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 June 18, 2013:

One Year Later -
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

Good Things Are Happening...
since last I wrote. The winter weather prevented us from accomplishing any additional structural work, but we were able to do some much-needed catching up with our businesses. Now that spring has beautifully sprung, we're full of ideas of how to proceed. However, a wake-up call came to us first...

I had intended to give you a one-year perspective closer to the actual one-year anniversary, but as many of you know, we had a spate of new fires last week in Colorado, including the horrific Black Forest Fire just northeast of Colorado Springs. Thank you to all of you who were thinking of us when you heard of the fires, and contacted us to see if we were OK. It is appreciated more than you know.

My heart goes out to all of those who are forced to go through what we experienced last year. The weather shifted this week, and all three fires are in much better shape now, but please continue to pray for rain for all of us, for the safety of the firefighters, and for the comfort of our fellow Coloradoans who lost homes and loved ones.

If any of you were affected by these recent fires, please do let Mike and I know how we can be of help, even if you just need an empathetic shoulder to weep on.

The fire near us, in Rocky Mountain National Park, was started by lightning, and is in a remote area that threatens no structures or communities. Thank God. I'll tell you, though, it was quite disconcerting to see our valley fill with smoke, and was a surreal deja vu to be driving around Paradise Park, searching once again with binoculars for the source. What awful timing. Makes the memories of a year ago flare up again, and the fall-out symptoms. I find myself once again forgetting things, getting fearful to leave my home, and "clutchy" about my possessions. God knows what he's doing, and God has blessed us wonderfully, but I obviously still have some therapy work to do.

Our valley, filled with smoke from the fire in Rocky Mountain National Park.

On the other hand, with the sorrow and memories heavy upon me, it made me realize Mike and I needed to make sure we follow our own advice and take precautionary fire mitigation measures around our place. We spent a chunk of the weekend trimming low-growing tree branches, pulling bushes, cutting the grass super low, and carving out a three-foot swath of bare dirt around much of the studio. All this will prayerfully provide a measure of protection if, God forbid, another fire wanders our way. I've also purchased a new memory chip for my video camera, and have begun the process of filming each room and the contents of every drawer, as a documentation. So much to do, always so much to do...

Below is a link to an amazing video shot by a Colorado Springs firefighting team this past week, which shows not only their professionalism, experience, and coolness under pressure, but also shows how the measures a homeowner takes (or not) to protect their home can really affect the outcome. While there is no guarantee a home in the woods will survive a blowtorch fire like we had or the one they endured in Black Forest, doing fire mitigation at least gives the fire fighters a better chance at saving your home.

Click on the link below the photo:

So... back to our update!

While we've had no large work parties lately, Mike had several wonderful friends come up over the winter months, and they helped him relocate his work space into the new "bunkhouse" studio. It's a great space for him to work undisturbed.

Photo credit Grace Hood/KUNC

We've started drawing up plans for my new studio, and consulting with architect friends about how we can re-model this current building into a new, pretty home. There are so many creative ideas, it's probably a good thing we have so many shows to do this summer that we can't start on any major projects until August! Very exciting. I know it will take time, and I must be patient, but I believe when God says it's time, we'll know it.


A helicopter came by and took two days to mulch our mountain with clean straw, to prevent erosion and keep moisture on the ground. It was impressive how the pilot's aim was so accurate.

Chopper with huge bundle of straw...

Pilot releases straw just so...

Straw wafts down on the wind...

Mountain covered with yellow blanket...

We walked the mountain about a week ago, for the first time this spring, and it's encouraging to see so many plants spreading everywhere. Flowers are everywhere, especially yellow and purple ones. Lovely!

There is one yellow flower in particular, called Golden Smoke (also cutely known as Scrambled Eggs!) which I was told only grows in disturbed soil, and apparently this plant is native to our area but rare and a real treat to see. It's everywhere on the mountain, and has a delicate, beautiful scent.

Golden Smoke/Scrambled Eggs, all over the mountain.
Photo credit: Jennifer Anderson @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database

After ending the winter still too dry, it was an answer to prayer to have lots of snow and rain in April and May. Our meadow has grown in greener than I can ever remember seeing it, probably due in part to all the moisture, also because parts of it burned off last year, and I'm sure because the black ash flow that spread everywhere is a fabulous natural fertilizer. We're also happy to report the measures taken last fall of building silt dams and choking up the gullies with branches and bushes is working, and the water coming off the mountain now is crystal clear. Thanks again to all of you who helped us out!

