‘Life changing,’ it’s such a cliche phrase. It’s used in advertising retreats, different outdoor activities, and other events. However, the trip I went on this summer I would say was life changing; I went backpacking for three weeks in New Mexico.
For three weeks I lugged around a fifty pound or greater backpack while climbing some of the highest points of the Rocky Mountains in New Mexico.The backpacking trip first started out in the arid countryside. Sand everywhere, silver sagebrush popping up everywhere like tinsel on a Christmas tree, a lot of sun-baked rocks shimmering in the hot sun, different varieties of cacti interspersed among the rocks, decorated the land. The temperature soared in excess of a hundred degrees when we were lugging our gear around, and at first it was really exhausting.
But after the first few days, the mind stopped focusing on the heavy load and heat and more on the amazing landscape around us. Our group slowly began to wind our way to higher elevations where the landscape morphed once again. Aspen stands, conifer stands, holly, deciduous forests, lush green meadows, wildflowers hidden in pockets of rock, and stirring views from atop monumental rock formations greeted us here.
What was even better than the imposing views of the surrounding wilderness were the friendships and team spirit that was developing among our group, guys from all over the United States.The route we took allowed our group to survey the damage of a wildfire that went out of control because of humans controlling the natural cycle of fire and the forests. While we had seen signs of unhealthy forests; close together trees, a lot of dead underbrush, a lot of lower limbs on trees; nothing prepared us for the sight of a truly devastated forest. Blackened trunks of trees stood out like defeated sentinels, burned branches leaned up against rocks like dead soldiers, the blackened ground contained no topsoil, the area was decimated.
No animal sounds could be heard for miles around. The only sign of life was a few tufts of grass sparsely strewn about the barren landscape. A wildfire burned hot and lingered in this forest, and the amount of derris present, made the wildfire grow hotter and leap into the crowns of the trees.
The intense heat also melted the sand into a glass like material that allows the topsoil to wash off with precipitation because there are no roots to hold it in place. In a healthy forest, a wildfire would move quickly through the forest burning the smaller plants and trees and leaving the soil intact.Life changing, I’d say the wildfire was life changing. Before it, a forest existed with a wide variety of plants and animals.
After it, a haunted skeleton remains to signal what was once there. What’s amazing is that nature was slowly healing itself; sure it’ll take a few hundred years to fully recover, but in that amount of time perhaps we can find a better way to keep the beauty we find in nature and still practice environmentally healthy procedures.
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