April 17, 2012

The Silence of the Burn

Fire burned hot in this little gulch.

Woodecker-drilled pine at the burn's edge.
A week ago M. and I took a walk through one of nearby areas burnt in last summer's forest fires.

It was so quiet. Even with a breeze, we heard just the crunch of our shoes in the soil. This area had burned hot—not so much of a fire mosaic as two ridges and the intervening valley just wiped out.

Gambel oak was coming from from its roots—those are the tan sprouts in the photo below—as was mountain mahogany — the green leaves in the same picture.

And some grasses and mullein—that was about it.

A few birds went by—a mountain bluebird, some kind of warbler, and a pair of downy woodpeckers chipping the charred bark off a ponderosa pine (photo at right).

It's good, though sobering, to walk around in burned places. There is a feeling that this is the baseline—a near total erasure of the forest—except for that oak brush that sprouted last summer.

I did not see a single deer track or indeed any kind of mammal, so I'm curious to see how long it is before they return.
Gambel oak and mountain mahogany return.

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