Day 137: Back Into the Smoke

There may have been some great views out there today, but, if there were, we certainly didn’t see them. The smoke blew back in last night at about 4:00 AM — I actually woke up and stayed awake for an hour, the smell was so strong — and stayed with us all day long. So, once again, any distant mountains that were out there were completely invisible, and most of what we saw was just blurry outlines of nearby ridges.

I should clarify: the smoke out here is never so bad that you actually have trouble breathing at all, or that the smell is overpowering. It’s not like that. But when I woke up in the middle of the night last night, it smelled like someone had built a giant campfire about five feet away from our tent, and had just dumped a ton of water on it — that pleasant, but very strong, scent of campfire. Having said that, it’s weird to smell that and realize it’s a forest fire, and, for me, it’s hard to get back to sleep again. I think that’s just evolution: the creatures that felt it was perfectly OK to go back to sleep with the strong scent of fire in their nostrils weren’t my ancestors.

We stopped today at the Olallie Lake Store, a very small store next to a campground on Olallie Lake. (This area is remote enough that they have no real electrical power, for example; the store is heated with a wooden stove.) It made me feel better about the fires to hear an interchange between a visitor and the shopkeeper: “Do you know what fire this is that’s making all the smoke?”…”Oh, any of ’em, there are a whole bunch east of here.” Clearly he wasn’t concerned in the least about the fires, and he’s been doing this a very long time. Still, it certainly affected the store, which also rents boats for paddling out on the lake. As far as we can tell, the area probably has spectacular views of the volcanic mountains around here, but they were simply gone today, replaced by a cold, stiff wind on the lake and the pervasive smell of smoke. That can’t possibly portend a busy weekend renting boats, although we did see one intrepid group out in a rowboat.

The rest of the day was spent basically churning miles. The trail here wanders on a mostly-flat path through forest nearly constantly, occasionally passing by lakes or crossing still streams. We’re on the last big leg of our path through Oregon, destined for Timberline Lodge (and an apparently-amazing breakfast), and are just sort of cruising for the border with Washington. Onwards!

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