in 2010.
Burned tree snags covered the trail in many places, and the trail was very difficult to follow. To my chagrin, the wildfire had gone over and past Welcome Lakes.
It’s a lesson I’ve learned many times. The wilderness is always unpredictable.
Needless to say, it was a long, difficult and hot hike back to the trailhead.
The National Forest Service is now consuming close to 70% of its budget fighting forest fires. http://ualrpublicradio.org/post/national-forest-campgrounds-increasingly-operated-private-companies#stream/
I’m surprised by how long it’s taking the forest to recover . Your earlier photos show a lush, vibrant landscape — hopefully some of that will return.
It will be many years before the forest is mature again near Welcome Lakes. In the meantime, it opens lots of good habitat for elk and deer.
Fire is a good thing — change is always happening. It’s just that some places look too beautiful to disappear in smoke and flame …