My husband’s favorite spot is the Rio Grande River by Creede, so much so that he wants his ashes spread there. Is that even legal? Delighted to join me on this river that marked my halfway point on my year-long journey, we left Durango to travel over Wolf Creek Pass knowing that a lightning-caused fire had broken out north of the pass.
We met our guide, Corky Corcoran, from Duranglers at the local coffee shop in the morning and deliberated on the best place to float that day. Up high the water had less fish and was shallow; down low we feared the side-effects of the fire – and as it turned out – rightly so. We took our chances on the water down low especially because this is one of the most scenic parts of the river. We put in at Wagon Wheel Gap and as you can see from this photo, all looked good.
The water ended up being lower than expected and the fishing was minimal – perhaps the fish knew what was coming. By mid-day, the deep blue Rocky Mountain sky had been replaced by a reddish hue from the multiple forest fires. The smoke encompassed us as if a thousand barbecues had been fired up around us. Our eyes began to sting and by mid-afternoon, we wanted to get off the river but had another couple hours before our pull out.
The sun became angry and I found it impossible to see where my fly landed so gave up on the fishing for the day. Corky worked hard at getting us back to our car and we feared the worst for the little towns of South Fork and Creede.
We left the river around 4:00 and headed back to our cabin only to discover that there was a mandatory evacuation and so we headed north to the town of Creede where we were lucky to snatch up the last room at our motel. We reveled in the less smoky air and drove out of town to catch some shots of the ominous smoke clouds to the south and west.
We observed feeding horses who were oblivious to the threatening fires and hoped that a wind shift and/or some rain would improve the situation before more folks would lose their homes and lifelong memories.
I drove through Creede yesterday – a week later – and am happy to report that both South Fork and Creede seem to be out of danger from the fires although the mountainsides west of Creede on the way to Lake City took quite a beating.
How grateful we all are to the firefighters who are so brave as they fight these powerful forces of nature. The news yesterday of the 19 firefighters who lost their lives in Arizona is dreadful.