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Fire may claim one of the region's most popular trails
Residents have been reporting seeing panicked animals fleeing the Waldo Canyon Fire into the city since Saturday. But Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials say these animals probably lived in town before the fire.
“Most large animals are able to flee the fire to unburned areas outside of the fire perimeter, and we have not seen any specific examples of them going so far as to enter Colorado Springs or Woodland Park,” said agency spokesman Michael Seraphin.
In the much larger High Park Fire in northern Colorado, a bear with a radio collar was tracked, and it was able to stay safe by constantly moving to unburned areas.
As for the herd of bighorn sheep, one of the largest in the state, which lives on the mining scar near the fire, Seraphin said that area is rocky and devoid of vegetation, protecting them from the flames. They have also been known to move into other areas, including Garden of the Gods and the hills near the Air Force Academy.
“There may be some impacts on them because of smoke, but we won’t know for sure until we get up there to get a look at them. It’s too soon to tell,” he said.
The Waldo Canyon Trail is one of the most popular trails in the Pikes Peak region, often the first one newcomers hike, for both its spectacular views of Pikes Peak and the ease of access, right along U.S. Highway 24.
But as flames race through the foothills, hikers are wondering what will be left of this and other trails they love.
“The main body of Waldo looks like it’s affected by this whole thing, and after all they are calling it the ‘Waldo Canyon Fire,’” said Bill Koerner, with the Trails and Open Space Coalition.
“It’s going to be a big impact on peoples’ habits because everyone likes to run Waldo,” he said.
The 5.5-mile loop climbs steeply from the highway, then meanders through broad open hillsides before reaching pine forests.
A spokeswoman for Pike National Forest said it was too soon to say how the trail has been affected.
Koerner expects, once the fire is out, the area will be full of dead and fallen trees, hazards that will have to be removed before the trail can reopen. With no vegetation, even a little rain will cause erosion of the decomposed granite that makes up the area.
The forests, at least parts of them, will look very different than the ponderosa pine glades of before.
It will take volunteers and nonprofits, with the blessing of national forest officials, to rebuild the trail.
“The will is going to be there to put it back. It’s just a matter of going through some of the permissions that I suspect are needed, and of course the fire has got to be totally out,” Koerner said.
“I’m sure it will be put back. It’s just a question of when.”
Another local trail that could be devastated is an unofficial trail that starts in Williams Canyon, below Cave of the Winds, connecting with Waldo Canyon and Rampart Range Road. Local hiker and cyclist Rob Lucas said Monday it appeared the upper half of the trail had burned.
Contact R. Scott Rappold: 476-1605
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