I’ll never forget the Canyon Creek Fire we experienced on Jerry’s last four-legged hike. That was a night to remember for sure, which we documented in chapter 4 of our book, Be More Dog: Learning to Live in the Now. Read on for details or scroll down to watch the video.
A quick Google search for Canyon Creek Fire turns up all sorts of incident reports from fires in the Trinity Wilderness over the years. But I’m referring to a time before the almighty Google knew all about everything. This was July, 2006. We had spent plenty of weekends hiking to many of the alpine lakes with our Chief Fun Officer Jerry leading the way. We had no idea this would be his last on four legs.
That Friday-evening walk into the woods was easy and relaxing, even at the 8,000-foot altitude. Warm, golden sunlight painted the narrow dirt path as they took their time forging ahead to their destination: a deep-blue lake tucked in among cool granite canyons. With Jerry out front, two cold beers tucked into their packs and hardly anyone on the trail, the trip began perfectly.
— Be More Dog, Chapter 4: Life Takes A Turn
Photos and Video from Be More Dog Scenes
I’ve been meaning for a long time now to dig up these old photos and find the original video we shot from our hike to Canyon Creek Lakes. I’m glad I finally discovered the files an old computer. This was long before iPhones and cloud storage. It was a time when getting away like this meant using paper maps and an actual compass.
But this was also a time when our own little dot com bubble was bursting. Business had slowed down. Some clients had shut their doors. And we were getting pretty burnt out, silently looking for a way out. We desperately needed this hike.
Returning to nature soothed their souls and gave them renewed faith that business would pick up.
Swimming in the frigid waters was a good way to reset our souls. And watching Jerry romp in the lakes always made us forget any woes we left back at the office. We were truly unplugged, with no connection to weather apps or social media.
On their last night, they’d just settled into their sleeping bags when without warning, a lightning storm thundered through the canyon. Boom! Craaaaaackackckkkk! The turbulent cloud cover shattered the dark silence. Jerry instantly awakened and leaped to his feet inside the small tent. Fear filled his wide, panicked eyes as he hovered over Rene and Jim, pressing his head into the tent ceiling. He stood guard and paced around the small tent all night long, robbing everyone of sleep.
Lightning Strikes to Spark Canyon Creek Fire
I distinctly remember how Jerry jumped up at the instantaneous bright lightning strike and thunderclap. The look in his eyes was as frightening as the sound in Rene’s voice. While I was doing my best to make the most of the moment. I pulled out the camera…
The storm passed sometime during the early morning hours. But when they finally opened their eyes, they could smell the wisps of smoke drifting into the glacial valley. While unpeeling from their sleeping bags, the clatter of approaching helicopters floated in from the west. Thwap, Thwap, Thwap!
I quickly dropped the camera when Rene started screaming, “Hold the poles!” I was reluctant to grab the hiking poles holding up our tent. Not because I wanted to capture more video of the crazy storm though. I didn’t think it was so smart to be holding the metal poles with lightning striking so close. But I bit my lip quickly, knowing Rene might freak out even more if I said that. What was there to do…but laugh?
Buggin’ Out from the Canyon Creek Fire
The boy scout in me sure came out that morning when we woke to the smell of smoke. I was sure the lightning from the night before had sparked a Canyon Creek Fire nearby. Very nearby. Whether I said it or not, I remember saying, “We’re bugging out!” And bug out we did.
That’s when Jim realized the smoke was not from a nearby campfire. He knew there was a fire nearby, and with eight long miles to the trailhead, they had to get out fast. Rene tried to stay cool while she and Jim broke camp.
When I look at the photo above, I see now how tired Jerry was. So many years later, we now understand the oven overlooked pain indicators in pets – panting, ears back, tail down. But at that time, I was only intent on getting us out of that forest.
Few words were exchanged during the frantic hike out, and they only stopped for one short break before safely getting to the trailhead parking lot. That’s where they saw the flames. The forest was on fire, and a squadron of fire trucks and people with chain saws were scampering around trying to contain the burn.
I remember looking up at every clearing we entered. When I saw the helicopters overhead, and was ready to start flailing about the second they saw us. I realized they weren’t looking for us, just doing their job. If they did see us, I’m sure they realized we were on our way out. And that reassured me that the situation wasn’t nearly as bad as some scenarios going through my head.
Rene walked as fast as she had ever done with 20 pounds strapped on her back. She had never felt more relieved than the moment Jim pulled his keys from his pack and opened the truck door.
A Hike to Remember
Looking back, the Canyon Creek Fire was certainly a highlight of those hiking days with our Chief Fun Officer.
Maybe I’ll follow this up with some excerpts and a bit more background about what happened once we arrived back at home. And how that changed our lives forever.
Or, get your favorite format to find out now!