Showing posts with label Colorado Springs. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Colorado Springs. Show all posts

December 29, 2021

We're Broadmoor Hotel Guests, Get Us Out of Here

Cloud Camp lodge, above the Broadmoor Hotel, Colorado Springs
Known its golf courses (plural), tennis club, riding stable, and other amenities, the sprawling Broadmoor Hotel on the edge of Colorado Springs has recently expanded into more "wilderness" experiences.

Naturally, the hotel is being sued. From the Colorado Springs Independent:

The posh resort certainly did deliver on that promise in October 2019 when a Broadmoor guide leading three couples on a 2½-hour morning hike got lost and then allegedly abandoned them as the sun set and temperatures dropped.

The party was located by El Paso County Search and Rescue (SAR) teams at midnight — some 14 hours after the hike began. They then had to hike another six hours to a trailhead before returning to the The Broadmoor hotel.

Now, one of those couples, Victor and Annamaria Mitchell, has filed a lawsuit against The Broadmoor and Emerald Valley Ranch, alleging negligence, negligent supervision of the guide by the two entities, and “premises liability for breach of duty to exercise reasonable care to protect guests from danger.”

The suit claims that toward sundown, the guide, who had his own food and water,  "took off running and left the Mitchell’s [sic] and the other three couples behind, lost and stranded in the unfamiliar wilderness."

A "three-hour tour." This could be the plot of a long-running TV show. 

UPDATE Jan. 12, 2022: The hotel paid unspecified damages.  How much is diarrhea worth in court?

March 07, 2020

"The Hatch is on"

The highway goes over this little crest and then turns down and left.
If you don't turn left too, bad things happen.

With a title like that, you probably think this blog post is about fly-fishing. It's not. I wish that it were. To be honest, I have had this flu-like virus since early December. It's not "the" flu with fever and body aches; it was more like fatigue and sore eyes and insomnia and shortness of breath with bronchial wheezing. Since breathing difficulties are listed as a symptom of coronavirus, I was saying that I had coronoavirus before coronavirus was cool, but in fact, it must have been something else.I thought that I had pretty well beaten it, but then it came back for a farewell tour this week.

It has all left me uninterested in x-c skiing, fishing, late-season quail hunting, anything of that sort. Just some hikes close to home, before February's snows made that about impossible. And wood-cutting. Always wood-cutting.

As I prepared for an afternoon of editorial work (editing someone's book proposal), everything electronic started pinging and dinging. "Motorcycle wreck at mile marker such-and-such. Unknown injuries." And  . . . we're off. The ex-chief and one volunteer were leaving the station in one brush truck — a small wildland fire engine; we use them for traffic control too. On the radio, he asked me to bring another, so I was about five minutes behind them, heading up a twisty mountain highway, babying the diesel engine until it fully warmed up.

This happens every warm weekend — clumps of motorcycle riders, from 8 to 20 or so, out for a ride on twisty mountain roads. "The hatch is on," M. and I say to each other when we hear the rolling thunder out on the state highway. Not caddis flies or mayflies or anything like that.

On the way, the dispatcher broke in, saying that the air ambulance had been "stood down." That could mean one of two things: injuries were minor and the county ambulance service had the situation in hand, or, no one needed an ambulance.

Twenty minutes later, I was on-scene, and Ex-chief positioned me to slow down traffic in a spot where oncoming drivers could see me, but I myself could not see down into the accident scene. No problem — I had gone through this year ago, when another rider went over the edge at the exact same spot, and we had to guide the helicopter in to pick up him up.

After a time, he called me up to the scene itself, because it was body-recovery time, and they needed more muscle. We zipped the victim into a body body . . . and then another body bag because that one had ripped because of barbed wire . . . and then six of us (two fire fighters, one deputy, one sheriff's posse member, and the two female EMTs) carried him up the steep rocky slope.

We stood around while the EMT's filled out the appropriate body tags. A mortician from a town twenty-some miles away arrived in an anonymous Ford Flex van, which he opened to reveal a gurney. We loaded the victim, strapped and zipped him in, and he was gone.

