An update from the Upper Rio Grande


above the reservoir


Updates from the Upper Rio Grande

I’m sorry – I’m unable to respond to everyone who has written to check in with us as in depth as I would like.  I know you care.  I hope this helps answer some of your questions, relieve some of your concerns.

I’m overwhelmed with the current situation and still understand everyone’s interest in what’s going on.  I especially appreciate your concern, your compassion.  I do not mean to be impersonal by writing one post and sharing it with you all.  It is written for you. Each of you.  All of you.  Anyone who cares enough to ask and then to read.

I can’t tell you what’s happening.  I can only tell you what I see.  Here.  On the mountain.  My eyes.  My words. From my home.  Read them if you want.  Don’t if you can’t.  They’re not always pretty.   But they will be real.

What do I see?  Morning smoke rolling up from the Reservoir like a heavy fog.  Afternoon plumes like mushroom clouds over Finger Mesa.  This morning I see clouds. Real clouds.  I see hope.

I’ve seen other things.  Like a dead calf on the outside of fence line.  Mother on the inside.  A fence weak enough to let in a bunch of free range cows.  Tight enough to keep in an abandoned horse.  Things like a horse trailer half full ride right by the pasture where that horse has been left.  Things like a woman more concerned with the contents of her fridge spoiling than the well being of her fellow man (and another so quick to think of us up here, and offer us those contents). Or a guy hauling out four truck loads and two trailers worth of “stuff” from his summer home (and another showing us the keys to his and the vehicles he left behind “just in case” we need them).

What matters most?  Stuff?  I think of people who built here, people who live here, people with no other place to go. I think of how many have their homes threatened, places they built or built onto, their livelihood threatened, their back yard and within feet from their doorstep charred.  Stuff doesn’t matter.  The three of us each packed a backpack with what we thought we’d really need, still hanging by the door, just in case. That was evacuation day.

The mountain has been evacuated.  The fire is below us.  We are still here.

If you want an update with facts and figure on the Papoose Fire, now included in the West Fork Complex, there are some good web sites.  These are a few: ,,  Look at them.  Don’t listen to Facebook rants and e-mail gossip, please.  Or if you choose to, take it with a grain of salt.  Some of it may be right. Much of it is wrong.  And trust me, it will be emotional.  This whole deal is.  It’s frightening, humbling, sickening, sad, and confusing.

Suddenly you realize how little you are.  How little control you have.  This Mother Earth is far stronger than you or I will ever be.  That should give you hope.  No matter what we do to mess up this beautiful place, She will heal and be OK, long after we are gone. I take comfort in believing that.  Everyone has their own beliefs.

Anyway, let me tell you where I’m at.  Lost Trail Ranch.  Our home.  Our guest ranch.  At least it was.  I mean, it’s still here, standing, untouched and rather unaffected by the massive fires and smoke.  Except we have no guests, and it may be a while before they are allowed to be here.  So the “guest ranch business” currently isn’t.  It’s like winter – the half the year here on the high mountain that we’re used to blocked access, closed roads, and no people around for miles.  Only it’s warm.  The horses are on green grass and the chickens are laying eggs. And people are supposed to be here.  This is how we make our living.  Or not this year.  But that’s just a minor detail.  Money.  What matters most, you find, is your family.  And we’re fine, here, together.

Yes, I’ve seen a lot from up here this week, and much of what I have seen has been glimpses into the best and worst of human nature. Once again, I’ll stick with Mother Nature.

But I’ve also seen the best of human beings.  I’ve seen bravery.  Kindness.  Reaching out. Generosity.  I’ve seen compassion. So much compassion.  This makes eyes swell hot and full with tears,  because this is really beautiful, and this is really what matters, and this, compassion, is what at the end of day allows us to remember everything else around us – from the minor unpleasantries of our fellow human beings to the huge, overwhelming destructive fire we watch rip up an acre of dead standing timber in a matter of minutes as we sit back against at rock and watch. And for all this we send prayers to those brave and strong, dedicated and determined enough to be out there, in there, doing what they can to help. And because of that we can still sleep at night.

