July 31-August 8: A Siah Lake Oasis

I love working in burns. The regeneration of life can be awe-inspiring, especially when the beautiful oasis of an alpine lake invites a quick dip at the end of every dusty day. On our most recent outing, my crew spent most of our hitch camped on the lush banks of Siah Lake, its cirque basin feeling far removed from the rest of the world some 2,000 feet above the Storm Creek drainage. What had recently been a desolate, charred forest around us exploded with bear grass and fireweed blossoms, and huckleberries and grouse whortleberries offered their tasty morsels after every cut log. Clarke’s nutcrackers and harriers cruised the sky, while chipmunks and spotted frogs made homes under the mossy fallen logs near the lake’s shore. Life was everywhere. Even the trees were returning to this place — every tree we cut from the trails offered shelter to another five seedlings. All told, our one-sawed, three-bodied crew cleared more than 430 trees from the burn and its adjacent trails, and tiny little Engelmann spruce, subalpine fir and lodgepole pine grew up from the dust beneath their shadows. Whitebark pine were abundant in the charred earth as well, growing up from caches of Clarke’s nutcracker harvests, and we were cheered by their perseverance in an incredibly harsh landscape.

We were cheered, too, by the accomplishments of our crew. Our impact on the trail was evident, and, after days of rolling in sweat and dust, what had previously been nearly impassable was now a beautiful and dynamic tour of a living and changing landscape.

     — Allie Tincher, Wilderness Ranger Intern | August 8, 2012