As we stood there, more clumps of motorcycle riders went by, slowing down to gawk. Sometimes I think we could carry a sign on the fire engines that we could set up at the scene: "This could be you!" The hatch definitely was on.

Everyone these days describes peak experiences in terms of "It was just like a movie!"

I get it. This was like the History Channel's Vikings series. A big guy (like 300 lbs. big) with a scraggly blond chin beard, he must have laid the bike over on his left side, which tore the foot and ankle nearly off. Then his un-helmeted head collided with a couple of granite boulders, leaving big deep lacerations down to the bone — maybe deeper. All I could think was that he looked like the loser in a Viking ax-fight.

Mountain Bluebird (Cornell Univ.)
Back at the fire house, more motorcycles were still passing, heading back to Colorado Springs or to the Denver-plex. (Our victim was from Aurora, if I heard correctly.)

But two mountain bluebirds zipped past over the concrete apron outside the engine bays, a sign of spring that I could endorse.

October 10, 2018

Blog Stew in a Lost Landscape

Craig Childs' Atlas of a Lost World: Travels in Ice Age America won a special jury award at the Banff Mountain Book Festival.  This is a book that I have read once, loaned out to a friend, and may be reading again this winter. Click the festival link for more on travel, fiction, mountaineering, etc.

•  KOAA Channel 5 profiles the only wildlife rehabilitator in the Colorado Springs area who handles fawns, Linda Cope of Wild Forever Foundation.

Loved to death: You now need a permit for photography at the Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site. Wedding photographers hardest hit.

Related to that: You have learned to "leave no trace" when camping, etc. Now there is a digital version of Leave No Trace.  It's like not writing about the pool where you caught the big trout.
People want to learn how to get outdoors and most want a blueprint for the easiest way to do this. But that’s the thing: there is no direct route. And now, Leave No Trace is confirming what many have been noticing for awhile: social media is causing significant impact on our wild spaces.

July 23, 2018

A Little Weirdness — but Polite Weirdness

Abandoned railroad tunnel on Gold Camp Road (Atlas Obscura).
Last Tuesday, the 17th, I talked with a man whose ball cap displayed a Bigfoot silhouette and the words "Gone Squatchin'." Bigfoot-hunting, in other words.  It's something you can do, like rock-hounding or ghost-hunting. Or skeleton-hunting, apparently.

A couple of days later came this unrelated email:
I have an emotional and perhaps strange inquiry I was hoping you could help me with. First of all, I am a hiker from Denver who found you through google searches. I found a particular article in CoZine magazine ( You talked about your childhood pet, and his grave at Eagle Rock.

I realize this may be hard to read and I apologize for that. The reason I am writing you is that I was up off Gold Camp Road [SW of Colorado Springs] exploring today, and I found a shallow grave. I have been researching all day for possible human disappearances. Your story matches up to what I saw today. I found the site right off the road. There were a few rocks covering it, and an old college blanket on top.

If this is indeed your beloved dog, please know it should be covered up with more rocks. I can help if needed. I have dogs and know how much they mean to people.

All I would like to know is that I don’t need to go to the police for some poor buried person up there. Thank you for reading this and I hope you have a nice day. The GPS coordinates of the burial are 38.XXXXX, -104.XXXXX 
I wrote back and said, "Thank you for writing, but my dog was buried in Park County," whereas the "hiker from Denver"  had been in El Paso County.

And only then did it really hit me: "researching all day for possible human disappearances." Really? That's a thing?

It's true that people from Colorado Springs have used Gold Camp Road, a former railroad right-of-way that runs to Victor and Cripple Creek, to dispose of unwanted romantic partners, drug-dealing associates, and the like.

The other favorite locale for body disposal was (is) Rampart Range Road, which climbs from the west side of Colorado Springs and makes for a twisty, gravel route to Woodland Park.

If I were this guy, I would search there too.

