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Burning Turns in the Smokys- The Aftermath of the Beaver Creek Fire of 2013

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Joe St. Onge of Sun Valley Trekking surveys the burned Coyote Yurt site in 2013

Joe St. Onge of Sun Valley Trekking surveys the burned Coyote Yurt site in 2013

We met on a wet morning in the valley as a soupy Buy Windows 10 product key late winter storm sat over the Smoky Mountains, and soaked through our clothes as we unloaded our ski gear at the Baker Creek trailhead. I passed out large black stuff sacks to Paul, Neils Meyers, and Alisa McGowen, and then told folks to pack their overnight gearwindowskeys.net into them as we would be stopping along the way up to the hut to take a few “Shovel Runs” (as they are referred to as in the Wasatch), but here we’d end up calling them Satchel runs. Wet snow gave way to large moist flakes as we ascended above 8000’ and topped out on the ridge that sits far changerssoftware.com above the brand buy Windows 10 Professional Key new yurt. We dropped our satchels and took a fall line down into the East branch of70-410 the South Fork of the East Fork of Baker creek. The terrain here is complex, and vast. Ridges and bowls connect peaks and saddles; all of which have been impacted by wildfire over the lastbuy windows 10 key decade, creating a backcountry skiers dreamland. The runs aren’t the longest in the world but the possibilities for 640-916 touring from slope to slope are unlimited, 300-320 examand that is what we set out to do. We ripped turns for 1000’ then climbed back up to the top of the high ridge grabbed our gear and headed down to the hut to dry off and prepare for some early evening ski touring.

The epitome of spring. Powder, and creamy corn.

The epitome of spring. Powder, and creamy corn.

Coyote was rebuilt in the autumn of 2013, and completed in fine style. They are twin structures of both 20’ yurts connected by a breeze way annex perfect for enjoying a cocktail, and the alpenglow 640-916 that vibrantly reflects Buy Windows 10 key off the Pioneer Mountains that rest in soft, rugged, and magically aesthetic fashion on the horizon to the east. We tackled this intimidating rebuild project in three major phases, 1: clean up, 2: collect and transport resources, and 3: rebuild and finish. Each and every phase was unique and work intensive.   Cleaning up began, really, before the fire was even extinguished. Joe St. Onge and I traveled into the burn zone to assess the damage, determine if anything was salvageable, and figure out a good cheap Windows 10 Professional Key location for the new hut. As we drove past multiple outposts of patrolling fire fighters our hearts hung heavily errabizsoft.com at the site of hundreds of acres torched and smoking. As we passed the standard ascent route, a ridge that skiers call Little Round Top, we commented that a fire line that had been cut resembled a lift 70-410 line at the ski hill, and how amazing the skiing would be this coming winter. This line was repeated over and over as we wound our way up the remote 4×4 road towards the hut site. Each bend we rounded we saw huge stands of timber, previously unskiable, blazed by the fire. A terrible natural disaster, painted with a brilliant silver lining, and setting up for a backcountry touring paradise.

Patrick Graham skins up Fox Peak through the burn

Patrick Graham skins up Fox Peak through the burn

Back to winter: Paul, Alisa Neils, and I arrived at the hut soaked from the climb and excited about the skiing. We dried our stuff off and the clouds split open exposing the late afternoon sky. Light streamed through the large windows into the yurt, and reflected softly off the moistened snow surface. We had to go have a look around and see what conditions up high were like before dinner. As we skinned from the point the Coyote yurts sit on, we were pleasantly surprised to find soft snow on most aspects, and perfect 30 degree slopes in every direction. We chose a line to ski off a ridge adjacent to the point, ripped skins, and carved our way down into a drainage heading, ultimately, in the direction of Fox Peak. Slapping skins back on we climbed through stands of charred Subalpine Fir, Lodgepole pine, and White Bark Pine- all victims of the fire and now skinny residents on slopes untouched by skis. On top of Fox Peak I pointed out where we would tour the following day. A west wind raked snow into the east facing shots that flank Fox Peak as we skied through blackened trees, caught air over downed logs, and smiled with delight as one slope connected with the next.

The rebuilt Coyote Yurt complex.

The rebuilt Coyote Yurt complex.

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The first time we stepped foot onto the site that housed the original Coyote yurt, our faces were long with grief and eyes pooled with tears. We stood sadly in front of a smoking pile of ashes mixed with nails, bolts wires, and screws. Remnants of the binders that held together not only the structures that were the vehicle for years of adventure, but also the adhesive that was filled with timeless memories. Parties of skiers and bikers had visited this same site for close to thirty years, skiing and laughing. Dancing under a moonlit sky after the sauna became too hot to bear and powder snow served as the only respite to its scorching heat. We collected ourselves and discussed where we would place the new set of yurts, how long the project would take, and how we would find the time and energy to complete it before the road filled in with snow from the inevitable early winter storm and cut off all hopes of working on the project. We had a lot to do. Before we could even begin to build something new however, we had to clean up the mess from the old hut.

Springtime powder right out the backdoor of Coyote.

Springtime powder right out the backdoor of Coyote.

