Escape to Seattle 10-Sep-2021

After our hike at the end of August, wildfire smoke flooded into our valley and stuck here. Air temperatures were moderate but the air quality was pathetic, with the AQI well above 100 day and night and visibility sometimes reduced to a fraction of a mile. Sure, you could go outside, but your tight chest, burning throat, and stinging eyes suggested that was a bad idea. This was not, of course, even close to the suffering similar climate-related disasters – fire, flood, tornadoes, hurricanes, torrential rains – have visited on other parts of the country. ๐Ÿ˜ช Still, staring out at a swirling reddish-brown abyss day after day was getting to us. So we took what remained of our travel credits from the virus-wrecked year-that-will-not-be-named and flew to Seattle and fresh air. Yes, we were weak – but that first big gulp of fresh Seattle air was worth any dent in our reputation for tough & stupid. ๐Ÿ˜

Our view from the Medford airport was essentially no view at all – just a nebulous gray horizon reminiscent of a low grade science fiction film.

Waiting for the plane

As we climbed out of Medford, it became evident – because only the tip of Mount McLoughlin was visible – that the smoke layer extended to at least 9,000 feet (2,740 m). As we passed by Crater Lake National Park, we could see that the caldera was smoke-filled, with only Union and Crater Peaks and Mount Scott barely protruding above the smoke. We felt sad for the folks that came all the way to Oregon to see the lake and got this instead. ๐Ÿ˜•

A smoke-filled Crater Lake, presided over by a smoked-in Mount Scott (arrow)

The smoke hung on and on as a we flew north and didn’t start to ease until we passed Mount Adams. Seattle itself was smoke-free but a threatening brown film hung on the horizon to the east. The iconic view of Mount Rainier was clouded by smoke to varying degrees.

The smoke began to thin as we passed Mount Adams
Mount Rainier through the brown haze that lurked to the east and south

We had two full days in downtown Seattle and spent both of them walking around and breathing. Day One featured touristy stuff, with a de rigueur visit to the REI mother ship, along with stops at Elliott Bay Books, Filson, Outdoor Research, Nordstrom, and (of course) Pike Place Market. The city was much quieter than we remember it, with little of its often intractable traffic. The Market was probably the busiest single place but not packed like it was in the Before Times. But salmon were still being hurled back and forth. Masks were worn almost everywhere…

Wear your mask

On Day Two, we sought to recapture a tiny bit of our hiking cred by actually hiking an admittedly easy, flat, paved trail – but one with big views. We walked over to Seattle Center (for an obligatory photo of the Space Needle), then down to the Olympic Sculpture Park.

Sculpture at Seattle Center
Sculpture next to the Pacific Science Center
Guess
Alexander Calder – The Eagle, 1971
Richard Serra – Wake, 2004
Mark di Suvero – Bunyonโ€™s Chess, 1965
Alexander Calder – The Eagle, 1971

Paths in the Sculpture Garden took us into Myrtle Edwards Park. The park’s pedestrian path allowed us to promenade along Elliott Bay on what became a bluebird day with artistic clouds. Even on a weekday, it was busy with walkers, runners, bikers, odd characters (in addition to us), and dogs.

Elliott Bay and Duwamish Head from Myrtle Edwards
Clouds over the bay
The Olympic Peninsula across the bay (Mount Washington in the center)
Mount Washington
Terminal 86 grain facility
Terminal 86
Terminal 86
Downtown Seattle from the north end of Myrtle Edwards Park
Where salmon fly…

We landed back at home during a break in the smoke action. There had been a little rain while we were gone, which helped with the smoke and the wildfires spewing that smoke. So, for a day or so (but hopefully longer), we may be able to breathe freely outside. The days are shortening and the leaves are starting to turn colors and it would be good if these signaled the start of our rainy season – like they used to back in the day. What they signal these days isn’t so clear… ๐Ÿ™„

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8 comments

  1. I am also an evacuee from PDX, living off the grid in the Klamaths down in Siskiyou County. When I first moved down here that deep, rich blue sky seen in your first photograph was a dependable daily occurrence. Not so much any more. Repainting the ceiling won’t exactly replace what we all are missing … especially not all of the dying trees. The last two years down here in the mountains have been alarming. Thanks for your efforts. Greatly appreciated and much enjoyed.

    Mostly love living in near isolation, but there was something about the forced quarantine that really left me longing for a few simple aspects of urban life; coffee shop, taco trucks, beer cafes. Probably the ‘forbidden fruit’ aspect of it all. Would love to spend a week end in PDX or Seattle. Thanks, lovely as always.

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  2. There’s crazy talk about rain possibly coming next weekend…we’ll see about that. But, yes, fires and smoke seem to be part of the “new” normal. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

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  3. The view of Carter Lake was shocking not at all as I remember it ๐Ÿ˜Ÿ I hope the Fall rainy season comes early to S. Oregon and N. California and youโ€™ll be able to enjoy the local outdoors again. But I fear extensive fire seasons are the new summer normal for us.

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  4. What a great getaway! And well deserved for you two after this summer of smoke. Honestly, I think the smoke-laden skies in southern Oregon rank right up there with all of the other environmental disasters happening now. Our friends in the Rogue Valley are suffering mightily. The November rains can’t get there any too soon.

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