Photo credit Grace Hood/KUNC

We've got wildlife galore! Mule deer are everywhere, an elk herd paid a visit, wild turkeys keep us entertained, and foxes, coyotes, and a bear have come by! Sorry, no photos of the bear. And, always a treat, a moose traveled through last week just before dawn one morning. It's a rare occasion to see a moose on the land.

We're also joked that we've become an aviary. Red-winged blackbirds, stellar jays, mud swallows, mallard ducks, and Canadian geese have all courted and nested here and in the valley. And look what Mike found on the front railing...a robin's nest with three perfect blue eggs. We are blessed.


Our neighbors to the north moved back onto the property in March. They are living in a fifth-wheel trailer until they can get the debris of their house cleared away and the contractor gets their new house built.
It's great to see our community coming back together again!

For those of you wanting an update on Squiggy, the miracle cat who was rescued and reunited with these neighbors, he passed away a few months ago, likely due in part to old age hastened by the stress he endured. However, he was able to spend his last year with his own people, loved and petted and cared for, and had regained his weight, his health, and his ornery but loveable character.

Speaking of animals...Ellie the donkey received another hero award, this time at the one-year anniversary dinner held by the local regional branch of the Red Cross. I was not in attendance, but apparently they actually brought her into the convention hall at the Hilton Hotel where the dinner was being held, so she was able to receive her award in person (or "in donkey," as Michele tells the story!).

The locals came together on June 8 for a community potluck. It was great to see folks from many of the neighborhoods affected - Paradise Park, Whale Rock, Davis Ranch, and so many others, all gathered together, sharing stories, sharing great food, and applauding our volunteer fire department. Channel 9 News covered the event, and they pinned a mic on the neighbor next to me, and whad'ya know... there we were on camera again (I'm in the green shirt, but only in the background this time!). We must be media magnets...  : )

Below the photo is the link. It's a great report:

Our Beloved RCVFD (Rist Canyon Volunteer Fire Department)...

Our local fire chief, Bob Gann, announced the great news that the firehouse that had been lost in the fire in Whale Rock (where 80% of the homes were lost) is being rebuilt, mostly by the volunteer efforts of locals. He also showed us the sketches of the new firehouse which will be built to take the place of the one in Rist Canyon, which frankly they've outgrown.

Photo credit KUNC
This is our current Rist Canyon Firehouse (yep, that's the whole thing!), which is too small for newer, bigger, better fire trucks and equipment.

The brand new, bigger and better firehouse will be paid for with the donations received from wonderful people, most from out of the area and some donations from out of the country, who just wanted to help in some way. Thank you, thank you!


Grace Hood, the radio reporter who interviewed us as the fire began, then another time or two as things progressed, wanted to do a one-year follow up. She's great. Below the picture is the link:

Photo credit Grace Hood/KUNC

And if you're wondering about our "insides"...

A couple of months ago, Mike and I both agreed it would be healthy for us to get a little professional help with the post-traumatic stress and seek some counseling. You have to be strong to admit you're weak, and the year's events had taken their toll. We both knew we needed to find peace in ourselves again, and the stress and emotions of the upcoming anniversary of the fire were not helping matters.

I finally permitted myself the time needed to really face the feelings I'd had to stuff away during the past year of constant post-fire activities, and that healing really needed to be done in order for me to finally move forward. Some surprising revelations came to light as I walked the mountain and talked with friends, and spent time alone in thought and prayer. In addition, our counselor has given us some great books to read, prayed with us, and we've had a lot to think about. It's all good.

We also figured we needed to get away from it all, so we took off for a week for the warm, green climes of Florida. Disney, Epcot, Sea World, Pine Island, the Dali Museum, and a day lounging by the pool - fun, fun! Mike got a free upgrade to a hot red 2013 Camero, so we traveled in style!

Mike snapped this photo at one of the live shows at Sea World...incredible!

So, to sum it all up - we're doing well, as well as can be expected with smoke back in the air. Our insides are better, and after a long, black/brown dreary winter with many of our lovely evergreens gone, our meadow and mountain are turning lush again with new growth, and the surviving pine trees are budding like crazy. Water is flowing from pond to pond, and our friends are STILL here for us, supporting us with prayer, laughter, meals, hard labor, generosity, and kindness, and business is booming. Yep, we're gonna make it after all...   : D

Thanks for your continued love,encouragement, and advice,
and please pray for rain!!!

Sharon & Mike Guli (taken while in Florida, of course!)
PO Box 127
Bellvue, CO 80512