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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Waldo Canyon Fire: Sobering but Surviving

The other day a friend and I decided to head out for a coffee ride up to Woodland Park. This is the first time I have ridden up to Woodland Park since the Waldo Canyon Fire. It was a nice day, temps were a "little" on the high side up in the low 90's but not unbearable. The breeze was nice and cool so it did not feel so hot.

As I was riding up Highway 24, you could see the burned out area up on the right hand side of the road. I did not have the opportunity to really look at the terrain since I was leading and the traffic always seems to be heavy. I can't complain because the merchants of Manitou Springs have suffered financially by losing the tourist traffic during and after the fire. So, if there is heavy traffic, then I'm happy because they are supporting the local merchants.

We normally stop at Starbucks--yes, I know a "chain", but the coffee is consistent and it's always a fun place to hang out and people watch. However, Starbucks was packed both inside and out so we decided to walk next door to The Donut Mill. They have donuts, so I think it would be safe to assume there would be coffee available. 

There was.

My friend also decided to get a raspberry-filled donut. Like all the comments that I've read about The Donut Mill, the donuts are HUMONGOUS!  

Yes, it was.

Large enough that we easily split it and still had leftovers.

Coffee and donut done, we headed down the highway back towards Colorado Springs. As I was riding down, I got to see the devastation from the fire. I could see the burnt-out trees and land charred by the fire. In my mind's eye I could see the very dry trees bursting into flames.

What was even more scary was the portion of Highway 24 that narrows into a canyon-like rock formation. It is close enough that the fire could have easily shifted over the highway and continued the destruction on the south side of Colorado Springs.

In talking to friends from Woodland Park a few days later, they told me that it was indeed a very perilous situation. The desire to not allow the fire to jump the highway was so great--and the firefighters were stationed 50 feet apart to quickly quell any flame that started. It was my understanding that they worked through the night.

The firemen won that victory. They drew the line in the sand and held it.

Once back in town, I also rode through Garden of the Gods. For the most part, the park was unchanged. There were a few of the trails that headed west that were closed. The park was full of tourists and locals, so it was good to see all the people enjoying the beauty of the park.

As I exited the park, I headed north and continued on down Centennial. It was here that I could see the large swaths of trees burned, their dark skeletons unclothed pine trees were like soldiers standing at attention. Down one mountain face, up another.

 (AP Photo/Denver Post, RJ Sangosti)

As I continued down Centennial, I noticed that many of the subdivisions had signs that said "local traffic only". I heeded the signs because I think the residents of The Mountain Shadows need time to come to grips with this disaster. I know at some point, I want to take my son up into the area only to show him the devastating effects of fire--and that it is indeed no joke.

Centennial then becomes West Woodmen and I continued my ride. The many signs thanking the first responders and firefighters were flying proudly on fences--many many many signs.

Lisa Price Waltman

As I was riding through the neighborhood on West Woodmen, I could see all the beautiful homes on the mountain side--all intact. There were some places that the fire came down to the road and there were places that fire burned in some backyards.

It was quite emotional. Thinking of the firefighters working to save homes even to the point that the fire was in some one's backyard, had my tears flowing.

As I rode home, I took comfort in knowing that our community has rallied together to pay homage to the first responders and fire fighters that worked to keep our community safe and open their hearts and wallets to help those that have lost so much.

Things have started to get back to "normal" with residents rebuilding. The folks at the Flying W Ranch will also rebuild. They have started a foundation that will help the ranch rebuild, so they can continue their 60 years of ranch history in The Springs.

Photo by RJ Sangosti, The Denver Post

So while our community and the surrounding areas have had a trying time, we are still open for business. Pike's Peak, Garden of the Gods, Manitou Springs, and all the surrounding areas are all still here.

The rains came within the next few days, and thankfully, the fire was completely contained. 

Until next time,

Keep the Shiny Side Up....

~The Rainbow Wahine

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