March 03, 2016

March 2016 Western Snowpack

Averages dropped in many areas, since February was somewhat dry, but I keep hearing prediction of a snowy spring.

Meanwhile, I am sniffling from tree pollen and watched migrating tumbleweeds while driving to Colorado Springs yesterday. Troops at Fort Carson are starting grass fires in February, instead of waiting until March as usual. And a down powerline kicked off a nice little burn along the Huerfano River yesterday.

August 14, 2015

She Could Be Timothy Treadwell's Mother (In Spirit)

Surveillance photo at Jo Ann Medina's home. (Colorado Parks and Wildlife)
It's one thing to be the "crazy cat lady," but quite another to be the "crazy bear lady."
Now, the woman is under arrest and at least three of the bears she has reportedly been feeding will have to be put down because they've been caught before near humans. The remaining bears will be evaluated to see if they can survive being relocated. It's a possibility they also will have to be killed.
She is out on $800 bond: 
Neighbors often complained that Medina fed black bears - some of which got too close for comfort. One woman complained that a bear "charged" her and another neighbor counted at least 10 bears visiting Medina's house seeking food in 2012. . . .

Medina admitted spending nearly $1,200 a month in 2008 on bird seed to feed deer, a citation shows. That year, she told an officer it wasn't a "bad thing to do," especially because she only did it during the winter when deer looked "so hungry," the citation said.
When suspected the following year of feeding bears, Medina told an officer that "it was the will of God for her to continue feeding the bears" to help them survive, another citation said.
(If you can't get enough Timothy, YouTube is your friend.)

UPDATE August 19th: A second bear hanging around her house has been trapped and killed by wildlife officials. But it sure rambled in its day.

July 01, 2015

Where Lightning Strikes in Colorado

Click to embiggen
Now you know why Nikola Tesla built a laboratory in Colorado Springs in 1899, right in the central red patch.

This map was created at the National Weather Service office in Pueblo, Colo., where its page includes links to more maps for the (48) United States (Florida wins!) and the world.
The maps of Colorado and the United Statea show the number of Cloud to Ground (CG) lightning flashes per square kilometer per year. . . . The lightning flash density maps of the world show total lightning activity, that is, Cloud to Ground (CG) lightning plus In-Cloud (IC) lightning.
All lightning flash density plots for the state of Colorado are calculated with a very high spatial resolution of 0.01 degree latitude by 0.01 degree longitude squares. This corresponds to anapproximate resolutionof 1 km squared for the state of Colorado. Data is from 1994 through 2011, excluding 2000.
 M. and made up our term, the "Pike's Peak Swirl," when thunderstorms would interfere with our old summer job of censusing owls for the Bureau of Land Management in areas south and southeast of Pike's Peak. Or as the Coloado Springs Gazette puts it, "Why Is Pike's Peak a Giant Lightning Rod? Blame Denver. "
Moisture from the south tends to circle around Denver and slam back into the Palmer Divide, combining with heat generated by the Pikes Peak massif and its surrounding peaks, said Steve Hodanish, a meteorologist and lightning specialist with the National Weather Service in Pueblo.

April 23, 2014

Getting More Water — by Magic?

Arrow #14 should be pointing into (2) Arkansas River, I think, as it is part of Colorado Springs' system. Maybe that part of the map was just too crowded. (Colorado State Engineer, via Coyote Gulch blog.)

I found this graphic at Coyote Gulch as part of a post about further planning by Front Range cities to get more water out of the Colorado — the already over-allocated Colorado River.

The graphic is helpful in explaining that much of the water used from Colorado Springs north to the Wyoming border is "transmountain" water.

Note that Denver is outside the gray area—the upper Colorado River watershed.

I still meet people from Colorado Springs who think that their water comes from the snow on Pike's Peak. For the Denver-plex, would that be the snow on Mount Evans?

Reading that piece, I can't help but think that a magic wand is being waved. The Front Range cities still think that there will be more water available when they want it  . . . somehow.

