We’ve been hiking in forest-fire smoke for so long now that it’s come to seem almost ordinary to us. Yesterday, we thought we’d perhaps finally started to come out of it as it disappeared in the late afternoon and evening. But, then, almost everybody we camped with yesterday described the same thing: waking up at about 1 AM, smelling smoke all around them, and having a hard time falling back asleep. I suppose that’s evolved deeply into humans: if you smell smoke, don’t go to sleep. The smell of this smoke is interesting, too — it really does smell exactly like the world’s biggest campfire. If we didn’t know that vast amounts of forest were on fire out there somewhere, it might even be pleasant, in its own way. It certainly isn’t anything like smelling smoke from a factory or power plant, thankfully.
Don’t get me wrong: we aren’t wheezing or coughing or suffering through noxious fumes every single day. It’s more like an omnipresent backdrop to our hiking — the inability to see much more than the very closest mountains, an unusual cast to the sun that makes everything a bit more orange than normal, and that campfire smell occasionally pervading our nostrils. It’s mostly just been kind of a bummer, because we’ve wanted to see so much of Oregon, and, so far, all the smoke has pretty much prevented that.
Today, we cut off the PCT onto something called the Oregon Skyline Trail. I found out from Treeman today that apparently this used to be the PCT…and while it isn’t anymore, every single hiker I talked to said they were taking it. It cuts ten miles off the PCT, does a lot less ascending and descending, and goes by a lot more water, too. I’m not entirely sure why they ever changed the route of the PCT — from everything I know, they made it pretty uniformly worse — but, hey, at least we have our own choices to make. The one funny thing about it is that there sure isn’t much “skyline” involved at all: we were in the woods and on valley floors all day long. It’s extremely pleasant and easy hiking in many ways, but without much in the way of views.
We continued bouncing around on the trail today with our friends — Treeman, Hedgehog, Physio, Cashmere, Morningstar, Cookie Monster, and Rob Steady. Just like yesterday, it feels pretty great to be around all these friends of ours. I hope it lasts as long as it possibly can…these are great people, and I enjoy being around them immensely.