Fires Can’t Blacken Colorado Springs

Fire-on-Mount-Saint-Francios_Waldo-CanyonThe Colorado city of Colorado Springs hasn’t been lucky when it comes to forest fires. The Black Forest Fire of 2013 and the Waldo Canyon Fire of 2012 were particularly destructive.

Sometimes I blame all of this on ol’ Zeb Pike, whose namesake mountain looms over Colorado Springs. “Nothing Pike tried to do was easy and most of his luck was bad,” wrote Donald Jackson, the editor for  The Journals of Zebulon Montgomery Pike, covering Pike’s frontier expeditions during 1805-07.

But just when I’m beginning to think that Colorado Springs’s luck is likewise bad, I drop in for a spell.

You want history? The Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum offers excellent exhibits, including author-activist Helen Hunt Jackson’s reconstructed house filled with her original possessions. Every time I drop in at the museum, I learn something new, whether it’s about Gen. William Jackson Palmer, the city’s founder, or the Pikes Peak gold rush of 1858-61. The Old Colorado City History Center Museum offers more of the area’s story.

The city’s Ghost Town Museum might look like a tourist trap, but it’s for real. Created in 1954, the museum is filled with artifacts and even remnants of historic buildings from the area.

You can learn about mining (Western Museum of Mining and Industry), rodeos (Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame) and even figure skating (World Figure Skating Museum).

History lovers stay at the Broadmoor. It started as the Broadmoor Casino in 1891, but that burned down six years later. But that fire wasn’t bad luck after all. Spencer and Julie Penrose decided to bring Old World  opulence to the West, and this resort has been wowing guests since 1918.

Another great place to hang your hat is the Cheyenne Mountain Resort—which opened in 1985. It combines rustic charm with an elegant lifestyle.

Winter offers little danger of forest fires, and Colorado Springs is a winter town. The city’s Festival of Lights Parade kicks off on December 6, while nearby Manitou Springs is home to Miramont Castle’s Victorian Christmas (November 28-30) and its fruitcake toss in January. So that’s what you do with fruitcakes.

But despite being rocked by fires, Colorado Springs knows the danger of fire is part of the city’s history. After all, civic leaders focused on fire prevention almost as soon as Colorado Springs was staked out in 1871. By 1872, residents could be fined $5 for burning trash on windy days, and one of the city’s fire departments had a hook-and-ladder truck as early as 1875. These days, that history is preserved at the Dr. Lester L. Williams Fire Museum in the city’s Fire Operations Center.

After my visit, I’m certain. Pike might have been unlucky, but luck definitely smiles on Colorado Springs.

 

Johnny D. Boggs recommends the Plum Creek Cabernet at Cascade’s Wines of Colorado, spending the night at Ramona Cottage or Cheyenne Mountain Resort, and getting out of Colorado Springs before rush hour.

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