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Fires/Smoke Effects on Backpacking Trips

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Fires/Smoke Effects on Backpacking Trips

Postby maverick » Wed Jun 25, 2008 5:14 pm

How many of you are delaying your trips due to the fires or smoke?
With 800+ fires already burning and fire season in LA not even starting yet
this could be a short season of backpacking.
Bay Area air quality is getting bad, east bay has moderate to bad air quality
and the other counties are looking little better.
The winds are supposed to change in the next 3 days clearing some of the smoke
out.
I remember last year up in Dumbbell Basin the smoke made hard to breathe without
a wet bandanna over my nose and mouth, I wonder what's in store for us this year.



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Re: Fires/Smoke Effects on Backpacking Trips

Postby calipidder » Wed Jun 25, 2008 6:55 pm

I was thinking about that earlier today. Last summer I hiked out of Humphreys Basin in thick smoke and it really bothered me (and not just because of the inability to breathe - I had been on the trail 9 days and didn't know where the smoke was coming from until meeting day hikers on Piute Passs who told me it was smoke blowing in from a fire near Santa Barbara). It will be an interesting summer.
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Re: Fires/Smoke Effects on Backpacking Trips

Postby copeg » Wed Jun 25, 2008 7:28 pm

Hopefully this recent trend is transient and not a sign of an extremely bad fire season. Felt like I've been chain smoking all day. I remember last year I changed the itinerary of a last minute trip to avoid the smoke, which I somehow did. My trips are usually last minute, and with all this smoke around here now I find myself searching for the least polluted area of the Sierra for a trip this weekend.
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Re: Fires/Smoke Effects on Backpacking Trips

Postby Cloudy » Thu Jun 26, 2008 7:58 am

It doesn't appear to be a good year for fires. They certainly spoil the view but more importantly if they are burning across your route at some point, there's a good chance that they'll close the trail so it would be wise to have alternate plans. That being said, fires are sometimes spectacular to see. I was hiking through Lyell Canyon in Yosemite about 6 or 7 years ago and there was a fire burning on the other side of the canyon. It was about time to set up camp but I decided to watch the fire for a little bit. I'd see the occasional flame flicker up out of the smoke for awhile but I finally was treated to the sight of a large tree bursting into flames. If you haven't seen it before, it is truly spectacular. However, that event decided me to move along that evening... :eek:
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Re: Fires/Smoke Effects on Backpacking Trips

Postby TehipiteTom » Thu Jun 26, 2008 8:20 am

Not me; whether that's wise or foolish, I don't know. ;) Heading up to Mokelumne Wilderness tomorrow. Visibility is gonna suck, but there could be some awesome alpenglow.
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Re: Fires/Smoke Effects on Backpacking Trips

Postby maverick » Thu Jun 26, 2008 11:37 am

I agree Tom about the alpenglow, but during a day last year I could not shoot any
photo's because the visibility near Observation Peak towards the Palisades was nill.
Also when they issue health advisories like they did yesterday here in the Bay Area
I'd rather not press my luck, hopefully this will not be the case in the sierra but with
it only being June Im worried of the lightning strike yet to come which will contribute
even more to the problem (over 500 of the 800+ fire were started by dry lightning so far).
Checkout hikerchik395's TR to Little Lakes Valley on the Backpacker.com about the smoke.
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Re: Fires/Smoke Effects on Backpacking Trips

Postby TehipiteTom » Thu Jun 26, 2008 2:51 pm

Well, we'll see how it goes. I'll definitely report back.
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Re: Fires/Smoke Effects on Backpacking Trips

Postby CSF » Thu Jun 26, 2008 4:28 pm

Unfortunately the smoke has been pretty thick down here in the Owens Valley all week. The crest has been barely visible. From what I hear, the smoke is coming from down south near Olancha and from the west side up near SF area as well.

The sunrise and sunsets have been very red all week. The smoke is supposed to remain for awhile unfortunately. :(
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Re: Fires/Smoke Effects on Backpacking Trips

Postby Cloudy » Thu Jun 26, 2008 5:27 pm

Here's a link to some of the fire locations (not all by any means):

LINK

Smoke here in the Central Valley is definitely affecting our view.
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Re: Fires/Smoke Effects on Backpacking Trips

Postby SSSdave » Fri Jun 27, 2008 8:18 pm

As a photographer I greatly dislike any smoky skies thus avoid trips during such periods. Despite that, I have certainly been caught backpacking a number of times when smoke suddenly appeared and doomed the rest of our time. It is true the smoke during daylight hours offers some unusual red filtering of light but it would be a stretch to label that as alpenglow. Simply filtered warm red light. Generally landscapes simply look abysmal with smoke all over. In past years like when we were caught so with smoke for days, like once up in the French Canyon area, I have shot film regardless, only to later trash most of the putrid results.

Unfortunately I don't expect the smoke over much of central and certainly not northern California areas to depart anytime soon. Thus we have already bailed on our planned backpack this coming Independence Day holiday and are looking instead to maybe get in a day or two of car camping along the coast where the windflow is less likely to move in smoke. Several of us had some plans for backpacking in later July but now we have doubts all these fires will be out by then. The problem is there are far too many fires this time for the limited stretched numbers of fire fighters and equipment available so many fires are simply being allowed to burn while crews only work to protect structures. That is not a formula for fires burning out but rather for a long long period of burning much like that huge Zaca blaze last year that lasted more than a month. So don't expect the usual situation where we hear about some fire that over a week or two seems to be taken care of.

Additionally considering the incredibly bad start so early in the summer this fire season, I'm expect the many moron firebug are all excitedly foaming at the mouth due to the media coverage so any time a heat spell or dry winds blow like the Santa Anas they are likely to come out of the stench in their cesspool holes and burn our precious state. It is dismaying that California for decades has been such a magnet for all manner of cretins and criminals from around the country and the world. If I had my way, any adults convicted of torching our state besides prison time would get to feel what fire is really like by being branded by a hot iron.

A couple useful links to understand where smoke is likely to be:

http://activefiremaps.fs.fed.us/fireplo ... 9_1900.jpg

http://virga.sfsu.edu/crws/jetstream.html
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Re: Fires/Smoke Effects on Backpacking Trips

Postby hikerduane » Sat Jun 28, 2008 6:08 am

Great link Dave. No wonder one can't get away from the smoke.
Piece of cake.
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Re: Fires/Smoke Effects on Backpacking Trips

Postby oldranger » Sat Jun 28, 2008 4:58 pm

Attached is a website that links to a bunch of webcams in the sierra. Gives a good Idea of how widespread the smoke is.

We are not likely to have significant fires in most places in central oregon for some time as we still have as much as 5 feet of snow on trails above 5500 feet on the east side of the cascades. But because of the snow Neither the Cascades or the Eagle Cap wilderness will be ready for backpacking for another few weeks. Oh yeah if you head north be ready for clouds of mosquitos!

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