Monday, July 6, 2009

Fox Creek, Near Ketchum, ID -- Sept 26, 2008

Our last full day in Idaho and we had planned to revisit the legendary Pioneer Cabin hike. But this late in the season, the sheep were migrating back toward the valley and were currently grazing on a section of the trail we'd be traversing. Herds of sheep don't bother me, but they were accompanied by some very loyal sheep dogs that weren't big fans of strangers and had recently been harassing hikers. The fine folks at the Ranger's Station advised that if we had any doubts we should choose another trail.

Our helper at the Ranger's Station recommended the Fox Creek hike, which wasn't a terribly strenuous hike, but had the unique attribute of running through a portion of the Castle Rock fire of 2007. This had been a large, devastating forest fire north and west of Ketchum the previous summer. I'd been curious about seeing the results, and the chance to hike through an area now regenerating itself was too unique to pass up.

We drove to the Lake Creek trail head. I have to say -- I love trail heads in the US. They are well-marked, and have these very informative bulletins nearby. We have these is Canada, but it's often hit and miss. Often if there is some sort of information station, it likely hasn't been updated in 2 or 3 years.

Big Wood River in the fall. I could sit and stare forever. That's a hint of Baldy in the distance.

It doesn't take long to get to the sagebrush and desert part of the hike.

But the sage just makes the colours stand out more:

Beautiful. Something about these mountains always makes me stop and stare:

This wasn't part of the burn area, but the whole field was littered with black, twisted roots.

The trail cut back along the river and into the side of the mountain. There were lots of bikers along this rocky ledge, which surprised me.

Big Wood River in the fall:

We started to see some evidence of the fire.... we thought this was it, but this was "only" the edge:

Already some regrowth:

Fox Creek is actually a part of a series of loops and trails in the area. I love how well signed everything is, and of course for me seeing distances in terms of quarter miles is a reminder I'm not at home ;-):

Couldn't get enough of the colours:

Flower! I'm not even going to try to attempt the naming on this one:

The actual burn area. Nothing but black and tan... and then this incredibly lush green undergrowth as the forest starts to recover:

Buds from one of the green plants... I still hadn't clued in....

RASPBERRIES!! The first plant taking root in a burned out forest.... raspberry bushes.

It was amazingly green and lush among the dry tinder:

Some of the burned bark was peeling right off the trees to reveal new wood underneath:

Back out into the sage. There weren't many signs of burn here, but sometimes it was tough to tell.

Midway through the sage, we found an area on the edge of the forest that had burned in a horseshoe, leaving a central area completely untouched. Fire is amazing:

We almost missed it, but this tree is not really planted... it's actually sitting on top of the ground, resting against the other tree:

The base is completely hollowed out:

They aren't the Rockies of Alberta... but they're so beautiful in their own right...

Fascinating to see how the forest regrows after such devastation. It'll be a place worth visiting next time we're in Idaho.


Anna said...

Wow what a nice adventure. Makes me want to take out my equipment and shoes and go now! Thanks for sharing. Anna :)

Anonymous said...

So glad you love our mountains. You took some amazing photos! Too bad you were too early to see the fields and fields of globe mallows (wild hollyhocks) that grew where the fires raged. I've lived here 31 years and have never seen flowers like them. Nature has an amazing penchant for regrowth.
Carol H.
PS: From our house on Hwy 75 we walk to the Fox Creek trailhead and do that hike.

Michelle said...

@Anna - thanks so much for all your wonderful comments. ;-)

@Anonymous (Carol) - you make me very jealous! I return to Blaine County about every 2-3 years and I miss it the years I'm not there. I would have loved to have seen the area as it changes and continues to grow..... hopefully soon. Maybe we'll pass each other on the trail!