This past March there was a devastating fire in Big Bend National Park, which burned mostly the upper elevations of the Chisos Mountains, an island of mountains within the park. The trails were closed for many months, and when some of them finally opened up in August, I made a backpacking trip up to see the results of the fire. I also made a second backpack trip to the eastern side of the high Chisos a couple of weeks ago. The fire had burned much hotter, and over a larger area than I expected. Trees were not burned just along the ground where the fuel was located, but all the way to the tops of the trees. The following is a photo essay of the results of the fire:

First view of the fire damage as I crested the ridge above the Blue Creek drainage on the western side of the mountains.

A few grasses beginning to gain a foothold in the burned ground. Normally the grass here is a foot high or more, making it difficult to see any patches of barren ground.

Looking back toward Emory Peak, nothing was left unburned.

On my second visit late in September, I hiked in through Boot Canyon, one of the most pristine areas of the high Chisos Mtns. It contains most of the water and wildlife to be found, including a stand of beautiful maple trees that produce wonderful fall color in early November.

The beautiful maples in Boot Canyon were burned to their very top branches. Many will not live. A few, however, have begun to sprout leaves from the bases of their burned trunks, and may survive. Who knows how long it may be before they grow to their former glory and grace this canyon with their magnificent reds, yellow and golden colors.
A few flowers beginning to gain a foothold in the burned earth.
Many of these trees along the trail are burned to the core and will not recover.
Don’t be fooled by the green grasses that have returned…every tree visible in the panoramic image has burned all the way to the top branches.

All is not ugly…flowers are proliferating as a result of seeds cracked open by the heat of the fire:

Hope! As the grasses have begun to recover, so have the flowering plants, which help hold the soil from erosion during the fall rains.

And with the flowers, it stands to reason that the butterflies would follow:

A fairly rare Hummingbird Moth hovering among the flowers.

And the highlight of my trip: a pair of peregrine falcons doing a love dance above the cliffs of the east rim of the Chisos Mountains:

And the sun rises over the Sierra del Carmen Mountains in Mexico, as it continues to supply the burned and barren earth with life-giving energy for recovery: