White River National Forest officials lay down the law as wildfire danger rises and Independence Day nears
Two and a half weeks after a blaze erupted and spilled down its eastern slope, Buffalo Mountain is starting to heal. A stillness has crept back into the forest that was burned, bombed, flooded and hacked earlier this month.
Observing the improving conditions, the U.S. Forest Service has decided to re-open several trails in the area. The Buffalo Cabin Trail, which passes through about 400 yards of scorched land in the White River National Forest, was reopened this morning. Officials are urging visitors to keep to the trail and out of the burn area.
Hikers in the area pass through distinct environments on their way to Buffalo’s summit. The first few hundred yards of the trail wind through an acrid, clear-cut landscape still caked with rusty slurry. The trail passes on through a literal black forest. Charred skeletons of pine trees remain standing above piles of black logs, yet the trail remains fairly pristine. This is the work of the fire retardant, which when burned creates a shiny graphite shell around trees that suffocates the fire instead of letting it burn.
As soon as hikers hit the first trail sign welcoming them to the Eagle’s Nest Wilderness, life begins anew. Red and black gives way to green needles, blue lupine and rich, brown soil. This is where hikers, campers and other world-weary visitors will come out to sleep and play, and where the Forest Service wants people to be extremely careful through the rest of this very hot, very dry summer.
The Buffalo Cabin Trail’s opening follows emergency implementation of Stage 2 fire restrictions in Summit County and the White River National Forest. That means no campfires of any kind are allowed anywhere in the county or federal forestland. That includes campfires in developed camp and picnic grounds.
Dillon District ranger Bill Jackson instructed visitors to research the rules and restrictions for any place they intend to visit.
“It’s important to know where you’re going and what the rules are, especially now that we have lots of restrictions across the state,” he said. “Know before you go is always the first principle — know where it is you want to camp, and know what the rules are in those places. Visit the website, calling or visiting visitor information centers, get as much information as you can before you camp out here, especially about fire restrictions.”
If you want to cook or keep warm while camping on national forestland, it needs to be a self-contained device like a stove or grill running off propane. Motorized devices that run off gas — including ATVs and chainsaws without a spark arresting device — are also banned in the forest until further notice.
Drivers need to avoid the urge to ramble through the wilderness and stick to established, paved roads. There won’t be any firework displays anywhere in the county this 4th of July, and use or sale of fireworks are both completely banned everywhere in the county and in the national forest.
If you’re a smoker, bad news: you can’t smoke out in the wild unless you’re in an enclosed space, like a car or cabin.
Regular hiking and camping rules, regulations and etiquette still apply. Jackson advised visitors to always have a paper map of the area handy and let other people know if they intend to go deep into the country. The best way to keep safe is to plan ahead.
Jackson also urged dispersed campers venturing outside of developed trails or campgrounds to stick to established sites — places where others have camped before — and not create new sites to avoid creating new holes. Other regulations, such as not camping within 100 feet of any water body, trail or established campground, should also be observed.
Other rules and regulations apply, and may be modified throughout the season. For more information about rules, restrictions and other information about the White River National Forest, visit FS.USDA.gov/WhiteRiver.
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