Just last Friday, I was in the Access Fund bathroom at Rifle Mountain Park on a rest day when someone rudely (I thought at the time) started banging on the door.
“Just a second!” Wow, they must really have to go I thought.
Instead of a fellow camper desperate for the restroom, I heard a Garfield County Ranger on the other side of the door.
“This is to inform you of a mandatory evacuation from Rifle Mtn. Park due to fire risk. Please evacuate as soon as possible.”
Chris, our friend Ben from Vegas, and I were enjoying a relaxing mid-morning of our rest day when we thought we smelled smoke and then heard the news first-hand.
And so, our projects would have to wait. At first we all kind of thought everyone was over-reacting. How close could the fire really be? Were we really at risk?
Sure enough, we drove a few miles outside the canyon and noticed the huge billows of dark smoke and actual flames heading toward the canyon. I had never seen anything like this. We were so mesmerized by this natural disaster that we hung out for about an hour, and it was terrifying how quickly the fire had spread in that time alone. It was a windy day, and we watched the hot shots ruthlessly try to combat the flames with their tiny planes and seemingly futile attempts of smothering it with retardant as the fire continued to expand.
Chris and I decided we wanted to spend most of this summer in our favorite semi-local spot, Rifle- the sport climber’s paradise. We had been in Rifle camping for about ten days and had planned on spending a few more days before heading to Boulder for a week. My heart sank at the thought of our beautiful canyon where we have had so many fun times and memories burning to the ground. What would happen to all the climbing routes, bolts, draws, cabins, and campsites? The thought was too hard to imagine.
Luckily, last Sunday afternoon Rifle opened back up and the fire is about 85% contained, and about 480 acres of forest burned. We plan on heading back on Monday to give our projects some more burns. Pun intended.