We arrived on site early the next week to begin shoveling debris into large contractor bags, loading a total of 2500 lbs. of junk up onto a trailer and driving it to the transfer station down in the valley. Meanwhile Joe St. Onge was busy working overtime organizing everything from deals with yurt manufacturers, to lumber companies, local finish carpenters, volunteers, USFS, and guides. The logistics involved with a project of this magnitude are incomprehensible, and Joe juggled all of these balls throughout. We worked on packing up trailers full of lumber; building bunks, benches, and the sauna before we were even at the hut site. We transported all the gear we’d need up to the mountains and prayed the weather would hold out long enough for us to complete the outside work. The pressure was on, and the team came together to form a group of workers 10-12 strong. We would begin to move forward with the building just a few weeks after the last firefighter departed and the fire was considered contained.

Patrick Graham skis the south facing corn, looking up to the head of Baker Creek.

Patrick Graham skis the south facing corn, looking up to the head of Baker Creek.

After skiing a few different aspects off of Fox Peak, we returned to the hut and refueled on stir-fried chicken and vegetable curry, cold beer, and sipping whiskey. The night welcomed sleep not because we were exhausted from the day of skiing, but more so because we knew it was going to be good day tomorrow. The sky that night was clear and the air was cold. All the moisture in the snow was rapidly faceting toward the surface on the north slopes, and locking things up firmly on the south and west aspects. A situation that could afford us the luxury of skiing both powder and corn from the same ridge literally all day long.  I settled in and became restless thinking about the possibilities that existed for skiing here. The terrain near this hut is ideal for linking one slope to the next to create huge circuitous tours that never repeat slopes, and cover significant ground during a day. Things were feeling primed for us as I drifted off to sleep with the crackle of the fire soothing my mind, I began to dream of skiing.

Pato threads through the burn.

Pato threads through the burn.

Building began in September. We had plans and tools all lined up along with generators, fuel, extension cords, and numerous batteries complete with their chargers to power circular saws, drills, drivers, and grinders. We went to work squaring and leveling cement footings that would receive the joist for the decking frame and flooring. Framing a new outhouse, and piecing together the sauna all took time and extra head scratching as we worked on uneven ground. A core team of 4 focused exclusively on the decking and breezeway structures that were, by far, the most complex and tedious of the projects extensive punch list. It was a sight to see that’s for sure. In every direction there was activity. Days were far from short. We started daily somewhere between 6-7 am, worked until dark, and often finished by headlamp or in the dark. This phase was split into two sections, both of which were 11 days long. After the second yurt had its roof on, stove installed and solar panels hooked up, we celebrated with a feast and a bonfire, ironically. It was amazing. The fact that we successfully erected two amazing huts in such a short amount of time was just shy of a miracle, and that we were able to pull it off before the snow set in truly was. As we fell asleep that night, the snow began to fall and blanket the earth with a layer of white. A sign from the mountain gods that we had paid our dues and would be rewarded for that time we spent up in the hills. Awakening the next morning to yellow sunlight reflecting brilliantly off the fresh nevean surface was unforgettable, as well was the hangover that split my temples, and left me feeling nauseous all day long. We collected most of our tools and called the project that much closer to being complete.

All of this to ourselves.

All of this to ourselves.

It didn’t seem long after I fell asleep dreaming of skiing powder through forests that once were green and now only brown, red and black, before we were up and cooking breakfast, drinking strong coffee and packing our packs with all of our gear in preparation for a fun filled day of adventure touring, and journeying to the Tornak Hut. Tornak means Spirit and is a wall tent style hut that, was luckily spared during the Beaver Creek fire, located fairly close to the Coyote Yurt, and perfect for linking the two into a hut-to-hut style trip. We climbed above Coyote and dropped into a previously un-skiable North by Northeast facing bowl full of burnt trees and 34 degree fall line that descends for over 1000’ below the yurt and ends us up in a deep hole at the cross roads of three major drainages. We climbed out of the confined valley gaining a ridge that would lead us to another north facing run and a slope we would return to before we finished our day at Tornak. We dropped our extra gear, cinched down our packs, and headed out beyond Tornak Peak into the burn, in search of new ski lines. We found fall line after fall line of soft spring powder and made sure to mix in a south facing corn run just for novelty points here and there. The day seemed endless. We climbed and skied on mostly all the major features in the headwaters zones, making sure to pick off the most cherry lines. As we rounded one of our final corners for the day a west-facing run taunted us to make turns down it despite leading us away from our resting destination. We ripped skins, like we had dozens of time before that day, and carved through early evening corn that was firm and dynamic, yet soft and forgiving all at once. After that pitch we wrapped back towards the spot that we stashed our gear, grabbed it, and skied one last north-facing powder run before skinning to Tornak. It was then fair to say that the fire had opened a world of skiing up to the visitors of both the Coyote Yurt and Tornak Hut.

The view towards Tornak Hut, with the Boulder Mountains in the background.

The view towards Tornak Hut, with the Boulder Mountains in the background.

The following morning we awoke to splitter blue skies and cold spring temps. Another perfect equations for maximizing both powder and corn. We packed up, and climbed above the hut, dropped our black satchels, and jumped into a classic line known to many as Exhibition and to others as Slide Path depending on who you ask.   We ascended back to the ridge and off the other side for some south facing corn. We worked this ridge all the way out towards our rig that sat deep in the Wood River Valley. We skied either powder or corn every run. This was a great way to explore a landscape that seemed new and undiscovered despite it resting in mountains I consider my own backyard.

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Patrick Graham

Patrick Graham

Your plans for this winter?
This winter I’m excited about guiding guests on long trips into the deep Sawtooth wilderness, and exploring more of the recently burnt terrain, near our Coyote Yurt, that has opened up as a result of the Beaver Creek fire that burned in 2013.