As the Jack, Bootleg, and Lava Fires sputtered (almost) out, they were quickly replaced by the Dixie (an absolute monster), River Complex, Antelope, Monument, and McFarland Fires, plus a host of other wildfires in Northern California and Southern Oregon. Our valley soon filled with smoke and the air quality index soared into the triple digits (not good). Virus cases in the county have been soaring too. It’s becoming hard to tell which might get our lungs first – the Delta variant or smoke particles. 😬

Then NOAA’s smoke model indicated that shifting winds might…just might…temporarily push vertically-integrated smoke to the south early this morning. This push was also expected to lower the day’s air temperature (before it heads up and up again next week). With The LovedOne immersed in library volunteer duties today (in cool, filtered air 🙄), I considered where to take advantage of this brief respite from pressing heat and cloying smoke. Something close by and not too hard but with a view.

Siskiyou Peak (7,149 ft / 2,179 m) – located just off the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) west of the Mount Ashland Ski Area – eventually came to mind. About eight miles (13 km) round-trip on great trail with only about 1,000 feet (305 m) of gain and with views almost the whole way. I’d done it last August for (sadly) the same smoke-escaping reason, so why not again today? I did have other places in mind, but suspected I’d go to one of them only to find myself mired in smoke.

I drove to where Forest Road 40S15 crosses the PCT near the Mount Ashland Campground. While the valley was embedded in smoke, the air up here along the PCT was cool, clear, and smoke-free. 😎 I hadn’t smelled air this fresh in a month! It looked to be a glorious day to be on the trail! And it was! Others thought so too. Some three dozen PCT thru-hikers, two trail angels, and a dozen or so day trippers passed me as I made my way to and from Siskiyou along the PCT. There were also two people eating their lunch on the summit when I got there. I skipped photos from the summit to talk with them and then headed back. It was a quick but excellent hike in clear, clean air. 😁 Then I went down, down, down into the smokey, smokey valley. 😩

Mount Shasta from the PCT before Grouse Gap
Mount Shasta sitting in smoke
Sulfur-Flower Buckwheat under clear skies
A moth among the ferns at a spring along the PCT
Mount Shasta from Grouse Gap
The PCT climbs the ridge southeast of McDonald Peak
The River Complex Fire (arrow) was easily visible to the south
Mount Shasta
Siskiyou Peak below a field of Sulfur-Flower Buckwheat
Mount McLoughlin (1) and Mount Ashland (2) from the use trail up Siskiyou
Wagner Butte (1) and smoke-soaked Medford (2)
A fling of clouds on the way back
Mount Shasta over yellow Sulfur-Flower Buckwheat
Today’s journey above the smoke