One might think that people get smarter when getting older. this might be true for some, but not necessarily for others.
We drove home yesterday, returning from our fall camping trip, trying to beat the predicted snow storm. We were lucky, it did not snow and we were able to unload in dry weather. I immediately turned around and drove the pickup down, though, not expecting a major storm. In the last few years the weather forecasts were more on the pessimistic side; usually it did not snow much. But just in case. Helga followed with the Argo. I parked the pickup right behind the Merlo Dip. Helga wanted to go further down. "There won't be that much snow, and I have four-wheel drive". When we arrived home it started snowing, but very lightly.
Next day - today - we had more snow than predicted. Additionally, the wind was picking up and it still snowed. So we decided to see if we could move the pickup further down the road.
The pickup was snowed in and it took a lot of work to make it ready
We had agreed that Helga would go first with the Argo and I would follow in her tracks
The pickup was meanwhile warm and cozy; I shifted into "Low" and "Snow" and carefully took off. To my surprise and great pleasure the vehicle did not need Helga's tracks but drove easily without any difficulties, despite the fact that I did not have snow tires. So I passed the Argo and took the lead.The visibility was horrible
I could not figure out where the road was, but the going was good. Then I realized that the road was someplace else than where I was. No problem. I steered back in the direction of the road and had a bad surprise. My happy ride stopped in the ditch, which, of course, was filled with snow and not visible. All my four wheels just spun around without any traction whatsoever.
We shoveled around the wheels, hooked up the Argo and towed the pickup backwards out of the ditch. Note: writing it now is much faster than the actual action. But finally we got the pickup unstuck, I obediently followed Helga's tracks and parked the vehicle after an uneventful drive further down on Borman
On our way home
Time for a good espresso
SPRING FIRE 2018
This was the extent of the fire, covering approx. 110,000 acres
A total of 146 structures burned, 14 of which were located in FWCR
1. How It Developed
On June 27 at 15:25 we spotted smoke, quite some distance away.
We're getting calls that Forbes Park is under mandatory evacuation; FWCR is on pre-evacuation
The fire was growing fast. The wind has picked up
The wind has increased and has shifted blowing in our direction
The fire now is crossing over the ridge heading into Forbes Park
We're packing a few belongings and heading out. On the way down, we meet about 10 police cars, informing us that they were collecting any remaining FWCR residents still in FWCR. FWCR was now under mandatory evacuation.
So, we drove to the Community Center where we stayed overnight.
This picture was taken by Jim Drain
2. View from the Tower
FWCR received a Communication Tower a few years ago, built by Viaero, and fought against with gusto by some FWCR residents, which is equipped with a sophisticated web cam which can be remotely controlled. Some of us made good use of the camera and its capabilities and asked the nice operator to zoom in on their cabins hoping to see if they were still standing. Most of us just watched fascinated how the fire spread and how the airborne fire crews fought the fire.
The following are pictures taken of the Viaero video right off the monitor.
The fire line
3. Fire Fighters
We, the evacuees, lived for two weeks at the Community Center in Blanca-Fort Garland. During this time we observed how a new city grew in the fields behind the community center and was dismantled again after the fire was extinguished. The firefighters first came from nearby, then from Colorado and finally from all over the US until, at the end, approximately 1,700 fire fighters were fighting the Spring Fire.
Base Camp in the evening
Crew from Georgia
Returning in the evening
The National Guard was also helping
The Colorado Crew
4. Vehicles and Support Equipment
Wer zählt die Völker, nennt die Namen
As described before, there were fire fighters from all over the US. And with them came a multitude of different vehicles and different equipment. Here are a few samples:
5. Walk to the Post Office
While we stayed at the Community Center we walked almost daily to the post office to pick up our mail. After 20 years of living here we finally got to know the area in more detail
With the sherrif who coordinated the traffic flow (and a little piece of ice cream)
This was also the day when LaVeta Pass, which had been closed for several days, was reopened. So we took the opportunity to see for ourselves how things were.
