What is the story behind the artwork, Run From The Burn? I learned a very important lesson a few years ago that I would like to share with you. Interesting fact: If a person should get caught unexpectedly in a wildfire situation in the mountains, and no escape is possible, the safest place to be is within a large grove of aspen trees. The reason…Aspen trees don’t burn due to their water content, and not too many people are aware of that fact.  

When I originally designed Run From The Burn in 2020, the title was going to be Run from the Hunt, but due to the fact that the summer of 2020 saw a large number of wildfires in the Western states, I changed the title to reflect the effect the fires were having on our wildlife. Hopefully, many of our elk and other wildlife were saved by the large groves of aspen trees.

I learned about the aspen trees in 2002 when the Big Fish Fire broke out from a lightning strike close to Ripple Creek Lodge and the Trappers Lake area, near Meeker, CO. Since I was hosting a group of people to take on a 2-day horse ride from Ripple Creek within a week of the time the fire broke out, I called Ken Jett, a long-time outfitter and the previous owner of Ripple Creek Lodge.

I asked Ken if his place was in fire danger and he said, “No, not at the current time because there is a large aspen grove between the lodge and the fire.” This didn’t make any sense to me, so I asked what difference did that make?

(Right: Trappers Lake. Photo credit: Dennis Bennett)

Trappers Lake | Photo by Dennis Bennett

He told me that the aspens don’t burn because they have so much water in them. I doubted what he was telling me, so a couple of days later I drove up to Ripple Creek to see the status of the fire. Turns out, the Ripple Creek Lodge and cabins were safe, but the fire burned all the way up the valley to Trappers Lake and burned down the Trapper’s Lake Lodge. The aspen grove saved Ripple Creek Lodge! Turns out, I was the sixth vehicle that was allowed to drive up to Trappers Lake, and it was eerie. Everything was black and many of the trees were still smoldering…except for the aspen trees. The fire burned 10% of the Flat Tops Wilderness. I saw large and small groves of aspen trees still standing, but all the evergreen trees surrounding them were burnt. I became a believer at that point in time.