Sunday, June 23, 2013

We're Still Standing

Fire. An unfortunate and frightening part of summer in the western mountains of the U.S. Last summer Waldo Canyon shook El Paso and Teller Counties to their very cores. This summer, the Black Forest was devastated and no longer resembles what all of us knew and will forever think of when anyone mentions the forest. The Royal Gorge Park and lands close to Canon City are torched as well. The town of South Fork is fighting now for its very existence against a fire in the San Juan Mountains (home of my mystery novels). The East Peak Fire is out of control close to LaVeta and Walsenburg. Several others burn in Fremont and Jefferson counties.

My husband and I have made two trips into Canon City this week. One strictly on business, the second, for their Whitewater Festival on the Riverwalk.

Yesterday's visit was a blast and I am proud to say the people of Fremont County are ready to buck up, repair and get things back to status quo...or better. Though the temperatures were hot (and I am probably a wimp since my hubby and I live at an elevation of more than 8000 feet above sea level and its always nice here in the summers), I was thrilled to see the townsfolk milling about, rafting on the river, drinking soft drinks, lemonade, beer....anything ice cold, and enjoying a coming together of sorts.

While we were there, the Royal Gorge train pulled out from the station, fully loaded with tourists ready to ride through the gorge, no doubt curious to see what the fire had done, but riding nonetheless. It did my heart good to see the train full and traveling down the tracks that follow the Arkansas River.

Next, we went to the Holy Cross Winery and wandered the grounds for a few minutes. We didn't stay long because there was a huge wedding party there and we didn't want to interfere with their happy day. Seeing the place lively and happy, full of people and the staff eager and willing to assist was heartwarming. To see this community come together was touching in a way I haven't felt in a very long time.

We later went to the Country Kitchen up on Highway 50 at the turn off to the Royal Gorge. The gorge sign say, "Bridge Closed. We will reopen." The restaurant was open, but sadly, we were the only customers. We had veggie burgers and homemade potato chips (AWESOME!) and lively conversation with some of the wait staff. Business in slow in the burn areas. They want you to know they, as well as all the businesses on Hwy. 50 around the gorge, are open and ready to serve. Canon City is open for business.

Colorado Springs is open for business. Colorado is open for business. Despite the fires, there is much to see and do. Visit, hike, swim, fish, raft, boat, visit the casinos of Black Hawk, Central City and Cripple it all and then report to all your friends and relatives that Colorado is alive and well, still breathtaking in its beauty.
I have no idea who this is but I pestered him for a picture at Centennial Park. Hot, sweaty but having a great time.

Pond at Centennial Park with lots of kids of boards having a party.

Runners had to go through this mud pit as part of their course.

Barn at Holy Cross Winery, Canon City

The Abbey, Holy Cross

Thursday, June 13, 2013

More Pictures of the Black Forest and Royal Gorge Fires

Thanks to Denver Channel 4 for this photo of Black Forest

The firefights don't matter what!
I apologize for the sporadic look of this page. I wanted to share more of what is going on here. We heard this morning via the media and the sheriff's department in El Paso County that over 360 homes have been destroyed and more than 15000 acres have been burned. The Black Forest fire has now surpassed the Waldo Canyon Fire of 2012 in terms of homes lost. Our prayers are with all our friends, their friends and families and the people of Southern Colorado. 
Amazing shot of American flag while house burns

Chinook flies over fire dropping retardant
Night shot of fire Black Forest
House burns in the Black Forest

The morning after...
Retardant being dropped over Black Forest Wednesday
Horses being led to safety

One of the 360 homes lost so far, Black Forest

View of Royal Gorge Fire

animals standing in Arkansas River, Royal Gorge Fire
Royal Gorge Bridge early stages of fire.

C130s over Royal Gorge
Photo first day of Royal Gorge Fire

Very surreal
Sunset at Royal Gorge Fire

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Black Forest and Royal Gorge Fires

Welcome to fire season in Colorado!
What? Fire season, you say?

Yep...that 's what I said. We have an entire season set aside just for fires. But never in my 26 years of living here have I seen so many! Last year it was The Springer Fire in Lake George and the Waldo Canyon Fire in Colorado Springs, Ute Pass, Woodland Park, etc.

I was finally able to drive down Ute Pass to Colorado Springs and not be devastated by the burn scars. Residents in the area and crews were beginning to lay out sand bags for possible landslides during the summer downpours we sometimes get when BAM! the fires erupted again. Almost a year to the day from the Waldo Canyon Fire.

First I heard about The Royal Gorge. The Royal Gorge is a huge touristy-type place and hundreds were evacuated when the fire started. Now the highways are closed, an entire prison was evacuated and its "guests" moved to another facility (we're talking hundreds of inmates) and the fire continues to grow.I was devastated. We spend a fair amount of time over there. Canon City is a great place to hang out. The Arkansas River runs there and we love to whitewater raft. The river's closed from the Gorge to Canon City as well.

If that weren't enough, I then turned on the news to get an update only to find out that the Black Forest (North El Paso County, Colorado Springs) is on fire and houses were burning to the ground. This morning over 8000 acres and 100 homes (estimate from the news) have been destroyed. 7000 people have been evacuated. No containment.

It feels just like last summer when we watched as the Waldo Canyon fire came down the Front Range and took out an entire neighborhood in Colorado Springs, burned up the forest on Rampart Range, headed towards Woodland Park and threatened our very existence.

Today the air is thick and I can barely breathe. The plume from the fire is high enough that we can see it over the mountains across the street. We are praying for rain. We've been in drought for many, many years and are desperate for rain. The people of Southern Colorado are kind, caring and pull together in times of crisis. We will survive. We just need rain...and your prayers.