A short chat with the fire fighters on LaVeta Pass
6. Life at the Community Center
All evacuees were offered to stay in the Emergency Center at the Blanca/Ft. Garland Community Center
We were fortunate because we had our Trailer on the mountain for maintenance. When we left FWCR at 10 PM on June 27th we took our trailer with us and parked in the field behind the Community center
We got a briefing every day at 1:00PM in the Gym which was also transmitted on Facebook and on the Internet. During this briefing we were informed about the fire (“growing” and “not contained” for many days), how many fire fighters were on the scene and what they were doing; when we could expect returning home (“no date yet; depends on the wind and the fire”); and eventually, where the fire was contained and, towards the end of the two weeks, when and how we could return.
The briefing was also translated into sign language (the lady on the right in the picture)
The line-up of the officials providing information
We got freshly prepared food three times a day. To my great surprise the food was not only edible and plenty, but in most cases well prepared and tasty. And to my even greater surprise and pleasure, most of the food was prepared without garlic.
Plenty of drinks available for 24 hours (though, they forgot the whisky)
Cots for those who did not find a hotel room or did not have an RV (all hotels were solidly booked)
In the evening we could observe spectacular smoke clouds
7. Going Home 1
This was the day when FWCR was supposed to be officially informed about the status of our cabins. The previous day the county assessors had driven around in FWCR and taken pictures of our cabins. Today we would get the pictures
Green cabins were ok; orange cabins were burned
For most it was not much of a surprise because in many cases they already had seen – or not seen anymore – their cabin on the Viaero web cam. Though, a few were surprised, pleasantly, I may add, when they found out that their cabin was still standing.
The picture the Assessor took of our cabin
Studying the official documents
During the briefing on the 9th the Creekers learned that instead of being allowed into FWCR for only 4 hours as the Parkers had done we could go back on the 10th for good. The electricity had been restored and everything was safe - except a few small fires (see next installment)
Now this is July 10th
The welcome committee
The misery started at the intersection Schierl and Merlo
Our cabin is ok
A perfect stage for singing the National Anthem
What me out of tune?
8. Going Home 2
On the way home, we encountered another welcoming committee, this time from the Red Cross, handing out brooms, shovels, cleaning items and other necessities
Behind the cabin lots of areas were badly burned
The fire reached the cabin as close as about 1 ft
Those were steps right under the solar panels which burned completely, but fortunately the solar system was not affected
We had invited the Red Cross volunteers for some cake and coffee as a little thank-you for all their efforts
We went on a short explaratory hike, and what did we find
A small fire right below one of the pine trees
Despite all the devastation, life goes on
A little later a crew of firefighters came by on their routine check up. When I proudly showed them my efforts they pointed out where it still smoked (though I’m convinced that there must have been smoke without a fire 😊 )
This team was from Montana
Our cabin survived but not our forest behind the cabin
44. Wind Damage
This year we had the worst wind damage in FWCR that I can remember. Most trees across the roads were cut and removed by neighbors (see 43. Travel in Winter). But some trees, mainly on Powers, were/are so large that we don't have the size chainsaws to cut them. Tim will contract a professional wood cutter to remove these trees. Kenny supplied a few pictures of trees on the roads
43. Travel in Winter
We returned from a week of skiing, expecting the usual spring travel home, which is dusty at the low elevations, muddy higher up and getting closer to our cabin, snow. We noticed pretty on that there must have been some wind, with tree branches, some small, some larger, on the road. On the upper part of Schierl we encountered the first tree across the road. Fortunately it was cut and the uppper part was removed.
Shortly thereafter we encountered the second obstacle
Fortunately we had a vigorous young man in front of us who had arready cut the first tree and was in the process of cutting the second tree
I helped him pulling the tree out of the way
Using his winch
We moved a few branches out of the way. And on we went.
Thank you, Kevin and Mary!
