Grand County Trails: County shows resiliency in recovery |

Grand County Trails: County shows resiliency in recovery

Diana Lynn Rau
Grand County Trails
A recent hike to the Jim Creek waterfall brought tears seeing such widespread destruction along the trail.
Courtesy Diana Lynn Rau

Grand County people are survivors. Last year nature was cruel but people fought back. COVID-19 hit our tourist industry with a club and nearly knocked us out of the ballpark. We lost many long time businesses, as well as old timers themselves who had withstood many previous threats. Almost everyone knew someone who was cut down too soon.

The fires, particularly the East Troublesome, affected so many individuals, businesses, and beautiful places that it staggered my mind. To get a better picture, visit the Troublesome Exhibit that opened at the end of June in Grand Lake. The exhibit created by the Chamber of Commerce will help visitors understand the impact of the East Troublesome Fire while protecting residents from reliving the harrowing disaster.

It helps tell the story of resilience and recovery — “how the community of Grand Lake is healing after the day a hurricane and a tornado and a wildfire met in the woods,” describes Stephanie Butzer and Blair Miller in their Denver Channel 7 report. The exhibit, even for locals, is well worth seeing.

What has not been visited enough is the heart-wrenching site of the trees devastated by the several sites the derecho or blowdown occurred in 2020.

“The September blowdown ranged in area from Berthoud Pass to Monarch Lake with the most catastrophic damage occurring in the southern end,” said Maire Sullivan from Headwaters Trails Association. “Jim Creek, Upper Broken Thumb and Devil’s Thumb Trail-Hi Lonesome sustained the highest density of downed trees with as much as 15,000 trees across the trail per mile. Total trees lost that September day are in the hundreds of thousands.”

HTA has spent over 700 hours sawyering and another 400 hours swamping and clearing on Jim Creek alone with contracted sawyers, the HTA crew, volunteers and a youth corps.

“We received an OLRT emergency grant of $26,500 last fall that helped with sawyering costs for the September blowdown and another $12,250 OLRT grant from the spring 2021 cycle for tread restoration later this summer,” Sullivan said.

Between the June Derecho in the Idlewild area, the September blowdown, fire cleanup in Idleglen area, and general normal blowdown, the crews, volunteers and contractors cut in excess of 50,000 trees and spend over $120,000 in sawyering costs. That’s a lot of work that made only a small dent as you can see in the accompanying pictures I took.

I was in tears for much of our hike to the Jim Creek waterfall. If you go, be prepared and vow to do whatever you can to help. Nature is powerful and sometimes makes us feel so powerless.

This is some of the devastation from Jim Creek blow down.
Courtesy Diana Lynn Rau
The HTA has been busy sawyering fallen trees and clearing trails after thousands of trees were blown down last year.
Courtesy Diana Lynn Rau

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