June 13, 2012
The Colorado High
Park Fire and Us
June 29, 2012
High Park Fire
Pics & Update
July 1, 2012
Our First Trip
Back to "Paradise"
July 12, 2012
Ash Day
Reality Check
August 6, 2012
Progress Report &
Pics on the Fire
August 16, 2012
Before & After
Fire Pics
September 12, 2012
After Fire
Progress Update
September 27, 2012
Work Parties and
Donkey Story
November 29, 2012
OK - The Black
Truth Blog
January 2, 2013
Looking Forward,
Looking Back
June 18, 2013
One Year Later -
The High Park Fire
September 20, 2013
We Weathered
the Storm


The following letter was sent on January 2, 2013:

Looking Forward, Looking Back
Colorado High Park Fire Update

(contains photos - please be patient as they load)
For those of you who wish to read or missed my past letters, they are posted on our website at

A Hundred Thanks
to every single one of you who has come out to our property since the fire to help us with the clean-up process. It means so much to us, and we can never adequately thank you enough. May God bless you abundantly for your continued kindness.
OK - I'm better now.  : )

My grateful thanks to all of you who sent encouragement our way after my last "Black Blog" letter. I spent a couple of weeks in Ohio with my folks in early December, and getting away from the "black zone" for awhile helped. When I returned, I found my emotions were transitioning (finally) from mourning the loss of our home, and the beautiful green mountain and landscape, to wanting to heal its wounds and move forward. I caught the holiday spirit, and shopping for replacement items finally became fun! Mike and I have begun re-stocking our wardrobes and household essentials.

Our insurance company has come through, and while most of the money has already gone out the door to pay for mortgages on non-existent houses, burnt tree and debris removal, and re-purchasing necessary items for daily life, we have enough left over to start to budget for the re-building process. We're working to make it stretch as far as we can, but thanks to your help, we are on our way!

Here's what's been happening since my last update:

Late September
A hard-working party of five joined Mike and I and we blasted away with everything we had to try to clear an area of burnt forest at the base of the mountain. Chainsaws, chippers, pullers, haulers and toters gamely slaved away all day long with barely a break. At the end of the day, a small but significant dent could be seen on the hillside. We estimate four hundred trees of all sizes were dropped that day.

While we worked, we were happy to see seed being dropped by helicopter on neighboring burnt National Forest Land. This should help with the erosion problem come next spring.

A Paradise Park neighbor who owns a construction company came by with his HUGE backhoe. He dredged our upper silt-filled pond, enlarged another, and excavated the area where Mike's utility shed used to be so we could begin construction on a new one. He also cleaned up and smoothed out the areas where the house and woodshed used to stand. That monster of a backhoe could rip out entire stumps without even breaking a sweat! Very impressive and very appreciated.

The day after the pond was enlarged, a thunderburst up on the mountain caused a river of inky water to flood back into the pond. Very disheartening for Mike.

Very Early October
(In case you missed this part in my last "Black" update:)  Grace Hood, with KUNC, has been following us since the evacuation. She came up to visit us in early October and produced this really nice radio and video clip.

Early October
In spite of SNOW!, another dedicated work party braved the cold to construct a filter dam from brush and stumps in a neighboring ravine to hopefully keep that silt and ash from flowing back into our ponds come next spring with the snow melt off and rains.

The heavy frost that morning clung to every fried pine needle and branch on the blackened trees, and for a brief time, the mountain looked like it used to in the winter. I got choked up, knowing it was only a beautiful illusion.

Mid October
We gave up on the idea of removing four acres of blackened trees without professional help. We decided to allocate some of the insurance funds to bring in a tree-cutting team with a skid steer, a 15" chipper, and a forest masticator. They did a massive amount of work, but there was still much to be done when they left.

Late October
A forest fire burning in nearby Estes Park since October 9 got kicked up by strong winds, and the smoke came and filled our valley. Disconcerting. It was in very steep terrain and difficult for them to fight. It burned slowly for weeks, and finally in December, after another alarming high wind event, they finally got it under control.

Hooray! The first reconstruction project was begun! A concrete pad was poured for the "Bunkhouse" - a storage shed where we can stash our stuff and where Mike can re-locate his leather clothing workshop when we begin the remodeling process on the Studio. It's got two interior rooms, and an attic for more storage.

