I woke up at dawn with the feeling that something was wrong. I was still half asleep and incapable of coherent thought. I wanted to go back to sleep but knew it was imperative that I didn’t. I just couldn’t put my finger on it. The approaching drone of an airplane brought me out from under my tarp, as I realized it had been circling for quite some time. There was a wall of thick black smoke obscuring the horizon barely a quarter mile to the east.
hurriedly cramming stuff in my pack, frequently looking over my
shoulder in the direction of the fire. About the third time I did
this I could see flame rising above the trees. I just left my gear in
a pile, put the leash on the dog, and hauled ass.
watching news reports in Phoenix had taught me that these fires can
move upwards of 60 miles an hour in certain conditions. I had no time
to think. If I ran directly away from the fire I faced many miles of
unspoiled forest, maybe even a box canyon or sheer cliff that would
leave us trapped. Shit.
It was a gamble, but I figured our best
bet was to run a course parallel to the fire. There was a forest
service road about a quarter mile to the south. If we could make it a
quarter mile south before the inferno continued a quarter mile west,
there might be rangers or firemen. “Run Maya!” I yelled, “Run,
We didn’t stick to the trail. Heading due
south we leaped fallen logs and hurdled ditches. My heart was
pounding so hard I thought my chest would explode. Finally we slid
down a gravel slope and tumbled out onto the road. Looking back to
the east, the fire didn’t seem any closer. I caught my breath as we
walked down the road to the west, hoping we wouldn’t be sorry we
slowed our pace. It wasn’t long before we heard the rumble of an
Frantically waving my hands, I flagged down
the green forest service Dodge as it rounded the corner. I apprised
the ranger of our situation, how we were backpacking and had no
vehicle, and asked him how we should proceed. He made an inquiry on
the radio and found out the fire was under control. It seems some
idiots in a white truck had been seen shooting off fireworks at
Potato Lake the night before. He asked me if I had seen such a truck,
and we talked for several minutes about different people I had seen
when fetching water from the lake the day before.
He told me that
between the ash and fire retardant, it could be weeks before I
get drinking water from the lake. I figured I could give Maya the
little we had in the
jugs and I’d make do with the water in the
canned peas and green beans. With no fresh
water available and
little food, It had become imperative that we leave immediately.