Montana Wolf

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Juniper Power: The Tree the Hotshots Saved

Doce fire on Granite Mountain





view from above... her command of the landscape
I made it. After a failed attempt a week earlier, this time she beckoned me off-trail, along a wash lined with fire-charred trees. The world record alligator juniper tree's grand silhouette humbled me. Teak, in all her dog-knowing, immediately approached the tree and laid down calmly at her humongous base. She knew we'd arrived somewhere very special.


The already-famous tree was made even more famous since the fiery death of the Granite Mountain Hotshots. When the Doce wildland fire broke out to the west of Prescott in mid-June (thanks to a shooter using incendiary targets) the crew was called upon to save her. Considered a cultural treasure, she is estimated to be around 2000 years old. Her trunk is eighteen feet in diameter and she is fifty feet tall. The Doce fire burned 6700 acres up and over Granite Mountain... the same Granite Mountain the Hotshots chose as their namesake... but thanks to Her Hotshot boys, the fire did not destroy the tree.

view of charred trees from under one of her leaning limbs


successful fire line

The work of the Granite Mountain Hotshots was immediately obvious. Sawed bushes and tree stumps laid on the ground, cut to prevent a fuel ladder into her boughs. Flame had traveled to their fire line and stopped, as her near-by progeny were burned into blackened skeletons.

I encircled Her with awe. A large heart made of numerous white granite stones lay on the ground at the tree's base. I spied only one burned-out area on a high limb. The fire didn't spread, however, leaving me to wonder if it was the genesis of the wondrous tale of the Hotshots' climbs into the tree to drench burning embers with their water bottles.

I took off my boots and sat, leaning against her trunk as I pushed bare toes into the ground. All was stillness, silence and calm, as I awaited the voice that always arrives from earthen spirits more wise than I. Suddenly, a pesky little bee broke the peace. It would not go away, buzzing and landing on my feet. I smiled at her choice of messenger, as a red-tailed hawk cry stroked the sky. Then came her words: "... as deep as my roots go down, I will not let go of you. Write your truth, Christina. You are safe and sound." She knew. Of course she did. I am in the throes of writing about her Granite Mountain Hotshots. It was the mountain, Her tree and their joy that had brought me here. The allure of their laughter and sparkling eyes in one of their final pictures. They had dropped to their hands and knees, climbed onto one another's backs and formed a celebratory pyramid.


The Grand Dame's days were enveloped in towhee, jay and woodpecker calls. Visitors like myself who journeyed to pay homage. Her power swells, however, under the Milky Way, as bear, lion and bobcat thread past her holy presence. Sentinel and storyteller to her Mother Granite Mountain, this tree has witnessed eons. Her Hotshot heroes, the tale she savors most.







Teak keeping watch



_______________________

I love to hear from you. Post on the blog, or contact me through the link below.


Visit Christina, Finalist for the 2013 Colorado Book Award

For the wild...















11 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. May your traditions continue!

      Visit westcats.com under the news section to see how we hope to honor the Hotshots.

      Ray Ramos

      Delete
  2. It isn't a coincidence that you are there Christina; in that place, talking with the Grand Dame or were given the job with the Forest Service. You were chosen to tell the truth; she knows it, and is offering you her wisdom and strength. You've got a great ally.

    Jeanne

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. thank you, jeanne. You were one of the first to point this out. To sense the clarity of it all. Blessings, C

      Delete
    2. I visited this tree today and came home and saw your blog. This is so beautiful. I can't express in words how it touches me. May I, or will you, share it on Facebook with 19 Prescott Firefighters Last Alarm?

      Delete
    3. I wanted so badly to share this with others and I posted my pictures on FB, but now I worry about our environment and people getting lost trying to find the tree.

      Delete
    4. Judy,feel free to share this blog with whomever you like and whatever Facebook sites you would like including the one for the granite mountain hotshots. I understand your concerns for the tree. The forest service considers the tree a cultural treasure and does not give out the directions. Most definitely, there is a danger of loving her to death. Thank you for your kind words. You can contact me directly thru my website or Facebook.

      Delete
    5. Judy,feel free to share this blog with whomever you like and whatever Facebook sites you would like including the one for the granite mountain hotshots. I understand your concerns for the tree. The forest service considers the tree a cultural treasure and does not give out the directions. Most definitely, there is a danger of loving her to death. Thank you for your kind words. You can contact me directly thru my website or Facebook.

      Delete
  3. I am stunned at the size of this juniper. She is beautiful and I am in awe. I am sure that the spirit and energy of those who saved her will linger around her for a long time, maybe forever.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No doubt in my mind about that. I explain that further in my upcoming article. Thanks for writing!

      Delete