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Mountain News: The Rockies have seen fire and rain



It's the season of fire and rain in the Rockies. Neither fire in Colorado nor rain in Alberta is unusual during June. It's the extent that is making the news and causing people to flee homes.

In Alberta, downtown Calgary was under water during the weekend as storms dumped 250 mm of rain in places like Banff, located about an hour upstream on the Bow River. "Every year in Banff we get some flood, so we expect something every year," said Karen Sorensen, the mayor of Banff.

Just the same, highway closures led to the cancellation of six performances at the Banff Centre, including Aboriginal Day and Roots & Rhizomes.

Downstream at Canmore, dikes and bridges seemed to stay intact, although videos posted on You Tube would leave you to wonder how a whole raft of homes wasn't lost.

Colorado would like to see some rain — spare the lightning, thank you. The Colorado Springs area has been hardest hit, as it was last year. In just a few days, more than 500 homes were destroyed in the Black Forest, an area of ponderosa pine. Last year, 346 homes were destroyed in the city's edge in the Waldo Canyon Fire.

But there are fires all across the state. Among the largest is a trio of fires on the edge of the San Luis Valley, near the New Mexico border. Flames have been licking on the edges of South Fork, a town at the foot of Wolf Creek Pass. As such, the 500-or-so residents, plus any tourists, were ordered to evacuate.

Although not specifically identified, the area was featured in the old Chevy Chase movie, "Vacation," from the late 1970s. It was somewhere around the time that grandma died and they strapped her on the roof of the station wagon.

A few miles west along that road is Wolf Creek, which typically has the deepest snowpack of all the Colorado ski areas. Local observers reported on Monday that winds of 60 miles per hour were creating havoc and the ski area was in danger.

It's been two straight years of drought for southern Colorado. Northern Colorado fared better, particularly because of heavy snow and rain during April and May this year. Even so, daily winds have been a constant in the Vail area. Firefighters in Vail said they were "hyper-vigilant" in looking for any signs of fire, knowing that a small fire will rapidly become big or even huge.

"If we have another two weeks of this, who knows where we'll be," Eric Lovgren, the wildfire mitigation officer for Eagle County, told the Vail Daily. That was June 19, and it's been windy and dry since then.

Glamping anyone?

JACKSON, Wyo. — Add this word to your vocabulary: glamping.

As used in the Jackson Hole News&Guide, glamping is a combination of "glamorous" and "camping," which is what one local campground operator has been doing.

The newspaper explains that the Fireside Resort has erected platforms at the camping sites, the better for installation of large wall tents outfitted with what, in the context of camping, would be considered luxury furnishings: running water, electricity, and furniture.

The campground operator says that this really isn't so different from the conventional camping offered at the site. Teton County disagrees and has ordered the platforms dismantled.