April 12, 2014

Seven Falls Added to Broadmoor Empire, or rather "Campus"

Seven Falls, a "legacy" tourist attraction in Colorado Springs — that means that it predates the Chamber of Commerce, perhaps —has been purchased by the Broadmoor Hotel.

Although my maternal grandparents arrived in the Springs in the 1920s, and I have been in and out of the city most of my life, I have never visited Seven Falls! Someone once told me that the flow was augmented via a pipe to make the falls look better (is this true?), and that news convinced that it was merely a tourist trap.
"You have this very unique [sic], one-of-a-kind attraction that has stood the test of time," [said Broadmoor Hotel CEO Steve] Bartolin said. "You get to the top of the stairs and there's a fabulous network of trails. It's just beautiful property. It will be a nice enhancement to our campus."
"Campus"? Have they started a University of Golf?

March 15, 2014

Outside Investigator Praises Black Forest Firefighters

KKTV in Colorado Springs reports (text and video) on the recent independent investigation into last summer's Black Forest Fire.

The report said that Black Forest Fire/Rescue Chief Bob Harvey, his volunteers, and the other departments that initially responded acted in ways that were "professional, heroic, well-meaning and exemplary."

The worst thing that Harvey stands accused of maybe is not having enough paper road maps on hand to distribute to firefighters arriving from outside the area. Point taken.

It also includes accounts an incident in which firefighters say they were sent on a "secret special assignment" into a dangerous area specifically to protect the home of the acting commander of Emergency Services for El Paso County, Bob McDonald.

It also "states that there have been nine suspicious fires in the Black Forest area since the Black Forest Fire. There is a possibility of these being related."

The sheriff, Terry Maketa, who has had a bee in his bonnet about Harvey ever since the fire, responded that the report was "garbage."
Harvey has been harshly criticized by El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa for his leadership during the Black Forest Fire, the most destructive fire in Colorado history. A war of words was set off late last year after Harvey told members of the media that the fire was likely intentionally caused. This prompted Maketa to release a withering statement alleging that Harvey was "covering up his own mishandling" of the fire.
I suspect that voters in the area would side with the fire chief, but Sheriff Maketa is at the end of his term and cannot be re-elected due to term limits.

The day that the fire started, I listened for a while to the Internet feed from the sheriff's dispatch center, until it just started making me too nervous. There were some calls from units outside Black Forest who had responded, used all the water that they had brought with them, and were trying to learn where they could go to refill their engines. But it was not chaos.

At most Harvey might be guilty of optimism that the fire could have been brought under control quickly the first day, June 11, 2013, before the combination of dry weather, dense pine forest, and wind sent it off and running. It burned more than 14,000 acres, killed two people, and destroyed more than 500 homes.

UPDATE: Here is the Gazette's story on the report, leading with the "secret assignment."

UPDATE 2: Sheriff's office says scout camera photos show what really took place at the McDonald home.

August 15, 2013

Another Ski Trooper Conservationist Leaves a Legacy

Stuart Phelps Dodge, another of the World War II ski troopers from the 10th Mountain Division, has passed on, leaving a huge conservation legacy in El Paso and Teller counties, Colorado.
Dodge left his conservation footprint on countless open spaces, including the Garden of the Gods, Bear Creek Regional Park, the historic Palmer Blair Bridge, and the Christian Open Space contiguous with the south end of Fountain Creek Regional Park.

He helped build systems for acquiring those open lands to benefit landowners and the state.

"If you have walked any trails around here, he probably helped preserved them in perpetuity. The city would not be what it is if it hadn't been for him," said Linda Overlin, former president of the Palmer Land Trust. "He was an instrumental part of the conservation easement movement statewide in the 1980s and 1990s to preserve open spaces."
It is amazing how much of what we grew up accepting as "normal Colorado" was shaped and affected by that group of men — in the case of David Brower, much more than just Colorado.

July 21, 2013

Colorado's Redwoods

The Big Stump, a fossilized redwood, was once the pride of a commercial resort at the site. The tree would have been a "little" larger than the ponderosa pines now growing around it.
Taller and faster-growing, Colorado's redwoods were in all respects better than those in California — except for having flourished 34 million years ago, before a series of volcanic eruptions suffocated them.

