By Sarah Barringer
After working two seasons on the Colorado Mountain Club Stewardship Crew, I was constantly surrounded in beetle kill. Over the course of many hitches, my crew and I cut hundreds of fallen trees on the trail. Our week spent in the Weiminuche Wilderness on West Trout Creek Trail was difficult because the trail had completely disappeared. This area was completely wiped out from a forest fire years ago, making the trail impassible. Although this was very devastating to see, I learned that fires are not always a bad thing. Since the impact of pine beetles are so invasive, forest fires are the only realistic way to kill them off. This then leads to the regrowth of a thriving forest.
Pine beetles live in the bark of a pine tree. They lay eggs in tunnels that interfere with the trees nutrients. The beetles carry a fungi that is spread to the center of the trunk and feed off it. Understanding whether a tree was infected by the pine beetle or not was important to my crew and I because it influenced most of our decisions. Dead trees are very unpredictable. The chance of one falling was always high. Analyzing each log before a cut and wearing personal protective equipment was always a priority.
The infestation of pine beetles is a problem and will continue to be a problem. But the issue is out of our control. The problem should not take away the happiness and beauty that the wilderness provides for us. We have to relearn the beauty of nature and let nature run its course. Although West Trout Creek Trail was completely gone and covered in trees, I was so happy to be such a remote space that was slowly being reborn.