Putah Creek Wildlife Area, after the fire

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For being relatively isolated, the Wragg Fire caused a lot of disruption, if not at least for the packs of hikers that visit Putah Creek Wildlife Area each weekend. Sparked in July of 2015, the fire caused several hundred homes to evacuate, closed the nearby highway and this nature area for nearly a year. One of my go-to spots, Putah Creek sits east of Lake Berryessa and west of Winters, CA.

With lots of steep canyons to sift through, the hike offers as little, or as much challenge as one could want. I’ve spent hours rummaging through its trails, both bored and sweating bullets on the myriad types of trails it offers. Recently opened in May of this year, I found it fitting to return and see what havoc the fire raked across its lands.

Through all its damage, the Wragg Fire did a number on certain hills and crevices, but left some untouched. What an odd sensation, gliding through trails normally shaded by trees, now blackened remains of what was. I almost couldn’t recognize portions of the trail I’ve been on many times.

The one benefit to any fire (as long as temperatures don’t overburn soil) is the carbon-rich deposits left behind. Underbrush thrived on my visit, with low, green landscape contrasting the deadened black husks of burnt tree lines.

Slightly depressed as we made our way to the top of one ridge, it’s clear the odd duality the fire had brought. One the one hand, it was greener than I’d ever seen. On the other, charcoal-black limbs and branches don’t always seem the most welcoming. Either way, I would encourage anyone to visit the space. Just be sure to bring extra, no, too much, water if embarking this hike on a hot day.


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