Mount Nebo Hollyhocks Rise from the Ashes

August 03, 2020

Flowers Mount

Photographer: Ray Boren
Summary Author: Ray Boren

They may look dainty, but the lovely streambank wild hollyhocks (Iliamna rivularis) shown in the first photograph above, taken on June 13, 2020, know what they like: Virtually unshaded sunlight on well-watered slopes — preferably charred by disturbances like forest fires. The delicate white-to-pink blossoms, backed by the trunk of a charred, dead tree, are part of a hillside field of wild hollyhocks flourishing in the aftermath of a 2018 wildfire that blackened 121,000 mountainous acres (48,967 hectares) along and beyond the Mount Nebo Loop drive. The 38 mile (61 km) National Scenic Byway twists and turns to the east and north of the namesake peak in Utah’s Uinta National Forest.

Mount Nebo is prominent above scorched forest slopes in the second photograph, taken on July 9, 2019, after the wildfires. The mountain is named for the summit from which Moses was able to see the biblical Promised Land of Israel before his death. Utah’s Nebo, a feature of the Wasatch Fault and the Nebo Overthrust, and topped mostly by Oquirrh Formation limestone, is the southernmost and tallest of the Wasatch Mountains. Its summits include three aligned peaks, the highest of which rises to 11,933 feet above sea level (3,637 m).

The wild hollyhocks are making the best of a bad situation. Late in the summer of 2018, the small, lightning-sparked Pole Creek and Bald Mountain wildfires, which at first were being allowed to burn with limited interference, suddenly and quickly spread when pushed by strong winds. The two growing fires eventually joined, threatening mountainside and canyon communities south of Provo, Utah. About 6,000 area residents had to evacuate, while major highways and rail lines also shut down. Nevertheless, firefighters — who battled the blazes for over a month — were able to prevent a major loss of houses and other structures.

Photo Details: Top - Camera NIKON D3200; Exposure Time 0.0080s (1/125); Aperture ƒ/8.0; ISO equivalent 110; Focal Length (35mm) 202. Bottom - Camera NIKON D3500; Exposure Time 0.0063s (1/160); Aperture ƒ/10.0; ISO equivalent 100; Focal Length (35mm) 105.