Wildfires, many started by lightning two weeks ago, continue to burn (and, in some cases, grow) to the west and north of here. They’re still pouring smoke into the Rogue Valley, continuing a choking miasma that has lost any connection (if it ever had any) to the charms of a campfire. The town of Redding, California, some 150 miles to the south, is under siege from a human-caused wildfire that has grown from a spark to almost 50,000 acres in only a few days, fueled by hotter and drier weather, high winds, and the consequences of a lingering drought. Similar wildfires burn elsewhere in the world. Hikes we did just within the last few months have burned and others have burned yet again. Pundits, particularly the ones who are ideologically challenged, resist calling wildfires of this scope and intensity “the new normal” as though we’ll soon (if we cross our fingers and hop on one leg long enough) be right back to a cool, green, smoke-free world. Well, sorry, we won’t. Science can help but this is ultimately a political – that is a purely human – solution, not a scientific one. We’ve dithered past any hope for a quick fix and it looks like it’s going to take some time for the occupants of the political clown car to craft a long fix; so, in the interim, we’ll need to get on with adapting.
Understanding that hiking doesn’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world, I (The LovedOne was sticking with the A/C, as was the cat) nonetheless needed to find some solace in a forest. The desire to avoid a lot of driving took me (again) to the nearby Mountain Lakes Wilderness, this time at the higher, and only slightly less smoky, Clover Creek Trailhead. Last week (Whiteface Peak), I’d seen Crater Mountain off in the distance (through the smoke) and figured that it too might be just high enough (at 7,777 feet) to afford more air and less smoke, and so it did. The Clover Creek Trail was a smooth walk past Clover Lake to the saddle below Whiteface. From there it was an easy up and down walk along the ridge – through open forest and across boulder fields – to Crater Mountain. The view from 7,777 feet was of a thick blanket of reddish smoke choking the valley floor and of thin wisps of smoke trying to force their way higher. But the hike and the summit both offered some solace, which makes getting on with adapting just a little easier.