Saturday, July 23, 2016


Yesterday marked the two week anniversary of the Hayden Pass Fire.  This fire was the second one for us in the past 5 years.  In 2011, the Duckett Fire raged up the Sangre de Cristos from the south.  I could write a thesis on how we delayed moving our herd of goats down the mountains until we saw flames moving towards their mountain pasture, and how at dawn, with the help of neighbors, we tossed the kids in a trailer one by one, to transport them to safety, but that’s a story for a different day.

Duckett Fire in June of 2011

During both fires, we stayed put as our house is surrounded by open space--sub-irrigated meadows to the east, and plenty of grassland between us and the upper end of our family ranch which shares a fence with the National Forest as well as BLM acreage. 

Up near the forest, we have a rustic two room cabin. It’s not valuable in itself, but has a memorable history.  First, it used to be the bedroom of our old house, but long before that, sometime in the early 1900's, it was moved from the site of the 1882-1884 Cotopaxi Jewish Colony and spliced on to existing house to add more rooms. We lived in that house until about 1994 then dismantled it, board by board.  All except for the bedroom section that we hauled back up the forest to use as a hunter’s cabin.

Hayden Pass Fire July 2016

During the Duckett Fire, a hot shot fire team miraculously saved the cabin. I can throw a stone from the burned trees to the small clearing where the cabin sits, and  I am still amazed at how the fire crew managed to protect this structure amidst strong winds and shooting flames.  

The Hayden Pass Fires was no less intense. The fire roared in from the northwest thundering down valleys and over ridges until it crossed through the same area as  the Duckett Fire. This time all our livestock was down on the meadows surrounding our house. But looking west at the mountainside covered in smoke and flames, I held out little hope for the cabin being saved a second time.  I mourned its loss, not for the monetary value, but for the loss of a piece of history.

Recent photo taken after the Hayden Pass Fire
Along with the other fire personnel traveling through our yard to access the forest, crews came through for the specific purpose of checking on spot fires in the vicinity of the cabin. We were told the cabin was still standing.

Finally we were able to drive up to take a look, While the first fire had burned within 50 feet of the cabin to the south, the second fire had burned within shouting distance of the cabin to the west.

Cabin seen through the standing dead trees of the Duckett Fire

Chimney and hearth from original house

Seeing the cabin was like greeting a long lost friend. I’m grateful this piece of history survived, and more than grateful for the firefighter’s skill and fearlessness in protecting this humble building.

Cotopaxi Jewish Colony

More about the Cotopaxi Jewish Colony, click on the above link, visit 

or visit the Cotopaxi Colony FB page.


  1. Never a dull moment on the ranch. What a charmed history---wish we would have made the treck up to see it. So glad a bit history was saved and all the animals are safe.

    1. Anonymous, It certainly was exciting as well as stressful. These things pass and memories fade, but focus is myopic when plumes of smoke are hovering this close.

  2. Sometimes the smallest things are the most miraculous. What a gift that this piece of your and Cotopaxi's history is still here. Doris

  3. Thanks, Doris. Hopefully this will be the last fire we'll have to worry about!

  4. Great account, Nancy - so thankful for firefighters! I have friends near Nederland whose house was saved recently from the Cold Springs fire. They do wonders, working unceasingly, it seems, to save forests and properties. Was thinking of you guys all through.... Eileen

  5. Great account, Nancy. So thankful for firefighters and all they do! I was thinking of you guys all through the Hayden fire accounts. I have friends outside Nederland, who were evaced for 5-6 days, but whose house was saved (fire within 200 ft) from the Cold Springs fire. So glad the cabin remains....!

    1. Thanks, Eileen. Never a dull moment with fires. Some people in Coaldale were out of their homes for 10 days, so we feel fortunate in more ways than one.