We did a lot of research into Fire Wise building techniques (, incorporating fire-resistant siding and decking, and other options with the goal in mind that, God forbid, another forest fire sweeps through our land, this little building will be able to defend itself.

Early November
Ellie the Donkey (see September 27th posting) received her award as "Animal Hero of the Year" from Pet Aid Colorado, in a ceremony at the Pepsi Center in Denver. It had been hoped she could be in personal attendance, but it was decided she wouldn't fit in the freight elevator! Michele accepted Ellie's medal in her place, and the coolest balloon sculpture had to suffice for her presence.

Mid November
Construction continued on the "Bunkhouse," and we brought in another professional tree-cutting company to complete the section behind where the house used to stand and by the front gate. There's so much blackened National Forest which will have to heal on its own, and we'll be looking at it for years to come, but my goal was to clean up as much of our own property as we could before winter set in. That way, the land could rest during the winter, let the snows soak in, and grow in hopefully lush and green next spring. It would also give me all winter to start getting used to far fewer trees on our landscape.

All of the black trees you see in this photo are now gone:

We saved only the ones that we think might have a chance to make it. It's a lot emptier now than we're used to.

I went to Ohio to help my folks while my Mom had surgery, and during those two weeks, Mike worked his hiney off finishing, caulking, texturizing, and painting the new Bunkhouse, with helping hands, of course. He got that part done just before the holiday snow set in. Ain't it cute?...

Christmas Time
Since we WON'T cut any of the surviving little green trees outside for Christmas, we decided to decorate one for our annual email holiday card. Grace Hood was doing a follow-up story with us and kindly snapped a series of photos so we could pick our favorite. Since the tree was shorter than our heads, we counted "1-2-3-Bend!" so we could crouch down and get on its equal level. Hilarious, to say the least. It was good and very healthy to laugh our heads off. What a joy to have Christmas joy! I had planned to have the contrast of the green tree against the black mountain as a background, but God had other plans, and a beautiful snowstorm moved in just in time to paint a pretty white backdrop.

Here's a few of the fun outtakes we decided NOT to use for our "formal" picture, but we love 'em anyway...

New Year's Eve
We decided to lay low and stay put for New Year's Eve, catching up the end-of-year books and staying warm and dry, and feeling grateful we made it through and for all that God has provided us this year. Then, as icing on the cake, He sent a herd of over 90 majestic elk to graze and spend the night in our meadow - the first time we've seen the herd here since the fire. Mike was concerned the fire had changed their winter migratory patterns, and you don't know how special it was to hear the bull elk bugle and the cows chirp at each other that night. What a gift!

The Future
All the hired work crews have departed, and Mike and I are dependent again upon the kindness of volunteers to help us literally pick up the pieces and keep moving forward in the rebuilding process. The Bunkhouse still needs flooring and shelves, our goods need to be hauled up to it and organized, and the winter snows had delayed any further outdoor work for the present. We now must draft plans for building my own work studio/office. We're hoping that once we empty the middle section of the Studio, we can bring up our architect friends and designers to figure the best way to re-model this space into our new home. We'll have a thousand decisions to make, and budgets to figure, and then the sledge-hammers will start swinging as we raise floors and ceilings, add insulation, remove walls, and de-construct and re-construct this building. What a task we have ahead of us, but it feels good to be moving forward into a new and bright future!

There y'go. Time continues to fly by, and we continue to make progress. Thanks to all of you for your good cheer, words of encouragement, and prayers. It helps to know we are not forgotten, even if we are a couple of toughies who pretend everything's OK. We're learning to adapt to the "new normal," and while things will never be the same and we'll be healing from the summer of 2012 for some time to come, we are determined to make it.
Hope to see you soon!
Sharon & Mike Guli
PO Box 127
Bellvue, CO 80512


OK - The Black Truth Blog
Colorado High Park Fire Update

There's a real nice radio with video clip at the end of this story to cheer you up after reading this!  : )

