Grizzly Peak (Cascade-Siskiyou NM) 24-Sep-2021

The rains came and flushed the smoke and damped the wildfires. But the wet didn’t kill all of them. The McCash Fire in Northern California came back to life, an arsonist started a fire near Lake Shasta, and two fires in Central California are still busy devouring some staggeringly ancient Sequoias. 😥 More rain is expected early next week. Hopefully, that will knock some more stuffing out of some of these fires. 🙂 In the meantime, we’re supposed to be getting some of their smoke – but none of that seems to have arrived yet (it would be totally fine if it doesn’t – totally fine). Right now it’s more than clear enough for a short hike before we hit the road next week.

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Union Peak (Crater Lake National Park) 21-Sep-2021

We said good-bye to summer with a hike up Union Peak (7,709 ft / 2,350 m) in the southwest corner of Crater Lake National Park. The peak is the eroded remains (the neck) of a much larger volcano and is the second oldest peak in the park. The views from its summit are spectacular – provided they aren’t obscured by smoke. Which they were for most of this summer. So when our recent rains cleared the air and damped the wildfires, we knew it was time to visit Union again after a six year 😲 absence.

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A Clear Day at Denman (Southwest Oregon) 20-Sep-2021

We got 0.75 inches (19 mm) of rain here over the last two days! Just like the forecast promised! Miracles! Less than an inch might not sound like much, but after you’ve gone months and months with practically none, it’s a lot! Enough to squelch the wildfires and wash away the smoke. The fronts that brought this rain had moved on by Sunday afternoon, so today dawned cold, clear, and bright. 😎

The LovedOne had something this afternoon and we’re busy tomorrow but it just seemed wrong – so wrong! – to not go outside and breathe a lot. So we carved out some time this morning for a brisk walk around the Military Slough Unit of the nearby Ken Denman Wildlife Area. The rain had washed the dust off the trees there just in time for the Fall color display to start. 😄

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Observation Peak Loop (Southwest Oregon) 16-Sep-2021

Significant rain is forecast for this coming weekend. Maybe (hopefully) it will be enough to squelch some of the wildfires still burning to our south and north. Or at least enough to flush the air clean of smoke. Fingers crossed this actually happens. 🙄

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Little Hyatt Loop (Cascade-Siskiyou NM) 12-Sep-2021

The fires to the north and south of us are still burning but with less vigor. Magic sky water is predicted for later this week. If it arrives, it will (hopefully) hasten the end of what has been a truly nasty fire season here and in Northern California. Many of these fires were lightning caused. That’s unwanted but natural. But the cause of the River Complex Fire – which burned across trails we’ve enjoyed in the northern Trinity Alps 😢 – has been traced to an untended campfire. A CAMPFIRE! What kind of thoughtless idiot lights a campfire on a windy red flag day during a drought?! 🤬 Human stupidity seems to be our only infinitely renewable resource. 🤪

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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. 😥

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Upper Bull Gap Loop (Mount Ashland, Oregon) 22-Aug-2021

On the up side, the air temperature here has moderated (for the moment) to a reasonable (for August) 80°F (26°C). On the down (very down) side, we’re still wallowing in thick, near toxic, wildfire smoke from the many (too many 😥) fires burning to our south and north. We’re not even supposed to go outside – or at least not breathe if we do. But, drawing on our considerable experience with tough and stupid, we conjured-up a way to do just that. We didn’t materialize one of the great hikes of Southwest Oregon, but it was a route we hadn’t done before and one that featured thinner air and somewhat thinner smoke (at least for a while).

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Grayback Mountain (Southwest Oregon) 18-Aug-2021

Wildfires seem to have gotten worse around here since 2014 and this year is no exception. Our valley has been filled with varying concentrations of smoke for weeks from wildfires raging to the north, east, and south of us. Yesterday’s morning of clarity in the Bear Creek Valley was an exception, since, by afternoon, the smoke was back. So it’s entirely on me for not doing an air monitor check before driving all the way to a trailhead. 😥

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Siskiyou Peak (Southwest Oregon) 06-Aug-2021

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. 😬

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National Creek Falls (Southwest Oregon) 30-Jul-2021

After our short hike to Spruce Lake, it was still too early for lunch (and, sadly, pie). So we went to visit National Creek Falls. These are not far from the lake and, unlike the lake, are spring-fed and thus richly endowed with water even in drought years. Also unlike the lake, the falls have their own official – and exceptionally well-trodden – access trail (#1053). The Middle Fork of National Creek actually arises from Oasis Spring, which I visited in 2015, just before the National Creek Complex Fire. Fortunately that fire spared both the spring and the falls, so we were able to descend to the coolness of the falls under an intact forest canopy. It was a short hike, the falls were amazing, and, when we were done, it was finally time for pie lunch! 😋

Descending the #1053
National Creek above the falls
Continuing the descent
National Creek Falls
National Creek Falls
Droplets of mist from the falls
National Creek Falls (left)
National Creek Falls (right)

Note to self for August: Less pie, more hiking.


Spruce Lake (Crater Lake National Park) 30-Jul-2021

Today emerged hot, cloudy, sultry, and hazy with smoke. Thunderstorms drenched us in the afternoon but the morning sprouted only a few pathetic rain drops. These only added to the sultry. A morning outside was about all we were up for. So we did two very short hikes which, when combined with a lunch outside at Beckie’s, made for a morning well spent. That there was pie 🥧 involved had nothing – Nothing I say! – to do with the quality of this day. 😉

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