Back Packing in the Kalmiopsis 2019
Witness to the Taylor Creek Fire

The Taylor Creek Fire started in July of 2018 and burned through southern Oregon. 
It burned an extensive part of the Kalmiopsis Wilderness. I have hiked in this wilderness for 34 years.
I wanted to see what the forest looked like 11 months after the fire started.

I got on trail 1162 just past China-man Hat.  I went to Bald Mt. to see how the old growth forest survived. 
Most did. But the fire cleaned the forest floor and scorched the old growth, something that has happened many times before. 
The trails were a wreck, when you could see the trail.

Bald Mt. the spring behind me 200ft.  The fire burned 20 ft from camp.
I went to see how the flora and fauna survived. 
On my trip I did NOT see any Elk, Deer, Bear or other animals. 
Some sign, but in the eight days I was there, I saw nothing. A few small birds.

The fire had scorched the ground and burned the trees enough that the ground was black and littered with charcoal. 
The dead limbs and falling trees looked as if mother nature was playing pickup sticks, every where.
I did not get a good photo of that, it was not a Kodak moment.

Hundreds of Thousands of Black Dead Sentinels Everywhere.

On the ridge lines I could see for miles, the Silver Creek drainage that burned in Silver Creek fire of 1987
and Biscuit fire of 2002 and some in the Blossom Creek fire of 2004, was a light rust color, clean and devoid of anything.

The Illinois River basin on the west side of South Bend Mt. was clean from Vulcan peak to Horse Sign Butte,
from the top to the bottom at the river, clean, rust brown, naked.

Trees that had been burned in previous fires, and afterwards they started new Douglas Fir trees from their seed cones. 
Those trees were 20 feet tall when the Taylor Creek fire took them out, not time for them to produce new seed.

I carry a Gerber pruning shear on my belt for Black Berries and the Brush. The Romanian Black Berries are starting to come back.
But now things have changed. The under story of brush and deciduous trees burned with such a flash as to harden all the wood
that was left into unbreakable and uncut able daggers. Brush that I once could push through, now I had to go around. 
Sometimes around it, is off a cliff. I sawed some, I went under some. I back tracked.

Sections I traveled in the past in 15 minutes now took over 2 hours to cover.

Bald Mt Prairie Burned
I went from Bald Mt to Polar Spring. All burned. 4.5 miles or so. I could see down into Pine Flat on the Illinois River
from places I never could before. The limb litter on the trail was so bad, I carefully had to pick each and every step. 
Placing my foot into a small triangle of space in such a way as to be able to get it out for the next step. 
Daily, I did 5 hours of Extreme Hopscotch Yoga.

Quiet, beyond like never before. No Crows to caw, No Elk to whistle. No Grouse thumping. 
The wind had a hard time, making sound, blowing against limbless trees. I saw no snakes. Few lizards. I saw lots of ants.

The sweet peas and bear grass were plentiful. Most of the deciduous trees had sprouts at the bass of the plant,
they will be the first to return.

I traveled from Polar Spring, it is called that because the water is extremely cold, on 1174. 
Notice I did not say trail. On the map you have a dotted line to represent the trail. On the map you have a trail number in 
some sort of bracket or box. A trail is maintained (kinda, sometimes), a WAY is not, it is only a way you could travel. 
There is no difference between the dotted line or the bracketed number between Trail and Way. 
That has always bothered me. Way 1174 travels down the ridge of South Bend Mt. and then down hill to 
Colliers bar and up to Game Lake, some 3000 ft plus down and up again. I took this route to get to Pups Spring.

The fire did unusual things as fire does. Raging hot fire burned a thicket of six foot Douglas Fir and then stops mid thicket.
4 inches separate live tree from dead tree.


I made this trip to see what had happened. I spent eight days alone and traveled close to 30 miles through awful conditions, 
and two days of rain. I love this part of the country and it hurt me to see such horror. But I also saw nature fighting back, 
it will be a forest again, not the same but a new and different forest. I will not see it. I saw what the fire had done,
but it is beyond my ability to give it justice.