As people head out for a last summer moment of recreation this Labor Day weekend, we urge anyone going into the hills to be careful.
The fire danger, for example, isn't as high as it was a few weeks ago, and we've gotten through August without any major fires in Elmore County. It's been a while since we've been able to say that. But that doesn't mean there still isn't a fire danger out there. The grasses and brush are still dry and it would be a shame if someone, in a careless moment, started a blaze.
So, on the 70th anniversary of Smokey Bear, we urge you to be fire wise while you're enjoying the mountains or desert.
But it's not just the potential for fire to worry about, but the effects of last year's fires that should concern you as well.
The Pony and Elk Complex fires of 2013 made the 2012 Trinity Fire look like a controlled burn. Those two huge fires last year devastated the areas where they burned, totalling destroying the ground cover.
As a result, recent rains, and some spot rains that might show up this weekend, have nothing to absorb the moisture. It just runs downhill, into every gully and ravine, carrying mud and rocks with it and triggering rockslides, mudslides and flash floods.
In general, stay away from the burned areas (which need to recover, anyway), or areas downstream from them. It can be dangerous being on the receiving end of mother nature.
So plan your trip carefully and camp or picnic on higher ground, keeping in mind the potential for flash floods and remember that while it may not rain on you, a spot rain up the watershed could result in water rushing through your camp in a matter of minutes. Listen to weather alerts while you're in the hills.
Check which roads are open with the highway or ranger district offices. One phone call could make a big difference in how much you enjoy your trip.
Drive carefully. Be aware that a rockslide may be just around any bend, and some logging trucks have been rerouted to roads you don't normally see them on.
Enjoy your weekend, but if you plan on spending it in the hills, be a little more vigilant and exercise a little more advance planning than you might be normally.
-- Kelly Everitt