I wonder if anyone here had an eyewitness experience of the big fire. I went for a hike near Minnewaska on Friday the 18th (day 2, though I didn't know it). I was told that there had been a fire up there the previous day, and that the fire was out. I imagined a black patch on a hillside somewhere, maybe over where an old fire (in the '60's) had been. I didn't give it another thought. As I sat on a rock eating a sandwich, I heard nothing but the twittering of birds, a turkey walking nearby, and a warm wind in a peaceful, cloudless sky. I walked on a trail that was unfamiliar to me. After a while I became aware of a low rushing sound. I thought it was a waterfall. (I hear you laughing.) I pictured taking my boots off and putting my feet in the water. As I eagerly hurried along, the sound became louder, a whooshing roar. I noticed it was peculiarly uneven, and wondered what would make water sound that way. Big rocks? It must be close, I thought. I peered intently into the dense trees and bushes, straining to see something. Suddenly a flame taller than me shot up from the ground, flickered among the trees and disappeared like a ghost. "Oh my God. (long pause) Oh my God." I was transfixed. A couple smaller flames low to the ground disappeared so quickly it was almost as if I had imagined them. In spite of the roar, these flames were silent ghosts. There was no smell, no smoke, no blackness, no crackling. Off to my right I heard a small explosion, a pop. The wind rose and shifted, and an orange-black plume of smoke appeared above the trees. I snapped out of it, turned, took a few steps and began running. I looked over my shoulder a few times. The smoke grew bigger and blacker. It seemed to be following me. Now I could smell it. I was grateful to get out of the woods. Then I drove around to some safe vantage points to get the big picture. The fire seemed to have risen suddenly out of nowhere. I talked to three or four people who were worried about their houses. The biggest flames I saw were at power lines. I never would have gone into the woods if I'd known that the fire was up and running!
In the 1960's, my brother helped fight the last big fire at Minnewaska. I remember when he came home after three days, all black and reeking of smoke.
May 2, 2008
A Hike on the Hot Side
Lake Minnewaska and surrounding areas as they are now.
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