Fire-Resistant Hiker

Jim Thompson. Copyright: The Albuquerque Journal.
Reprinted With Permission.

By Betty Adams Roach '43

Devastating fires burned through thousands of acres of Western forests last summer. Two of the outbreaks hit the towering cottonwood bosques (riverside woodlands) along the Rio Grande River in New Mexico only a short distance from the Albuquerque home of Nancy Oplinger Dover ’51. The retired medical technician joined hundreds of volunteers who, barred from still-smoldering sites, labored with work crews in the ongoing clearance of nearby previously burned riverside acreage.

Nancy’s role in the bosque, however, extends far beyond her brief sweaty stint at the fire scene. Sturdy and lively for her 74 years, she is a recognized local and regional authority on where and how to explore the groves of stately 50- to 100-foot cottonwoods that stretch for miles along the Rio Grande near Albuquerque. She served for many years as a volunteer walking-tour guide for the Rio Grande Nature Center State Park; she still explores many of the more than 40 nature walks she mapped to favorite sites along nearby sections of the 1,200-mile ditch/canal network making up New Mexico’s flood control and irrigation system. But the June fires burned over hundreds of acres, obliterating many of Nancy’s woodland trails; they forced her to cancel all her scheduled group hikes into the bosque and reroute others to ditch-side trails out of the stricken area. It has been a tearful experience.

Walking is a way of life for Nancy. She grew up in Hellertown, and developed a love of the outdoors on innumerable nature walks and berry-picking excursions with her father along the banks of Saucon Creek. Since 1984, she and a group of Albuquerque friends have met for Saturday morning walks in the Rio Grande Nature Center State Park.

Page 2 >>

The Rio Grande bosque fire, left, on June 25, 2003; Nancy Oplinger Dover '51, above, at the Rio Grande.

Photo Courtesy of Nancy Oplinger Dover.