And that is what you need to remember when you think about your back yard burning up, a forest once lush and green that will never be again in your lifetime or your children’s lifetime, homes and lives threatened, businesses blown away in the ashes, wildlife fleeing or worse, remaining.  You do have to think about it all.  The good and the bad.  But make sure you end by thinking about the good.  No matter how hard you have to look to find it.

There are brave people, good people, great people.  I’ve seen a few.  I don’t want to name names.  They know who they are.  I’ve got a lot of thank you letters to write when this is done.

I also must put in here a special word to our guests and to all those reading this who may be scheduled guests for other places nearby:  This road is closed and the area evacuated.  Today.  (Who knows about tomorrow?  I’m not going to try to guess.) Lost Trail Ranch is too currently closed, though we are living here, watching, waiting.

We understand how this affects your vacation plans.  This is currently the case for scheduled guests for resorts in South Fork, Creede and up in these mountains.  The losses are tremendous and continuing. This is a natural disaster and emergency unlike anything we have ever experienced here.  We cannot predict nor assume how or when the fires will subside and the road will open.  We thank you for your patience, your understanding, and so often, your kind words and your compassion.

There are no answers we can provide at this time.  We ask that you please follow the links provided and other official sources to keep up to date with current conditions in the area.  We are inundated with trying to communicate with county, Forest Service, guests, summer home neighbors, family and friends during this terrible time.

There is much more to say, to share, but you only have so much time to read, and I only so much time to write.  So, that’s all she wrote for now.  Until next time.

Sending love and light from these high wild mountains,



view from lost lakes


20 thoughts on “An update from the Upper Rio Grande

  1. Gin,

    Please know that you and everyone in Colorado are in our prayers. I know you guys know what is best for you. Thanks for your beautiful words and reminding me that things are just that, THINGS. Loving and having compassion for each other is the key.

    God Bless,

    Penney Moore


  2. Thanks for sharing the descriptive update. Us Okies are too familiar with national disasters and Mother Nature. My 2 friends were left with only the shirt on their back. My advise is stay poised, strong (I already know you guys are) and be positive. Thoughts and prayers from your friends in Oklahoma.

  3. Those beautiful mountains where we camped weekend upon weekend growing up. Then did the same with our own kids. Your words are heartfelt. Stay safe – continued prayers …

  4. As I read your blog it stirred thoughts to strong to be uttered. I am the pastor of a church in Joplin, Mo. We were within two miles of the devastating tornado that ripped a third of our town apart. I understand the overwhelming emotions of natural disasters. I have seen and heard accounts of the good and the bad as well. I am thankful much more good than bad. It was a few weeks before I could drive through the devastated areas of our town without very strong emotions. It seemed to take eternity to sort out juridical disputes, priorities, access rights, etc. I can not imagine being a bystander to the distinction of you whole area, bit by bit, section by section, valley by valley. One thing I do know that helps, you are already doing. Tell your story! Simply, truthfully, even painfully, but get it out there, and try not to dwell on it excessively. Try to keep touch with the routine, feed the chickens, care for the horses, etc. Understand there will be seasons of grief, but joy is ahead as well.Cast your cares on Jesus. His shoulders are broad. Celebrate the little victories! Love your family! Don’t push them away and get lost in your grief. Nothing remains the same, except God. You have been forced to confront some unpleasant changes, one’s not of your choosing, one’s you never dreamed you would confront. Set small goals at first. Take time to heal those disappointed dreams. Then look for a way through your dilemmas and difficulties. Keep a journal of what you have seen, to reflect upon. To remind you that many fears NEVER come to pass. You outta consider writing a book, maybe…..? Or submit an article to a few magazines….? Think outside your box……Dream some new dreams?! Count your blessings. Don’t give up! Read Jeremiah 29:11. That verse, I have rebuilt my life around. God bless you. I will pray for you, your family, your future, which has yet to be written…….except by you. You are off to a good start! Email anytime, if you should want to talk. God has a plan, not to harm you, but to protect you and set you on a path to a fulfilling, new future! Hope this has helped.

  5. Wow, Gin, I knew this was happening before I read this and before I looked at the news. It’s been predicted by The Lakota Sioux Ceremonial Chief, Frank Fools Crow, the man who adopted my friend Dik Darnell, that introduced me to the Indian way, which you know I follow.

