Canyon Creek residents digging out from debris

John GardnerGlenwood Springs correspondentAspen, CO Colorado

CANYON CREEK – Liz Armstrong was smiling Friday morning.The log home she shares with Michelle Alford, nestled between Canyon Creek and Canyon Creek Road, sustained little damage when the mountain came down.Her yard, which looks like it was run over by a herd of buffalo, is a different story.But she was still all smiles.A bear carved from wood – filthy, like it just took a mud bath – stands strong at the entrance to their driveway.Still solid.A good representation of Armstrong, just hours after heavy rains washed large amounts of mud and debris down the charred hillsides where a wildfire west of Glenwood Springs left its mark in June.”I knew it was going to be bad. I just hadn’t seen it yet,” Armstrong said after stepping outside and assessing the damage in the light of a new day.Armstrong, in good humor, seems out of place standing in her once-pristine yard, which now resembles a dry creek bed. Rocks, mud and other debris scatter the yard, placed randomly by Mother Nature, as she sometimes does.”Mother Nature can do the oddest things,” she said. “But what are you going to do? It is what it is, and we’re still going to have to clean it up.”Her demeanor remains calm amongst the chaos.Armstrong said she was on the phone Thursday night when the rains came. She was talking with neighbor Jo Temple about the weather.”It wasn’t raining at her house,” Armstrong said. That’s when she noticed water flowing down the timber steps that lead down from Canyon Creek Road above the house.”I saw the water and sticks coming down the steps,” Armstrong said. “I yelled to [Jo], ‘Mudslide, mudslide, mudslide.'”That’s how it happened.Just as the residents of Canyon Creek expected the rains to bring mud down the steep hillsides onto their property, it happened with one crack of thunder.The mud came with enough brute force that it pushed Alford’s Ford Ranger pickup truck against the wall of the carport and filled the rest of the structure with about 3 feet of mud and debris.”When I saw it, it was just like a river,” Armstrong said. “It was surprising, I didn’t realize that it actually moved the truck.”The muddy exterior walls of the carport show that the rush of mud was about 6 feet deep at the flow’s peak.The flow dislodged a 1,000-gallon propane tank from its perch behind the carport and washed it about 100 yards downhill. It now rests beside a chainlink dog run that looks like a strong wind could blow it down.”That’s funny,” she said.Cross Propane Co. responded quickly and emptied the tank and was working on getting it back up and running for Armstrong. Without it, she has no hot water and no way to cook.But Armstrong’s still smiling.”No one got hurt,” she said. “My cat didn’t die, and the soil is going to be great for the flowers.”