A Haunted Forest

Life amid Death

Story and Photos by Tom Alvarez

A few miles west of Stanley, I stop at Park Creek Overlook in the Sawtooth National Forest. I stand at a small viewing and parking area off a circular drive leading into and out of the wayside, above a narrow meadow on a small plateau-like setting.

It faces east, offering a wide vista of the Sawtooth Mountains rising above the lower landscape of trees.When I face west, the view is starkly different.

Opposite the view of green pastures and rows of vibrant trees is a burned forest. Lightning ignited the Dry Creek Fire on August 6, 2016, which destroyed approximately 781 acres of lodgepole pines and everything else around them. At first glance, the entire landscape seems nothing but scattered debris, ashes and ruin. Black is the dominant color and a faint odor of ash drifts lightly in the air.

The burnt ground seems like a setting from a grim fairy tale: foreboding and perhaps haunted. Dead trees are scattered everywhere. Some stand tall and erect, others lean left or right, many are flat on the ground. Branches hang from tree trunks, twisted into claw-like shapes resembling a witch’s bony hand or the claws of some evil being set to snatch an unsuspecting visitor.

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