I almost grew up in the Black Forest, the Colorado Springs suburb that’s now being torched by the most devastating fire in Colorado history.
My parents owned some property there, where they imagined building a dream house someday. They’d spend weeknights poring over blueprints at our dining room table. Weekends, we’d venture out to the vacant lot and spend an afternoon planting baby trees or plotting out where everything — the barn, the swimming pool, our bedrooms — would go.
The dream house never happened — plans and priorities changed — but it didn’t really matter to me. My favorite part about those trips had nothing to do with real estate. I loved the car ride along a stretch of road we dubbed the Wheee! Hills, because if you drove it just right (and my dad always did), you could achieve the exact stomach-drop effect of a roller coaster. I once held my favorite My Little Pony out the window on a Wheee! Hill — so she could better enjoy the view, naturally — and lost my grip. For all I know, she’s still out there, rotting in some roadside weeds.
Or was. The Wheee! Hills are now part of a massive evacuated area. When this fire is finally put out, they’ll still be standing, but it’s likely not much else — those baby trees, other families’ dream homes, my mildewed childhood toy — will be.
It’s hard to watch the Black Forest burn, especially after the west side of Colorado Springs was charred just last summer during the Waldo Canyon Fire. But in a weird way, it’s also extremely motivating. Coughing on the smoke blowing into my south Denver neighborhood, I’ve finally started doing all the emergency preparedness tasks — packing a go-bag, cataloging my belongings for insurance purposes — I’d long put off in favor of more pressing matters, like watching “Millionaire Matchmaker” marathons.