Almost six months. Seems like yesterday in many respects. While the topic of the High Park Fire has fallen to little notice in the news anymore, and as the holidays, school, elections, and storms and news from across the country take precedence, the aftermath of the fire is still an everyday struggle for so many here.
If you’re wondering where I’ve been, well, lately I just didn’t have it in me to compose.
Great progress is definitely being made, but personally, I think I hit the wall emotionally about four weeks ago.  So many months of “stiff upper lip,” “keeping your chin up,” “think positive,” “be grateful for what you have (believe me – I am!),” “stay strong,” “move forward,” “what a great attitude you have!” and “roll up your sleeves and do what needs to be done” have finally taken their toll.
Yes, we will make it. As Mike said this week, “We’re fighting through it.” Ha! Literally and figuratively. When every day you must make the decision to ignore the black, face the black, clean up the black, cry about the black, or somehow else deal with the black, eventually it all adds up. And I can’t even imagine what my fellow fire survivors are going through who lost everything!
Some of them have sold out and moved away, some have already purchased property elsewhere “that won’t burn,” as one neighbor said, some are still sifting and sorting through the ashes and debris of their homes and dealing with insurance companies, and some appear to have abandoned it all. But others are already re-building, with hopes and dreams to put this behind them.
Thank you so much for your continued thoughts, support, and prayers. The insurance company has come through for us wonderfully, and now we’re in the process of stretching every dollar. Each day we have to decide what to cover, what to put off, and what likely won’t happen after all. I’m also finding there’s no way I can run my business, heal the land, and take care of myself all at the same time. Something’s gotta give. It’s overwhelming to face it all, and make all these decisions, and then feel guilty I’m not bouncing with joy, when things could be so much worse.
I think I’ve got about half my brain back now. I’ve realized I’m speaking in fragmented sentences (which reflect my thoughts), and will completely lose track of what I was saying at all. I’ll walk five steps and have to literally go back to remember what I was doing. It’s rather disconcerting. And this is improvement over three months ago!  : )
I have little patience, I’m fried, and I really, really need to get away. I live with burnt trees around me every day, and so now even when I’m in a beautifully un-burnt area like Estes Park, I still “see” burn everywhere in my mind. Not good. This will change eventually, I know it will.
Shopping for replacement clothes has not been as fun as I’d hoped. When every kind salesperson asks me, “How are you? Are you finding everything you want?,” I sometimes struggle not to burst into tears, and have to resist the urge to say, “No! I’m not alright! And I want my own (name particular favorite lost item of clothing) back, and you don’t have it!” So selfish and self-centered of me, I know.
Warning – if these days you ask me, “How are you doing?,” I might tell you!  Sorry if I’ve been crabby to you, my dear friends. Thank you to those who have been here helping us out when I have a controlled outburst. You’ve been so kind…
Good days and bad days. Emotional ups and downs. A high point in this last month was our annual Victorian Ball in Estes Park on November 17. What a joy to see all of you! You lifted my spirits and kept me happily distracted. It wore me out, but was worth every minute.
Quite a few of you have expressed concern for our wellbeing. It is appreciated. We will make it, but it’s been rough going lately. We’re both too stubborn to cave, and we know this is to be expected after what we’ve been through. Experts say it can take a year or more for folks to “bounce back” after a disaster like this. The whole community was affected in one way or another. Mike keeps telling me to cut myself slack for not “getting over it” yet. He’s right.
We still need help, on many levels, and I’m willing to admit it. We need physical help with the land, emotional help when I’m pretending everything’s OK, and spiritual help with continued prayers. Not just for us, but for our entire community, as well.
Well, there you have it. Perhaps writing this is my own therapy.  Hopefully this will be a turning point, and I can start to get it out of my system. Trust me, I hate this part. I am so grateful God made me a person of great hope and with a naturally positive attitude, and I know this is only a temporary season. I’m looking forward to when this passes, because IT WILL!  : D
Thanks again for your love and prayers. A “normal” update will follow soon, full of news and photos and all the cool things that are happening here. Thanks for listening, my friends. You are like a warm, cozy blanket to me. Just understand if I don’t feel like being cheerful right now, and know it’s temporary. Flashes of joy. It will be alright.
Carpe diem,
Sharon Guli
God is Good

Postscript:  Grace Hood, with KUNC, has been following us since the evacuation. She came up to visit us in early October and produced this really nice radio clip you can listen to on the internet, with a video at the bottom of the article. I hope you'll listen to them and enjoy! If Mozilla Firefox won't play the audio and video clips, it should work on Internet Explorer.

Here's a link to the first story she did on us, too, right at the beginning of all this: