Inspired by the 2008 comedy-drama film, The Bucket List, directed by Rob Reiner and starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, I made my own bucket list in 2010. Today I checked my notes to see if I’d added “Spending a Vacation in Hell” on the list. Thankfully I didn’t see it anywhere. However, it then led me to ask… So what am I doing here?
Last summer my visit to Colorado Springs was a true vacation. The weather was just right with average temperatures between 80 and 90 degrees in the day and in the 60’s at night. Afternoon thunderstorms would refresh the air and provide a glimpse into a combination desert / mountainous world that made it easy to see why so many people like living here.
This summer has been anything but a vacation.
I thought Massachusetts was having a drought until I saw the corn crop in Ohio. Last year I was surrounded by eight foot corn stalks, this year in some locations it’s lucky to be twelve inches tall or just plain alive. The drought only got worse the closer we got to Colorado.
We arrived on June 16 in the middle of an ongoing heat wave with temps averaging 90 to 106 degrees in Colorado Springs and the surrounding areas. Collectively they had about six inches of snow over the winter and the only rainstorm happened the day before we arrived. They’ve set records for both high temperatures and lack of precipitation.
Still I wasn’t too concerned as I was raised in Nevada so I’m used to dry winters and even drier hot summers. Plus, having been here before and knowing Colorado Springs is more than 5,000 feet above sea level; I was prepared for the difference in lower oxygen and humidity levels. (They don’t even list dew points in the weather report.)
On Friday we decided the best place to spend the day with our grandchildren would be in an air conditioned car visiting one equally air conditioned museum after another. On Saturday we decided to brave the elements and visit the Manitou Cliff Dwellings.
We’d just finished the tour when we noticed the bright blue sky had turned a strange blackish orange color. The grey smoke made the area smell like everyone was burning a campfire even though it was 102 degrees. Within seconds our vacation took a very serious change in directions.
The park rangers asked everyone to leave immediately as there was a forest fire and the park was closing. The road we’d taken to the dwellings was now closed. The other roads we’d traveled the day before were also closed. Luckily we made it back to Interstate 25 and quickly found our way back to the Air Force Academy, where our son-in-law is based.
It’s been 48 hours since the fire started and it has now consumed more than 4,500 acres. Six communities have been evacuated with 11,000 people leaving their homes behind. No one has been injured nor have there been any structures destroyed, which is to the credit of 600 firefighters and support personnel who are trying to control the fire.
The American Red Cross and American Humane Society have opened shelters. All tourist sites including Pike’s Peak, Cave of the Winds, Garden of the Gods and Manitou Cliff Dwellings are closed. All 4th of July activities have been canceled.
But wait, it gets better.
The fire is now moving closer to the Air Force Academy and with zero percent containment, it’s only expected to grow overnight as well as the next couple of days. The temperatures are forecasted to reach 100 degrees or higher for the next week with strong changing afternoon winds reaching 25-35 mph. By the time The Patriot newspaper has been delivered on Wednesday, there may be four adults, five children, two dogs (Great Danes of course) and a frog added to the evacuation list.
There goes my career as the family vacation planner.
Each year, an average of more than 75,000 wildfires burn about 7 million acres of land in the United States. Currently the USDA Forest Service is fighting 26 large active wildfires in Alaska, California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Arizona, New Mexico, Arkansas, Indiana, and North Carolina.
- Wednesday, 27 June 2012
- Posted in Categories: : Ginger Costen's From This Corner