Category Archives: Bad human

Idea may have come from anywhere, but depicts a person who you wouldn’t want to meet in real life.

Living With the Scars of Eagle Creek

Photo of the Eagle Creek Fire taken from the Washington side of the Bonneville Dam area on Monday, Sept. 4, 2017. (Photo by Tristan Fortsch)

As the Columbia River Gorge burns, we mourn the loss of thousands of acres of some of the most beautiful forest areas I have seen.

I live about 50 miles downwind. For the past three days, the sky has become increasingly hazy. The air smells like a sour campfire that I can’t escape. Ashes float down and leave a layer of gritty, gray soot on every outdoor surface.

The Eagle Creek Trail was a hike that I last enjoyed with a friend about 5 years ago. My dog was about a year old at the time and she came along for the adventure. Beautiful and ancient, it was a wonderful hike and I am grateful that I saw it in its prime.

To the best of our knowledge, there is a 15 year-old kid in custody for lighting firecrackers in these woods. The stupidity of doing such a thing is hard to excuse. We had experienced several days of near triple-digit temperatures and scant rain in months. By September 2nd, the forest was incredibly vulnerable. Nobody old enough to babysit a toddler should be capable of such poor judgment. Then again, age 15 is probably about the right age for such monumental idiocy.

As the flames still rage unabated, my thoughts have turned to this individual’s mental health. I wonder how they will personally deal with the scope of this tragedy over time and come to grips with their guilt about the destruction they have caused. It is likely that a 15 year old kid has no perspective they can use to evaluate their actions and the consequences yet. Sure, they may eventually be incarcerated for a time, but my concern is more long-term.

When I reflect on my life, I have some regrets. I assume most people do. Often, it is the things I have said to people that I wish I could take back. I have had moments of insensitivity that I wish I could redeem and occasionally some mistakes that were life-threatening to myself or others. I’d undo them if I could, but we all make mistakes, and we try to move on.

Here we have a person who will grow up knowing that they burned down a 20,000 acre old growth cathedral of pines, deciduous trees, native ferns, moss and wildflowers. The area was home to countless thousands of animals many of which have been incinerated alive. It will likely be the defining moment in a life that has barely started. This act of carelessness will weigh heavily, having left behind a scar that will take generations to heal, and will never truly be the same.

It is hard to imagine facing a future of knowing this truth. People are good at compartmentalizing and I would imagine that this will be an important survival technique. But there will be nights for the rest of this person’s life filled with nightmares about being so incredibly careless one day in early September, 2017.