Flash forward to the 1870s, when residents of Colorado Springs could take an excursion train west into the mountains and wander through the petrified logs exposed on the ground, chipping away bits to take home and place on the mantelpiece or in their flower beds.

Visitors chipped away so industriously that the logs are gone, except for those still buried. A generation later, two adjacent commercial establishments controlled the fossil beds, each one part dude ranch, part museum, and part fresh-air resort.

Only in 1969 did the area become the Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, which also showcases fossils of quite a few plants, vertebrates, and invertebrates, preserved in volcanic ash.

M. and I stopped by in June 2013 for the first time in (non-geological) ages. We found the new park visitor center and more trails and signage than we remembered.
Too many visitors don't get far from the vistor center. That is actually a stump in the pit, surrounded by a supporting band of steel.

I poop on your signage.
The easy half-mile Ponderosa Loop Trail includes photos of the previous commercial establishments at the fossil bed, as well as a time line of geology and life at the site. Here a modern dinosaur appears to have left some comments on one of the signs.

The monument covers 6,000 acres, and there are 14–15 miles of hiking trails, depending which brochure you read.

We walked another three-mile loop, which crossed the Homestake Pipeline, part of Colorado Springs' water system. The pipeline carries water from a collection system near Aspen, with its flow shared by Aurora and Colorado Springs.

(It's amazing how many Springs residents think their water comes from snow on Pike's Peak, and Aurorans probably don't think at all about it.)

Despite its significance in our hydraulic civilization, the pipeline rates no signage on the hiking trail. Apparently it does not fit the narrative of the fossil beds.

The cleared strip marks the route of the Homestake Pipline through the hills west of Colorado Springs. It was built just before the national monument was created.

July 13, 2013

Blog Stew with Birds and Mulch (Colorado Springs edition)

• Fascinated by birds, a high school student tracks survival in nest boxes after the Black Forest Fire.
Five years ago, Alec entered fourth grade at School in the Woods as "a wilderness kid" and came out a budding ornithologist. The small Academy District 20 school with an environmental science focus introduced him to the world of birds, and he wanted to continue his education.
• The summit of Pike's Peak is crowned by a dreary early-1960s gift shop and snack bar. Colorado Springs is thinking of re-doing it. The article fails to mention another summit fiasco, in the early 1980s, as I recall, when some Oklahoma millionaire gave the city the "gift" of bright lights up there, replacing the solitary light let let Springs residents estimate the height of clouds at night.

Upset that the summit now looked like a K-Mart parking lot (upon which the Oklahomans could gaze from their home in the swanky Kissing Camels subdivision), citizens demanded the lights' removal, and the city acceded.

• Black Forest has not only a "bird boy" but a "mulch lady," according to headline writers at The GazetteOnce again, it is the Question of Biomass:
On a recent evening, more than 345 people arrived with trailers bulging with slash they cleared from their property. It generated about 702 cubic yards of mulch. The Black Forest fire has gotten mitigation procrastinators off their duffs, she says. They are taking in twice the amount of slash and sending out about half as much as usual.

June 13, 2013

Fawns by the Five-Pack

Fisher's Travel Crate is Appropriated by Fawns
Yesterday I posted the picture of a firefighter with a mule deer fawn during the Black Forest Fire; today I held it too. It's one of these five little mule deer. One of these was described to me as the "fawn that was on the news," and I think that it is the same one. Whatever.

One or two of these were rescued from the fire area directly. Three were already at the home of a rehabilitator who herself had to evacuate. Another transporter brought them from Colorado Springs to Penrose, where M. and I transferred them to our Jeep and brought them to Wet Mountain Wildlife.

I wonder if there will be more.

UPDATE: Here is KOAA Channel 5's news report about these particular deer, including "the famous fawn."

