Editor's Note: I’ll never forget Waldo Canyon

Richard Wiens, The Triplicate

Like newborns, wildfires are named before their accomplishments unfold. Thus the inferno that is consuming parts of western Colorado Springs will forever be known as the Waldo Canyon Fire.

That label alone was enough to grab my attention a few days ago, because Waldo Canyon's seven-mile loop trail is where Laura and I fell in love with hiking. When we decided to spend every Saturday of the summer of 2006 walking our world, we inaugurated the campaign there. I vividly remember taking the first steps up a wooden stairway at the trailhead.

We've never stopped walking, and someday I hope we'll return to where we got our start. But it won't be the same.

The Waldo Canyon Fire won't be remembered for devastating a premier

hiking trail - it's already gone too far for that. First it shot a fiery

finger to the northwest, threatening small communities. On Tuesday, it

exploded southeastward toward the city that sits 6,035 feet high,

beneath 14,114-foot-high Pikes Peak.

My former colleagues who still work at the Colorado Springs Gazette

are reporting on and photographing a disaster that could reach epic

proportions. I can't stop checking their Facebook postings.

"I'm about to end the longest night of my journalism career and head

to a friend's house to reunite with my evacuated family," posted

reporter and weekend editor Tom Roeder on Wednesday morning. "God, I

hope today is a better day."

Tom was my military reporter at the Gazette. He's put in long stints

embedded with Fort Carson troops in Iraq. When Laura and I were

stranded atop Pikes Peak on our last hike in the summer of '06, he came

to our rescue.

"This will probably go down as the worst day in Colorado Springs

history," posted photographer Jerilee Bennett late Tuesday. "What a

horrible scene today to watch so many people's homes burn. Too sad for

any more words."

Jerilee took my stepdaughter Melissa's senior pictures in 2006. When

Laura and I moved to the coast in 2008, Melissa stayed behind with her

husband-to-be. Now they have a 1-year-old son and a cat and a puppy ...

and a home in western Springs. Tuesday night, they were packing up their

indispensable stuff, even though the front lines of this war were still

several miles away.

That this area is especially prone to wildfires is an understatement.

Officials have long feared a nightmare scenario in which flames would

race down the foothills and into the developed but oh-so-dry flatlands

where hundreds of thousands of people live and work.

Suburbia is at risk here, not fancy homes built high in the wooded hills - those places are already burning.

Colorado Springs had its hottest day in recorded history this week,

and there was little relief in the forecast - dry, warm, windy.

Maybe the nightmare scenario won't unfold. Maybe the firefighters

attacking the enemy from the ground and the air will prevail. God knows

they're trying.

What we do know is that disasters are occurring in Colorado, and one of them is named Waldo Canyon.

Back in our Rocky Mountain days, Laura and I hiked its trail several

times because of the diversity of experiences contained in a single

trek: Numerous crossings of gurgling mountain streams, a climb into hill

country reminiscent of "The Sound of Music," grand views of Pikes Peak

clad in white snow or sometimes bare gray, and finally a descent into

the kind of red-rock fairyland that Colorado specializes in.

Thankfully, I can't imagine what it looks like now.

The Del Norte Triplicate
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