Hey, Just Ride 43

It looks like a cloudy, overcast fall day as I gaze into the sky. No telling the position of the sun, its stellar rays unable to pebetrate the dense lay hanging over us. A general haze oozes everywhere.

But it’s not autumn, not yet. It is, unfortunately what we’ve come to expect, the new norm. 

Each August the smoke rolls in, at the mercy of late summer weather patterns, like inversions, that get stalled like big city freeway traffic at 5. It ain’t moving anytime soon.

The Northwest gets inundated with smoke from one wildfire after another. 

The Lookout Fire near McKenzie Bridge blankets the Cascades and Willamette Valley with dingy smoke that creates surreal colors when it’s thin enough for the sun’s rays to peek through.

Heading up from the valley for some camping and biking, success literally depends on which way the wind blows. 

With temperature hoovering around triple digits little, if any, breeze obliges. 

Nightfall appears imminent, still the dusk then lingers for hours before darkness falls. 

Eventually overnight currents cleared the air enough to see the sun burning in a firey orange tint that slices through the forest. 

With a few deep breaths I deem the air quality rideable and roll through the dusty backroads outside Sisters, where massive charred trunks of Ponderosa Pines live as reminders of a fire long past. 

Each year, each fire dons a name much like hurricanes on the other side of the continent. Recently so many have torched the Northwest their names blend into a murky soup in my brain while etched forever in the souls of those caught in their paths. 

For many years McKenzie Bridge and its surrounding beauty served as my playground at least once a week. 

We camped Labor Day weekend 2020 at Box Canyon high above the Cougar Reservior and drove home down along the McKenzie River unaware that within 24 hours it would be a burning inferno at the same time fire raged down the Santiam River corridor. 

Most of those areas remain closed to recreation while now, it appears, new territory will join the ever-growing list. 

I see the resilient spirit of the folks of Detroit as they rebuild, but don’t stop by as often to support them since so much is off limits. 

The Deschuttes National Forest issued a grave reminder of the root cause of much of this maddness: 132 fires have been started by humans this year, just 39 by lightning. 

I guess since we made it to mid-August this year before the first air advisory we can consider ourselves lucky — like when spring rainfall continues into June rather than drying up in May keeping the “fire season” at bay a little longer. 

Our annual camping trip in July has been hit-and-miss the past few years. Sometimes smoke early, sometimes late. But always smoke. 

However discouraging, we’ve transitioned to the time when the question is no longer if, but when?  

Time to ride. 

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