Our last day hiking at Lake Tahoe coincided with the eruption of massive wildfires to the west. We drove home through a pall of smoke and ashes. Relatively clear air didn’t appear until the Oregon border but the smoke soon caught-up with us. And has been hanging around ever since. The drought (now between severe and extreme) had already been here for awhile. Actual water falling from the sky (rain!) is but a distant memory. So the situation is hot, smokey, and dry. The upside is that the smoke suppresses the lightning which caused a lot of the smoke in the first place (ah, the irony of weather ). The downside (and this is a totally trivial one compared to people losing their homes and lives to wildfires 😥 ) is that going outside for a hike is potentially yet another health hazard. But, after several days dawdling around the house (and being thankful we had one to do that in), we decided that a short hike in the Forest was an acceptable risk (it seems like everything we do these days involves some sort of conscious assessment of risk). And so we did an assessment and then went for a hike.
There were cars parked at all the trailheads we passed but, except for two people who we let distance-pass us, we had the trails to ourselves. We picked a route that had us briefly in the sun at the start but in the shade for much of the rest of the hike. It was pleasantly cool when we started but had gotten a lot warmer in just the two hours we were on the trails. Unlike at Lake Tahoe, where we could both see and taste the smoke choking the trail, here we were only aware of it when we got a haze-dimmed view of the mountains to the east. The Forest itself is dusty, crunchy, and a little dull at this time of year. It has given-up on attractively colored wildflowers and is starting to shift Big Leaf maple leaves from vibrant green to the yellows of Fall. The madrone bark, which usually sloughs-off in sheets, has been curled into tubes by the lack of moisture. The forest floor is littered with madrone straws. Yet, even in late summer, in a year of discontent, the Forest offered us some moments of solace in Nature, along with things to look at and enjoy. It was a short hike, but a good one. 🙂 And for that we are thankful.HOME