Bolan Lake was a place I spent a lot of time as a child, and it was a place I was happy to share with Isiah, and now with Audrey. Bolan Lake is a beautiful wildness lake with a 3 mile trail up to the summit where there is a beautiful fire lookout with an amazing view of the Illinois Valley. Well, it used to have all of that, until it burned in the 2020 Slater fire. According to the Forest Service the lookout was completely burned in the fire, and I couldn’t verify what condition the area around the lake was because we couldn’t get through, but the damage we did see broke my heart.
As we drove up from the valley floor, the normally forested road I knew of my youth was scorched and destroyed for mile after mile. When I turned off the two lane road onto the dirt road we immediately encountered a couple of trucks blocking the road, preventing anyone from getting through. They were logging the burn, and it was dangerous to go any further, so we never made it to the lake. As I drove down the mountain I thought it would be appropriate to head across the valley to another hike Isaiah and I did up at Babyfoot Lake.
Babyfoot Lake burned back in 2002 as part of the Biscuit Fire, and while the mountain is scarred, it is coming back to life. There is a huge amount of renewal occurring, but like Bolan Lake it is a far cry from what it used to be. It was too overwhelming for me to see the condition Bolan Lake was in, and the new firs, pines, and flowers covering the landscape at Babyfoot lake was exactly the healing I was needed. My heart just can’t fully process what happened up at Bolan Lake, and I think that will have to wait until next year, and evolve over my lifetime, but never actually getting back to what I knew as a child.
Like the weather on Kerby Peak, I can’t help but feel like the Slater fire of 2020 reflects my overall journey with Isaiah and Audrey, and the flowers we saw along the hike to Babyfoot lake provided some of the color we needed for this moment in time. There were a number of Irises, and other flowers up there, but the Indian paintbrush I feel like provides the color palette we need for the healing required in this moment.
Back in the day I had an idea for a t-shirt that would have the face of a punk rock kid where half their head was forest for hair and the other side was shaved into a clear cut with a logging rig cable to a nose piercing, with words that said — “what are we doing to our children”. This intersection of Isaiah, opiate epidemic, and environmental disaster going on feels like this idea actually coming to life for me. I feel like every one of those blackened scarred trees up there on the mountain reflect a single human being we’ve lost in the opined epidemic. Leaving me thinking, “what are we doing to our children”.
I feel like everything I knew when I was younger is burning. I feel like the environmental disaster unfolding around us is just a reflection of ourselves. I am looking forward to going back to Bolan Lake next year when we return to hike Kerby Peak. I really want to see what is left. Like Babyfoot, I know the lake will be there, but I am really curious about how much of the forest burned around it. I am thinking I will continue to document each trip, so that I can record the growth over my life, so that I can have a better understanding of how long this type of healing takes, and if things will ever get back to the way they were or if it all will be forever changed like I feel right now.