The Air We Breathe (Jacksonville Forest) 31-Aug-2021

Days of smoke. Days of smoke. One of our local TV weather people, who (being from the traditional always put a happy face on the weather school of forecasting) has, for weeks, only mentioned smoke in passing. This week they finally caved and got a set of smoke symbols for their nightly forecast. ☁ That’s how bad things have become. Wildfire smoke will likely plague our valley until either rain kills the fires raging north and south of us or there are no forests left to burn. 😥

Ultimately we are at the mercy of the wind, which can whimsically either pack smoke into our valley or whisk it away to someone else’s valley. Today’s forecast (from several sometimes questionable smoke models) was for a west wind to push the smoke eastward over the mountains, possibly offering our area a few moments for respirator-free outdoor activity.

Plan A was to hike the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) up around Green Springs Mountain above Ashland. But as I (The LovedOne being sidelined with a shoulder issue) drove toward Ashland, it became apparent that the wind had not magically whisked the smoke away but had instead rammed it into the mountains. Green Springs Mountain was but a gauzy apparition through this miasma. Plan A collapsed.

The LovedOne’s frequently admonishes me to see the glass as half full (assuming I can remember where I left the glass), so I had no Plan B at hand when the glass turned-up empty. But, as I started for home, I noticed that, while the west wind had packed smoke into the mountains to the east, it had, in fact, scoured all of it out of the low hills to the west. Specifically, those comprising Jacksonville Forest Park. Thus Plan B revealed itself and the glass was suddenly half-full again.

So, after some convoluted driving on surface streets and country roads, I pulled into the Park’s parking area 5 (P5) to find blue skies and fresh, breathable air. 😎 Only a sudden rain storm could have made this moment any better.

Blue sky at P5

But the west wind was already fading, allowing the smoke to begin its inexorable crawl westward toward the Park. The glass was leaking and there was only limited time for a sprightly, smoke-free exercise hike. So from P5, I followed the Twin Peaks Trail to the Twin Peaks Overlook to see the onrushing wall of smoke.

On the trail to Twin Peaks
From the Twin Peaks Overlook – smoke packs the mountains to the east
To the northeast – Mount McLoughlin is out there somewhere
To the southeast – Grizzly Peak and Ashland lost in the smoke

From Twin Peaks, it was along the Atsahu Trail over Jackson Ridge, down the Jackson Ridge Trail and the Jackson Creek Nature Trail to the Canyon View Trail and that back to P5.

On the Atsahu Trail

As the end of summer approaches the Forest, there is little color save for the poison oak, which turns various cheery (but still toxic) shades of red. All else is dry and dusty.

Poison oak
Litter – the good kind
Season’s End
On the Jackson Ridge Trail
The Curl I
The Curl II

The big-leaf maple canopy remains intact but even it is starting to shed the leaves of autumn. But, despite the severe drought and lack of rain, Jackson Creek is still managing a trickle in spots, even if none of the flow makes it very far. 🙂

On the Jackson Nature Trail
Sunlight in the Forest
Jackson Creek
Leaf Fallen On Ferns
The big leaves are falling
On the Canyon View Trail

This exercise loop consumed 5.5 miles (8.8 km), with 1,100 feet (335 m) of gain. There were cars at the trailheads but I encountered only a single mountain biker on the trails. Almost all this hike was in fresh air, as the first waifs of sour-smelling wildfire smoke weren’t apparent until just before I got back to P5. I went home into a valley now full of smoke, with an AQI above 150 and visibility at less than a half-mile. 😪 But, thanks to the Forest, my glass was momentarily more than half full and for that I am truly thankful. 😊


2 thoughts on “The Air We Breathe (Jacksonville Forest) 31-Aug-2021

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  1. These are difficult times, and I am deeply saddened by the devastating wildfires and smoke that drove us away from our beloved Rogue Valley. But as you said, we need to keep looking for the positive. The other choice—sinking into despair— doesn’t do us or anyone else any good. The madrone are so beautiful..we .just have to keep finding those small moments of joy. And you seem to do that well.


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