Vertically Integrated Smoke (Mount Ashland) 02-Oct-2020

Vertically integrated smoke is all of the wildfire smoke in a vertical column extending high into the Earth’s atmosphere. This is the smoke you see at sunrise and sunset (as opposed to near-surface smoke, which you see all the time).

Vertically Integrated Smoke from fires in Northern California (NOAA HRRR Forecast Model) – Red is not a happy color here 😦

After it rained – ever so slightly (1 mm) – a few days ago, we were able to enjoy a smoke-free hike on the Rogue-Umpqua Divide. But, alas, the wind shifted to the north and we were once again inundated with smoke from several wildfires still chewing their way through forests and wilderness areas in Northern California. 😦 This, and some work, forced us back into the house. We’re almost used to the pink-tinged light shining meekly through the windows. The weather people on our local TV stations try to keep a happy face on the weather (one station doesn’t even have little graphics for smoke πŸ™„ ). But even they had to finally confess that smoke might be with us for another week. 😦 Of course, there’s the promise of rain at the end of that week – we’ll see (that check has been in the mail so to speak over and over again for months).

Sad to admit, we finally broke. We had to go outside, walk around some, maybe see as much sky as we could. Not even blue sky, just sky. Mount Ashland was the obvious destination because it is the highest point you can reach around here without a lot of driving and hiking. We’d see just how high vertically integrated extended. Yes we would! Plus we could engage in some informal idolatry at the foot of the Great NEXRAD that sits atop Mount Ashland. Oh, Great NEXRAD we beseech you to detect rain inbound!

Anyway, we drove up to the Mount Ashland parking lot where we ran into a surprising number of mountain bikers. It seems that the Ashland Mountain Challenge was scheduled for the next day and the wheels were gathering. They all headed downhill toward Ashland while we walked up first Forest Road 20 and then the service road to the top of Mount Ashland. The view to the south was grim – Mount Shasta was but a smudge in the smoke that was layered at various levels up past 14,000 feet (4,200 m).

Looking south
Mount Shasta is the faintly darker spot in the middle
The view east wasn’t much better – we were surprised we could actually see Mount McLoughlin
On the road to the summit
Looking south smoke filling the valleys (near-surface smoke)
The view from the summit was the same
Sunshine on the summit

Once on top, The LovedOne convened with the Great NEXRAD. I suggested that perhaps the situation called for a human sacrifice – like throwing a virgin into a volcano or something. The LovedOne then noted that, while no one would ever find my body, she would still collect the life insurance. OK, moving on here…

The LovedOne implores the Great NEXRAD

It seemed a little less smoky up here at 7,500 feet (2,290 m) but if smoke was topping Mount Shasta, it was up here too. Still it seemed better on the summit and we were good with that. There was a stiff southerly breeze across the Siskiyou Crest, which probably contributed to the feeling of less smoky. We opted to return via the recently refurbished trail that leads from the top of the Aerial Lift down to the lodge parking lot.

Heading down past the Aerial Lift
On the trail
Looking toward Medford sitting under a band of smoke
On the trail with Pilot Rock in the hazy distance
Mount McLoughlin over last season’s grasses

This was a ridiculously short hike (3.6 miles; 900 feet of gain) and one that left us with mixed feelings. While it was good to get out – however briefly – it was sad to consider that all of this smoke represents lives, homes, trees, and wilderness lost. It would be nice if climate change is the fake that some people make it out to be, but it’s simply not. We’ve messed with the physics of the atmosphere and this is what payback for that looks like. Even if we stopped being stupid about the climate today, we’ve still put in motion mighty forces that will play-out for decades. So prepare to adapt… :/

The route of our short hike is in blue
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