    The Earth will heal. We humans, for a while now, have been the endangered species. All I can do is send prayers, smoke the Peace Pipe in honor of everyone, and pray it doesn’t happen to us here, as the drought continues, but we have had some rain.

    Thank you for taking the time to put a post up. I feel you and your family will be safe. I pray so. You know you are always welcomed here.

    I love you. Yours forever, Ginny

    On Mon, Jun 24, 2013 at 11:21 AM,

  6. Gin,

    Thank you sooo much for these amazing words from the “other” side of the fire. It is wild to see the view from above the reservoir especially after seeing my brother’s pictures from our ranch Friday evening and ongoing since then.

    Well said; well shared. Thank you again.

    In Gratitude,
    Laura Inman Mitchell

    • Many kind words to share with all, and gratitude for your responses.

      Laura, my heart goes to you, your brother and all of your extended family. I can only imagine the terrifying view you have been watching, and the drama and trauma you all have been put through over the past several days. Please let us know if there is ANYTHING we can do, now or in the cleaning up process, for you all.

      With sincere blessings

  7. Thanks so much for your words. I was thinking about you up there at Lost Trail – take care and be well with your family and all your animals. Sending positive thoughts that mother nature goes around your beautiful area and keeps some of the green. : )

  8. Glad to have found your site. I live in Lubbock, TX…most of me…all but a part of my heart that I left on various peaks, in mountain meadows, and by Granite Lake…in Starvation Gulch and at the base of the West Lost landslide…throughout the Utes and on Weminuche Pass…up and down Squaw and Little Squaw, time and time again…on the Continental Divide above Squaw Lake…beside West Ute lake and on the edge of Half Peak, at the top of Pyramid and through the Window… strewn over Finger Mesa and poured out into Crooked Creek Canyon. My oldest child, a daughter, is named Carson. (I met challenges every time I went near Carson Peak, so it’s apt that at 10 she is showing herself to be a strong-willed child!) I’ve been to your ranch, and Sky High, and 30-Mile, and River Hill, and La Garita, and Fern Creek. In the early 90’s, I was a guide at Young Life’s Wilderness Ranch in Crooked Creek, just over Finger Mesa. You may know, Young Life is an outreach ministry for high school kids, founded some 40 years ago by a man in Texas with a heart to share Jesus with kids through camping and relationship. I return every summer, now with my own family, and often meeting 5 precious forever-friends who guided with me, and their families, at Wilderness for a week. We were to be there in a few week’s time. It’s precious to me, this wilderness. And it’s clear to me that it’s precious to you, as well. My heart is heavy for this fire, and my many memories assaulted by it’s enormity. All day, I’ve felt a welling-up in me, at times swallowing words, because if I uttered a sound, I might come undone. All day, my oldest son has asked, “Mama, is there fire on our ridge?” And from the other boys, “How close is the fire to Wilderness, Mama?” “Mama, will it ALL be just black?”. They know I’m watching the map, watching the news, they know our plans will change. And I know that there are places that I wanted to take them that will never be, in my lifetime, as they once were…and that is the long suffering loss of it. Thank you for offering your thoughts, and I’m grateful to have found a place to spill out my heart. I pray His great favor and protection over you and those high, wild mountains. While the future may be uncertain, surely His mercies are not.

  9. Gin,

    Great words and update. I am praying for the best. We’ve got a cabin up at pearl lakes just on the other side of Finger Mesa from you. My dad was up there this evening as he had a 30min window to get in and pack some items up. It is a horrible situation as you have stated and very sad. But through all of the bad we will get through it and keep our heads up. That is all we can do now as it is in God’s hands. I hope you guys stay safe and everything works out at your place. If you guys ever need anything please let me know. Take care.

    Lucas Sheward
    Midland, TX

  10. I don’t know why… I shouldn’t have… I am not yet healed… but I read this over, and the beauty of the kindness of response… and I didn’t properly thank all of you for you kind words and I am sorry, i should have, I kept waiting for this to all be behind and then I would find strength and peace and could stand tall and share my gratitude. Only i’m not there yet, and still I want to thank you all. Thank you. That’s all.

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