May 09, 2013

How Not to Sand Bag

It's raining now — it has been raining for two hours — and on the west side of Colorado Springs and up Ute Pass, people worry about run-off from the Waldo Canyon Burn.

Some are sand-bagging their property, but they don't have the years of experience — and the vast numbers of sand bags — possessed by residents of Fargo and Grand Forks, North Dakota, for example.

The Gazette's Side Streets blog has some "how not to sand bag" photos and some advice. Really, doing one house here and one house there is not the best approach.

March 22, 2013

'Accessible to the Most Timid Motorist'

I link to this news story about the Broadmoor Hotel adding another lodge on Cheyenne Mountain just because it lets me incorporate this old promotional film about a previous lodge.

There is also footage of the Will Rogers Shrine under construction in the mid-1930s. When I was old enough to learn who he was, I wondered how a "man of the people" like Rogers would have felt about being "memorialized" by what looks like a robber baron's tower.

But that was Spec Penrose's money and ego talking.

Also included is footage of the original Manitou Incline funicular cars.

March 10, 2013

Because Nothing Says 'Colorado' . .

Tejon Street, downtown Colorado Springs
. . . like Smilodon.

If you like large, scary, extinct felids, they have been on a Homotherium kick at Querencia.

December 18, 2012

Waldo Canyon: What Went Wrong

I was going to blog the Colorado Springs Independent's report on what happened when the Waldo Canyon Fire entered the city last June, but I have been too busy wrapping up a big project.

So here are Wildfire Today's summary and comments.
After reading the article in yesterday’s Colorado Springs Independent, I am left stunned. Regarding the management of the fire within the city of Colorado Springs, I have never heard of a wildland fire with such a huge impact that was so utterly, catastrophically mismanaged.
I, too, thought that Colorado Springs was better prepared for wildland interface fire. 

July 09, 2012

Waldo Canyon Fire Video from Colorado Springs FD

The Colorado Springs Fire Department has put together this video on what happened when the Waldo Canyon Fire entered neighborhoods on the city's northwest side.

You can see triage as it is happening—what gets defended, what does not.

You also see wildland firefighters in their lightweight clothing (Nomex or Kevlar trousers, cotton T-shirt, Nomex shirt, plastic hard hat) working next to structure fires, which meant they were really getting broiled.

By comparison typical structure-fire gear includes more insulation and often a reflective Mylar layer. It is designed to block heat, but you pay a price in weight, less mobility, and sweat.

(With thanks to Rowan M.)

July 03, 2012

When You Evacuate, the Predators Come Out

During the worst of the Waldo Canyon Fire a week ago, Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs evacuated neighborhoods that the fire never came anywhere near.

One part of Manitou had a limited access by a narrow, twisty road that would have been nightmarish if firefighters were going in while residents were coming out.

But I am sure that part of the big evacuation order was a risk-averse bureaucratic response of "better safe than sorry" and avoiding legal liability for failing to "do something."

Unfortunately, it sounds as though the Colorado Springs Police Department was spread too thin: "Waldo Canyon Fire Evacuees Return To Find Property Burglarized, Vandalized."

They can't guard every cul-de-sac and every access point, it seems.

Plus there were more than sixty reports of car break-ins at Colorado Springs hotels where evacuees were staying. The police response: "Take your valuables up to your room."  Probably everything in the family minivan counted as "valuable," and the predators knew it.

As the article mentioned, two fake firefighters have been arrested too, one on the High Park Fire near Fort Collins and one on the Waldo Canyon Fire.

I cannot tell if they were interested in stealing fire equipment (that has happened before) or in stealing from empty homes.

During our evacuations, the local sheriff's department has relied on members of the volunteer sheriff's posse to help with roadblocks, and I have heard of no burglaries here. I have, however, heard of "sketchy" individuals being spotted in the area, people who drove away in a hurry when approached by homeowners. Some homes are on the state highway, for example, and can't be blockaded.

I also know from experience that a hard hat, a yellow Nomex shirt, and a cheery wave will get you through some blockades, even when you are driving your own vehicle.