42. X-Country Skiing on the Mountain
Kenny and Bettye told us that they would like to buy X-country skis and take up X-country skiing. We offered to lend them our skis so that they could try them out before buying skis and possibly finding out that X-country skiing was not as much fun as originally thought. That's what we did today
We loaded our two pairs on our snowmobile and met them while they were snowshoeing
First job, changing boots. For those of you unfamiliar with X-country skis: the boots and the binding go together. We also brought our boots, fortunately theu fit
Next Job, how to get the boots and the binding together
The problem with youngsters is always the same, they don't have the patience to wait until their ability matches their desire. And, of course, as all youngsters, "it wasn't my fault; the boots were too large and did not fit tightly enough"
Fortunately his dog came to his rescue
Women have more sense
Also, she has more support
Changing direction is sometimes difficult, especially when those boards are so awfully long and have the tendency to get cross with each other
But finally we managed
Meanwhile a complete rescue team had arrived, but fortunately no injuries were reported, except another bruised ego
In case you wondered: this was the method we transported two pairs of skis and two pairs of poles on our snowmobile
Kenny and Bettye decided they liked cross country skiing and they would buy equipment
Never a dull moment on the mountain
41. Yoga on the Mountain
We were in the clouds all day yesterday. The temperature did not go above 24 degrees and it was windy
We went for a hike
The trees were heavily covered with frost
We're in the clouds. The snow was deep. Helga told me to stand still, she wanted to take a picture
All of a sudden I lost my balance and fell forward into the snow. I stretched out my arms to push me back up again but the snow was too deep.
So I decided to make a somersault on the ground
But even this was not so simple, with the deep snow and the snowshoes on my feet
Eventually I rolled over, full of cold snow but without any major damage (except to my ego)
Fortunately Helga was able to laugh and take pictures at the same time
Never a dull moment on the mountain
40. Another rescue mission, this time unsuccessful
It was a rather soggy weather with rain on and off, sometimes heavy. Helga and I were on the computer when the telephone rang. I answered and at the same time looked out the window. On our driveway I saw one of our neighbors on an ATV with his telephone trying to find out if we were at home. We immediately invited him in. He was rather cold because he had traveled quite some distance on his vehicle and the outside temperature was not conforming to the calendar. Helga brewed some hot coffee and offered some Austrian cake. Our visitor then told us his story. He had just returned from Arizona towing a trailer with a 10,000-pound tractor on it. He was towing the trailer with a heavy duty Diesel truck with dualies (twin tires) in the back, in low four-wheel mode. Strong enough for anything. However, when it rains in FWCR, and that it did, just before he arrived, (remember yesterday’s picture?)
the roads become VERY slippery. No dualies, no Diesel, no low four-wheel helps. And he took a curve too far on the inside and his trailer slipped sideways and now he was stuck. We offered to help. After he had finished the coffee and had warmed up a little we took off, following him on his ATV with our pick-up. Meanwhile it was past 5 PM.
After several miles driving on a sometimes very slippery Powers Road we finally reached the place of the accident. Fortunately, it had stopped raining but the road at that spot had not dried at all. It was very muddy.
As you can see the situation does not look good.
We discussed the situation how to best attempt to extricate the trailer. Our neighbor was concerned that if we move the trailer it might slip further down the slope. So we decided to stabilize the trailer sideways by tying it to a tree. Fortunately, we both had tow-ropes which we put to good use
Looking for a tree
Looking for a tree
After we secured the trailer so that it would not slip further sideways we tried to pull the trailer out with our two vehicles. My pick-up is only a so called quarter-ton, i.e. not very big, and, unfortunately, I had set up a service appointment for the next day with a Ford dealer because sometimes my four-wheel did not work. Of course, right here the four wheel did not engage. So on my side one wheel spun; on my neighbor’s truck one front wheel and one rear wheel spun; and the trailer did not move at all. I suspect, even with an operating four wheel on my part we would not have been able to pull the trailer out. The road just was still too slippery.
The only help we now could offer was to transfer all his food stuff for his intended stay of 10 days from his vehicle to ours. We brought everything to his cabin so that at least he did not have to go hungry. His vehicle and the trailer we left where they were hoping that no one would be using Powers Road this evening. A hunter whom we met on his way down Powers we told that Powers was blocked.
