June 30, 2011

Fire, Bears, and a Dry Hole

That reddish dust in the air is ground-up Fountain Formation sandstone.
FIRE: I was all packed to go fishing two days ago—a friend and I planned to hit a small, warmwater lake at the end of the day. The Porta-Bote was strapped to the roof of the car, rod and tackle box inside. Then the telephone rang.

A new fire was burning inside the perimeter of the Sand Gulch Fire, the one that chased us from our home at the end of April. There had been some lightning that afternoon, but opinion now leans to the possibility that a tree root smoldered underground for almost two months before starting a new surface fire.

The new fire was at the bottom of a north-facing slope, a mix of burned, live, and scorched ponderosa pine and Douglas fir.  We arrived in force—12 or 14 volunteers plus the brush truck and water tender. I know that I myself went through two backpack loads of water on what was only a quarter-acre fire, but with the wind and the heat and the fuel dryness, we had a few anxious minutes at the beginning.

We have two classes of volunteers: some are really motivated to learn more on every fire. Others—and do they all come from the old ranching families?—work hard at the beginning, then step back and start telling stories: ". . . so-and-so's dad built a cabin up that crick. That's why that fence runs over . . . "

Eventually a half dozen Forest Service guys arrived, and we turned the final mop-up and observation over to them and headed down the hill. Bad news: the little country store, the only place to buy beer within 15 miles, had closed for the night twenty minutes earlier. (Calling ahead would not have worked, since we were in a cell phone dead zone.)

DRY HOLE:  Our guest cabin shares an old, hand-dug well with three other houses—all this relic of the 1960s when the county had no zoning. It has its problems, especially from the perspective of the full-time residents, including one whose house is for sale. So they all wanted to dig a new well.

The driller came, dowsed, and drilled next to the existing well. Down 200 feet. Nothing. Down 400 feet (the depth of a nearby well). Nothing. By that time he was well into the Fountain Formation, the same reddish sandstone that forms the Boulder Flatirons, Red Rocks Park, and parts of the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs, only here it is not tilted up but lies not far underground.

The Fountain Formation is quite thick: as much as 4,000 feet. So we stopped throwing money down the hole at that point. Apparently the old well just taps gravel on top of it, and as for the neighbor with the 400-foot well, maybe he got lucky and hit some sort of seam.

Now the plan is to once more attack the old well with high-pressure water jets and suction, try to clean the mud out, and re-case it. Meanwhile, I owe $1,600 for my share of the dry hole.

BEARS: Garbage pickup is on Tuesdays, so one neighbor, who has lived here at least thirty years and ought to know better, put her garbage can out by the road on Monday evening. I set out with the dogs on their Tuesday morning walk, when suddenly they went tearing off through the trees and oak brush. They had found a prize! Garbage was everywhere! Shelby found something stinky to roll in, while Fisher looked hard for overlooked tidbits that the bear might have missed.

This bear was hanging around near the house that evening, probably hoping to find a new garbage can.

Summer is such a lazy, relaxing season.

1 comment:

Luisa said...

Please let us know how the jetting goes. [We're on a 1917 water system with dug wells and related goodness here at the cabin.]

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