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