Epilogue: This morning we saw a tow truck pass by our cabin. We hope that these professionals with better equipment will be able to extricate our neighbor’s truck and trailer
Later: Kevin told me that the tow truck was able to pull his truck plus trailer out of his predicament without a problem, using his two winches
All is well that ends well
39. Frozen Carburetor
When we drove home with our Argo last week we got stuck in a bad snow drift on our drive way. No big deal. We just left it there and hiked the last few hundred feet home. Next day I had a migraine and did not want to shovel, but Helga could not resist. She shoveled for a while, started the engine but was unable to shift into reverse; so she shut off the engine. And this is when the misery started (As everyone can see it was clearly Helga's fault). When I later tried to fire up the engine it did not catch. No sound other than the starter turning it over. I tried with choke, without choke; in idleand with the throttle fully open. Nothing. So there were two possibilities: either no gas, or no spark. The tank was 3/4 full but I still added gas until the tank was full full. No change. I unplugged the gas line and checked the fuel pump; the fuel pump worked. I unscrewd a spark plug: there was a spark. I poured gasolin directly into the carburator and the engine roared to life as long as I poured gas into the carburator. I even called one of our FWCR neighbors, Jonathan, who has the sales and service in Alamosa of the type of engine which drives the Argo. He agreed with me that it was clearly the carburator. I had taken the carburator apart 4 years ago, but was not very enamored by the idea of having to replicate this exposed to below freezing temperatures and a strong wind, on an incline. Fortunately yesterday there was less wind and it was a little warmer so we decided to try towing the Argo with the snowmobile into the shed. I was a little sceptic if the snowmobile could pull the Argo but it was worth a try. I had taken out the battery, fully recharged it and reinstalled it. When I tried to start the engine, see above. So we shoveled around the Argo and under the tracks and were able to pull it out of the snow drift onto more terra firma. But this was downhill.
Now came the big question. Will it work uphill? We prepared the Argo, lined up the snowmobile, connected both with a sturdy rope, made a clear plan how to tow and where to and then started the snowmobile
I revved the snowmobile engine, but no movement. I tried a second time; the only result was that I smelled the V-belt. So we gave up. A snowmobile is not designed to tow heavy loads.
Today there was no wind at all and it was even warmer than yesterday. Just to make sure, I repeated my routine with the Argo and a fully charged battery in the morning. No luck. So I decided to call the resident Good Samaritan and asked him if he could tow the Argo with his Ranger into our shed. Kenny immediately agreed to help me and promised to come at about noon.He called when he was on his way and I made preparations for him to tow the Argo. But just in case, the temperature had risen to 35°, I turned the ignition key. And the engine fired up without a problem.
Our thanks for Jonathan and to Kenny for their help.
38. Other Neighbors
Most of our neighbors in FWCR are nice and considerate. Most but not all.
It started out that Helga got an e-mail with a complaint that after a 10 hour ride with his buddies he found out that he was unable to drive to his cabin even with a four wheel vehicle. He asked who could drive him there or where he could get such a vehicle. As an afterthought he said he would pay. Helga directed him to Mark's in Alamosa where he could buy or rent a tracked vehicle or a snowmobile.
A day later, just after sunset, he called and told me that he and his four friends had reached his cabin whith snowmobiles but another vehicle (ATV?) was stuck somewhere on the way. He asked if I knew someone who could tow it out with an Argo (I got the very strong impression he meant me). I told him it was getting dark in half an hour, but this did not bother him (it would have taken us an hour to get to his place). He had four friends with him and expected a 78 year old couple to extricate his vehicle. I gave him the telephone number of a neighbor closer by and hope that this guy also told him to fly a kite.
We have helped quite a number of neighbors over the years who ran into a problem. But just to expect neighbors to assist you when you're unwilling or too lazy to help yourself is not the FWCR way.
37. Life and Death on the Mountain
Tim and Becky watched a very unusual event, right in their back yard, a mountain lion killing a deer. They were able to take a number of pictures, some of which I'm publishing below