This is where I was when the Waldo Canyon fire started. Eight miles of hiking and a four-hour drive away from home. Miles and miles away from cell phone signal. Utterly alone except for the one person I hiked in with. LB and I both had hectic weeks, so it was nice to get out in the woods and breathe.
When we turned on our phones on Monday after reluctantly driving the washboarded country road from the trailhead back to the highway, the news crashed in. During the long drive back to Colorado Springs, we wondered what things would look like, how the thing had started, if any of our friends had had to leave their homes -- but it was all fairly abstract. When we got to Canon City and turned north on Highway 115, what had looked like a cloud turned out to be a gigantic plume of smoke, and we stopped talking.
I was on edge all week in a way I can't really explain. My apartment wasn't even that close to the evacuation zones. Partly it was a feeling of helplessness: I donated money, but I couldn't take time off to volunteer. The smell of smoke was everywhere, along with that awful plume signifying acres of our beautiful hills -- now known as "urban-wildland interface" in wildfire terms -- being consumed. The windows of my unair-conditioned apartment stay open pretty much all summer. I drive up and down I-25 to get to and from work, so I would pass the burning area several times a day. I couldn't shut it out.
I tried to keep as much of my routine as possible, including running. The smoke on Tuesday morning made my lungs burn, so I cut my Bear Creek run short. It had shifted by Thursday, so I was able to run with a couple of the ladies from the Attack Pack. Yoga classes helped a little, but the stress relief was temporary.
Friday, we left town for our summer vacation, and while it was hard to leave a city still in crisis, I looked forward to being distracted. Since then, we've driven about 1,200 miles, passed through six states, and visited lots and lots of family members. I ran in both Dakotas, and I'm planning to run a trail tomorrow in Montana. The lower elevation of all the points on our trip won't help me much with the Roundup, but at least my mileage hasn't fallen off too badly.
It will be good to be back home, to run a race on familiar trails with familiar people, and to draw on the strength of our community. No words will ever be enough, but I feel deeply for those who lost their houses, for the firefighers who worked tirelessly to save everything they could, for the journalists who worked around the clock to keep everyone informed and safe. When it's time to rebuild my adopted home, I plan to be there.
And one of those times is upon us: I'll see you guys on Sunday for the second leg of the Triple Crown.