This summer, my husband and I took our traditional July hike on one of our favorite trails south of Creede, Colorado. As we hiked the familiar Ivy Creek Trail, we saw many fir and pine trees that were dead, and many that had been cut and pushed off the trail. Then, after hiking 3 miles, our way was blocked. Blocked by fallen trees that looked like giant toothpicks interlocked in a chaotic jumble.
This summer, the forests near Creede were noticeably changing. From a distance, the evergreen forest had a reddish tinge, the first obvious sign that trees are dying from the Mountain Pine Beetle infestation. Some forest landscapes were totally gray, indicating that the needles, hence the trees, were already dead. All the infected trees will eventually die, lose their needles, and then fall over. The San Juan Mountains are now experiencing the outbreak of diseased trees that other areas of Colorado, including Summit County and Steamboat Springs, have been dealing with for almost a decade.
It is difficult for me to see breathtaking Colorado mountain views now marred by dying forests. But that’s the reality. Eventually, the evergreen forests will regenerate as sun-loving aspen trees will flourish and then provide a microclimate where spruce, fir and pines will thrive again.
So, our hike was bittersweet, and I didn’t even want to write about it for awhile. We saw such beauty on the shady path – shade-loving wildflowers of Red Columbine and light blue Jacob’s Ladder growing along the creek. Will they be there when their shade is gone?
Photo Credit: All three photos by Les Goss