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 September 20, 2013:

We Weathered the Storm -
Colorado 2013 Floods

(contains photos and web links - please be patient as they load)

For those of you who wish to stay "in the loop" with me on a more regular basis, feel free to send me a Facebook friend request. You can find me under Sharon Guli (Tabitha Sass).

Dear Friends, Family, and Fans -
Thank you for all your concerned emails, calls, and texts. It warms my heart to know so many of you care about our well-being. Let me start by reassuring you that we survived this latest natural disaster fully intact, just soggy.

I was gone until Sunday night on my Russia/England/France trip (more on that later), but Mike kept me posted as to the flooding situation as it developed. For those of you unaware, a massive storm system stalled over the state of Colorado last week, and we received more rain in four days than we usually receive in an entire year. The ground became saturated, and 200 miles of the Front Range of Colorado suffered severe flooding. In some areas, they call it a 100 year flood, but in other areas, they say it was a 1000 year flood.

Here's a link to a helicopter video tour of the flooded areas. About halfway through, when they start to mention Highway 34 and the Big Thompson River, you know you're getting close to our neck of the woods.

This disaster has caused much more damage than last year's fire. In our county alone, over 1500 homes have been lost, over 4000 damaged, over 100 people are still unaccounted for, and it's even worse in other communities. People have died, entire towns have been evacuated, and massive losses to roads have been incurred.

Here's an interview of a couple rescued from the flood. It's a miracle they're alive:

Our studio/house is located on the side of the hill, so the water went past us, causing no damage. Our ponds all overflowed, the meadow was awash, and a roof leak in one corner of our home intensified, but the good news is - that's the worst of it and we are fine! Mike has already fixed the leak, and has spent many tractor hours mending the water erosion to our dirt road.

All of the ponds overflowed their banks:

The bridge to the island on our front pond was almost underwater (not to mention the island itself):

Mike studies an overflowing culvert that needs repair on our dirt road:

To the best of our knowledge, Paradise Park survived intact, thank God. All neighbors are accounted for, and no major damage has been reported.

However, the neighboring community did not fare as well. Of the three main roads that we can take to get to town, only one is accessible to us (Rist Canyon to Fort Collins), and it suffered significant damage, being washed away to the center line in places. Due to the unsafe conditions, the authorities have asked us to limit our travel until they can complete temporary repairs. They are going gangbusters on it, and have already made significant progress. We deeply appreciate that this route is still passable, as it will be our main lifeline off the mountain for the foreseeable future.

The southern route, through Buckhorn Canyon to the city of Loveland, is so severely damaged they cannot get it replaced before winter. It is not just heavily damaged, it is completely gone in multiple places.

The following two dramatic photos were taken of the Buckhorn road damage by our Fire Chief, Bob Gann. He says these aren't even the worst parts of the road:

Here's what he had to say today regarding the Buckhorn Canyon road:
"I flew the Buckhorn Canyon today to survey the road damage. In the upper and mid Buckhorn (Stove Prairie and above) there is extensive damage. There are major sections where you cannot tell there was ever a road there. At one point it was so hard to tell I wondered if we had diverted off the canyon to some tributary I didn't know about. Of course not - there are none - there was just no road."   - Bob Gann, Fire Chief, RCVFD

Here's a YouTube link of the last man driving through Buckhorn Canyon as it was flooding. Shortly after this video was taken, the road washed away. This link was posted by our neighbor in Paradise Park, who says, "This is the Buckhorn Creek Narrows video before it washed out on the way to Masonville. Intrepid neighbor took the film. No estimate on when it will open again, some heard it could be months, if not years."

Here's another link by a local resident of the nearby flooding as it happened, and their concerted recovery efforts since. Bravo!

You've got to keep in mind that these are mountain folk, who choose to live in remote areas because they value being self-sufficient. Here's a frank, yet still humorous, report from a personal friend of Mike's who lives in one of the now-stranded areas. His email update was sent on Tuesday, in the thick of the flooding:
"Lots of damage, no bridges, road undercut or missing, horse trailer washed away 1/4 mile, Volvo washed away 200 yrds (apparently they float), lost 10 cords of 4' dry pine logs, totally gone, all fences gone, 18 ft. flatbed trailer buried 100 yrds away, buckhorn creek 100 yrds wide and 8 ft. deep at present, more rain expected, we have food and are dry, hot tub unaffected so far, phone out, horses loose but alive."   - Richard
What spirit!

For the past three days, military helicopters have been dropping supplies and evacuating other residents who are completely cut off.

Our fire chief is urging everyone in these areas to evacuate for the winter, as once the National Guard leaves with their choppers, there will be no way to continue to drop food and supplies to these folks, and no way to get them out. He's serious.

If you're interested, you can read his informative and politely blunt letter by clicking here.

One of the most personal losses to me is the damage sustained by Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch, where I have happily taught dancing for the past 18 years. The owners, the Jessup Family, took us in during the immediate days after our fire evacuation last summer, and are like family to us. The dude ranch has been in their family for over 60 years, and its beautiful location sits in the bend of the Big Thompson River, which massively overflowed its banks and demolished multiple structures on their property, included their largest guest bunkhouse and their beautiful dining room and kitchen. All of the family, staff, horses, and cattle are safe and dry, but they are currently stranded, as the river destroyed the road as well. Supplies are being brought in on foot over the ridge, and their generators are supplying power. I cried when I watched the following YouTube footage, but am encouraged at hearing their plant to rebuild. Tough pioneer stock!

Here's a news clip done about the flooding on the Ranch:

Here's the first heartbreaking link posted to YouTube showing the damage:

There are so many who need donations after this flood. If you wish to help, the Red Cross has been a great resource. If you wish to donate toward the rebuilding of Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch directly, you can visit this link:

The main road to Estes Park from Loveland, through the beautiful and majestic Big Thompson Canyon, was totally destroyed in many places, and they cannot say when it will be fixed. The more southern route, through Lyons, is also gone. In the meantime, current access to Estes Park is only possible via a 3-4 hour detour. However, since tourism is the lifeblood of this mountain city, I am holding out hope they will restore a viable route in time for us to still host our annual Holiday Victorian Ball there in November. Will keep you posted...

Here's an aerial video of the severe damage on Highway 34 to Estes Park:

The biggest inconvenience to us at the moment will be the time-consuming detours we have to take if we need to go south to Loveland or Denver. At the same time, we are most grateful the road to Fort Collins is usable, albeit fragile. While I don't have photos of the severe road damage on Rist Canyon, these photos from Stove Prairie Road, which leads from Paradise Park to Rist Canyon, give you a small idea of what lies ahead for the road crews to repair:

A number of you have indicated your frustration on our behalf at the twist of fate that has brought both fire, then flood to our community. This is a rare occurrence, and I hold firm to the belief that God is in control, and thank Him for his continuing hand of protection and blessing to us during these unusual times. It is still "well with my soul!"

Thank you for your love and support. Many of you offered your homes to us, and while it would have been pleasant to spend time with you, I'm glad this time we didn't have to take you up on your offers, and look forward to seeing you under less dramatic circumstances. I am happy to say we are in need of nothing at this time, but I know quite a few of you were affected by the flooding in this state. Please, do let us know how you are doing and how we can be of help.

Take care,
Sharon & Mike