Fire & The Comeback Kid | NMBR's Moment of the Year

By 3PM, the once towering pyrocumulus had collapsed. The brown tinted aftermath darkened the sky—extending over 100-square miles. As I took in the vantages of Emory Pass, a lone buzzard circled above in the eerily calm air. To the south, the steep slopes of Percha Canyon were scorched. While thin veins of trees remained miraculously untouched, the fire was unforgiving to most. Spires of smoke rose from rekindled understory as a breeze moved up the mountainside. Our crew boss signaled it was time to go; Incident Command was ordering everyone off the mountain. The fire had turned back our direction and was threatening our escape route. As we descended the winding road, trees swayed violently.

On our way off the mountain, we encountered a lone black bear cub walking the highway near the edge of a smoldering ponderosa grove. My vision narrowed and a lump grew in my throat as we approached the small beast; raising my camera for the capture proved nearly impossible. The ignorant child in me wanted to jump out of the truck and grab the bear. The Forest Service granted me escort me into the fire to photograph—not to play hero, or make decisions, or do anything that could jeopardize the crew. Although photography suddenly felt grossly insignificant I stepped out of the truck and did my job, staying at arm’s reach from the cab in case momma was lurking. We emptied our sack lunch leftovers on the roadside. We cut water bottles open and planted them firmly in the soft ash. The bear treed once it realized our presence. It climbed 20 feet within a few seconds; all while letting out high-pitched growls and groans. The bear wasn't about to jump into the arms of a fully suited fire crew. All we could do was record the bear's location for the wildlife personnel at Incident Command. Despite our dramatic surroundings, gusts and thick smoke, the ride back was silent--we were all heartbroken.

Some will ask: "Why did you not do anything more?" "Did you see momma bear around?" "Was the bear rescued?" -- and so on. I guess the only way to answer those questions is to not--I have no further details or info on the bear--believe me, I followed up. I returned to the site many times after the fire had run its course. All I have to share is a moment will stay with me forever. Much respect to this bear for making it as far as he did that day; he is "The Comeback Kid".

Photo Series: Silver Fire - Spring 2013 | Black Range of the Gila National Forest | Sierra County, NM | All Photos & Text © JakeQuiñones/NMBR Complete Silver Fire Gallery Link HERE

Published on: 
January 3, 2014

Scheduled Overland Adventures, Expeditions & EXP-4WD Training

September 2021: Fall Camino del Tesoro Overland (CDT) – Monday, September 27th through Thursday, September 30th – Spectacular Fall Scenery Northern New Mexico Traversal Read More
September 2021: Ghost Divide Expedition [GDE]: Monday, September 20th through Thursday, September 23rd, 2021 - Adventure to the Overland Expo West Read More
October 2021: Fall Gila Overland [FGO]: Friday, October 22nd through Sunday, October 24th, 2021 – NMBR'S Golden Season Gila National Forest Traversal Read More
November 2021:Fall Expedition & 4WD Training [EXP-4WD]: Friday, November 12th through Sunday, November 14th, 2021 – NMBR's rugged, remote, and immersive skill building experience Read More
February 2021: Winter Gila Overland [WGO]: Friday, Feb 26th through Sunday, Feb 28th, 2021 – NMBR's Winter Season Gila National Forest Traversal Read More
March 2021: Spring El Coyote Expedition (ECE) – Friday, March 19th through Sunday, March 21st – New Mexico Gila National Forest Ultra-Traversal Read More
April 2021: Spring Expedition & 4WD Training (EXP-4WD) – Friday, April 16th through Sunday, April 18th – Southern New Mexico Training Traversal Read More
May 2021 – Spring Gila Overland (SGO) – Friday, May 14th through Sunday, May 16th – New Mexico Gila National Forest Traversal Read More
June 2021: Summer Expedition & 4WD Training (EXP-4WD) – Friday, June 11th through Sunday, June 13th – Southern New Mexico Training Traversal Read More
July 2021 – Summer El Coyote Expedition (ECE) – Friday, July 9th through Sunday, July 11th – New Mexico Gila National Forest Ultra-Traversal Read More
July 2021: River to the Sky Expedition (RTS) – Monday, July 26th through Thursday, July 29th – New Mexico and Colorado Traversal Read More
August 2021: Banditos Expedition (BEX) – Monday, August 2nd through Thursday, August 5th, 2021 – Full-size truck tour and rugged backroads traverse of southern Colorado and northern New Mexico Read More
August 2021: Overland Expo Mountain West Based Adventure: Rockies Road Trip (RRT) – Monday, August 23rd through Thursday, August 26th – Colorado Traversal to the Overland Expo Mountain West Read More

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