Eat Your Bleeding Heart Out

The day the B and B fire started in 2003, I actually saw the initial smoke plumes rising from within Mt. Jefferson Wilderness. A friend and I were traveling home after a day of mountain biking on the McKenzie River. We were headed east bound on Oregon State Highway 20 making our way down Santiam Pass. Eventually the the trees on the side of the highway gave way to a view and there they were, two single columns of smoke. One rising from Bear Butte which marks the boundary between the Warm Springs Indian Reservation from other claims and another coming from Booth Lake on the South end Mt. Jefferson Wilderness. The conditions were right and eventually those two smoke plumes joined into large fire complex that burned up nearly 100,000 acres of along the Cascade Crest. I called the fire in, along with several hundred other concerned citizens. We motored on to catch a BBQ and a Ben Harper show and the fire fell from my mind. Then, the fire grew larger.

There was no stopping it. After a century of forest management practices that excluded fire from the ecosystem the perfect scenario had been built for a large scale fire. Coincidentally, President W. Bush was scheduled for a Central Oregon stop when the fire began. The Secret Service had been roaming all over Deschutes and Jefferson County in their Black vehicles and helicopters. Local residents of the area reported observing a trio of Chinook military helicopters flying over the exact areas where the fires began. Rumors developed that somehow, President W. Bush was somehow behind the fires. Some say, it was engineered as theater  to embolden the Presidents agenda for forest management (The Healthy Forest Initiative). Whether this is true or not was never proven, but that did nothing to detract from the novelty of the conspiracy.

The B & B did its thing, leaving behind a changed landscape.

Mt. Jefferson Wilderness

Burnt wood in Mt. Jefferson Wilderness.

It was a great disturbance inspiring a new generation of life set upon a new stage. Silvered tree skeletons stand stoically recounting the story for passerby’s. Ceanothus, Bracken Fern, Bear Grass, Saplings and other starters flash their resilient green. Bobbing, floating and waving Bear Grass flower pods created an other worldly landscape. Summer heat radiated painting the atmosphere with sweet scents of the new forest community.

Mt. Jefferson Wilderness

South Mt. Jefferson Wilderness

Splashing through textures, colors and scents; a world of new beginnings surrounded me.
Here, upon a ridge sculpted by the last ice age a Pacific Bleeding Heart emerges from cracks in the exposed rock. Bold, leafy with an exceptionally long tap root, the perennial exhibits all the traits of resilient life.

Mt. Jefferson Wilderness

The Cascade Crest as viewed from South Mt. Jefferson Wilderness.

Less than one half mile away, the B & B burned so hot that it sanitized the soil eliminating all organic material, seeds, fungi and other soil goodies. Down there, almost nothing grows, even now, except some wind and animal deposited seed. Up here though, on this burnt and rocky ridge the Pacific Bleeding Heart flourishes and life marches on. Once, these views were obscured by beautiful conifer canopy, but with the tree canopy gone, unparalleled views of the Cascade Crest volcanoes persist throughout. That was not the first time wildfire happened here, nor, will it be the last. I was impressed upon by nature, life’s tenacity and immense beauty. Indeed, among the destruction and waste of the last forest the most amazing beauty had taken root and grown. Traveling here provided me an opportunity to observe micro-moments along a vast time line transcending my own. When my bones turn to dust I’m sure the Pacific Bleeding Heart will persist and perhaps another observer will enjoy it’s beauty among a new forest.

Mt. Jefferson Wilderness

South Mt. Jefferson Wilderness near the 2003 B and B fire perimeter.

Please click on any one of the images below to launch the photo gallery.


15 responses to “Eat Your Bleeding Heart Out

  1. The add at the end of you’re pics is for”hot pocket sandwichs”-kind of fits with a story of “fire “. Enjoyed seeing the photos – will review on laptop for better view. Dad

  2. Very interesting all around – and I agree with you, when we’re dust, the bleeding hearts will still bloom and there will probably be someone there enjoying them.

    • Thanks for stopping in to see the most recent set. By the way, I found the last photo in your set titled “Nostalgia” very engaging. It stirred memories of my growing up days in a rainy place. Thanks again for stopping in. JON

    • Thank you for checking out my photographs. I just returned from another Cascades adventure last night. My wife and I covered almost 16 miles and enjoyed a fantastic sunset at 7100′, looking straight into the largest glacier in Oregon. Regarding the photos, I use a bastardized HDR/split grad process using Luminance and GIMP when I shoot the Nikon 10-24 lens. I would normally shoot single frames using a high quality circular polarized filter, but I don’t have the filter yet. It’s a total junk show, but it’s what I can afford. Thank you again for stopping by my site. I’ll do the same of your site ( Your wildlife shots reveal patience and are very emotive. The eyes of the fox! Any tips on how to use a Nikon 300mm prime? Have a great summer. Kindest Regards,

      • Thank you for the information, Jon: your images are beautiful and that’s what counts, not the equipment! First and foremost it is the photographer, then the equipment.
        Regarding polarizers and grad filters, you may want to consider one of the systems that use a receptacle that screws onto the lens and then you slide one or more square filters in, such as a Lee or Singh-Ray system, as they give you the most flexibility.
        Regarding your 300 prime, is it the f/4.0 or the f/2.8? Either way, it is a sweet lens that is very sharp and has nice bokeh, so it should make you very happy. With the f/4.0 you could also use a 1.4x TC if needed, while with the f/2.8 you could even use a 2.0x TC which would turn it into a very useable 600mm f/5.6. Great lens for wildlife and for certain landscape shots. Just make sure to use a sturdy tripod with it for best results and enjoy! 🙂
        Thank you for your kind words and I hope we will keep in touch!

      • It’s the f/4.0 lens. Thanks for the tips/tricks and the recommendation for the tele converter. I recently found a spot where I think hundreds of elk gather on a regular basis. The scene is very aesthetic. Not being a hunter or avid wildlife photographer, I’ve been trying to gather up best practices to stay invisible to a large group of animals. My goal is to set up within an effective distance of the 300mm lens, to have little to no influence on the herd and to have a great time. Have you come across articles, websites or other sources of information that would help inform me? Thanks again for following and liking my site!
        Have a great summer

      • Jon, that sounds like a scene with great potential! Blending in the habitat without influencing the wildlife may be challenging at times, especially if the animals are not used to seeng humans around.
        In terms of online resources, have you come across Naturescapes ( It is a very lively and solid online community of nature photographers.
        Take care!

      • Stefano,
        No, I’ve never been to that site. I’ll make sure to visit naturescapes before heading out again. Have a great weekend!

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