ID MyHorse

Comanche Peak Wilderness… & Wildfire Damage

Our first venture into the forest this summer was to a nearby and favorite trail… the Dunraven trail in Comanche Peak Wilderness. This trailhead is accessed at the back end of The Retreat, a community of homes located in Glen Haven, Colorado. Last year’s wildfires affected The Retreat more heavily than my community of Storm Mountain. These maps will give you some perspective of how close Storm Mountain is to Glen Haven…

Alan and I rode this trail last summer. We were uncertain as to what kind of damage we were going to encounter. We knew that homes had been lost in The Retreat. The Cheley Camp has a horse stable in Comanche Peak Wilderness… it was unoccupied last summer. While riding this trail you pass right by the stable, through a private area owned by the camp.

Additionally, last summer was so incredibly dry that water crossings were a non-issue. When I lived in Estes Park in 2013/2014, I rode this trail frequently. Here is a photo that was taken in August of 2013. The river was not moving very fast as the snow had melted months before.

The snow only started to melt a couple of weeks ago. The rivers are high and rapid. We faced a significantly deeper and more challenging crossing at this location this year.

Kadeen is an old pro at negotiating tough stuff. He’s careful and methodical as he decides where to place his feet. Sadie is less meticulous… her goal is often just to get it over with! She’s doing better all the time, though.

This time, however, Kadeen turned around and looked at me as if to say, “You’re kidding, right?” The river crossing is early in the ride. However, we made it across without incident. Soon, we were on our way deeper into the forest.

It didn’t take us long to see fire damage. This trail goes a long way, but we only went about 3.5 miles in before we turned around. We intend to ride this trail again soon and go further in.

Clearly, our firefighters are freaking amazing. I feel the same way about the Forest Rangers. The amount of work expended to save the forest is only equaled by the amount of work ahead to clean up the damage. The Rangers were already dealing with massive destruction due to beetle kill. The incredible number of dead trees from the beetle kill is what provided so much fuel for the fires.

We encountered a group of Rangers working on a bridge for horses over a muddy area. We asked them if the trees that were partially burned were likely to survive? They said if there was green on top, it was possible that the tree would live. There is a photo of a tree that fits that description in the gallery below.

Whenever I hear people state that the forests are not being well-maintained, I wonder if they have any understanding of how much effort is required to do that? Admittedly, there are different viewpoints about how to go about managing the forest. I read an article in Reader’s Digest called I Cry for the Mountains. It is the story of a California rancher’s heartbreak due to massive losses from a fire. It is an outstanding article. I highly encourage you to read it.

At any rate, we very much enjoyed our ride as we processed the scarred landscape. This is an easy trail with a very manageable number of hikers. We did encounter one other group of three ladies on horseback. The parking lot is large, although you don’t want to wait until really late morning to get there! There is a pit toilet at the trailhead.

Ride along with me for a few moments…

Be sure and stop at the Glen Haven General Store for their famous cinnamon rolls!

Coming next week… our ride up to Gem Lake (very technical) and then on to Cow Creek and Black Canyon trails.

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