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Backpacking experiences during fires

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Backpacking experiences during fires

Postby maverick » Wed Aug 05, 2015 3:02 pm

Which fire affected your trip in the worst way during your years of visiting the Sierra? Have you aborted part of a route because of the bad conditions, when and where were you at the time? Ever cancel or reschedule a trip because of a fire/smoke affecting the area you were interested in visiting?

Mine was in a 2008 trip while in Dumbbell Basin, visibility was horrible during day, could not even see the Palisades, burnt my eyes, and throat, making breathing difficult.
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Re: Backpacking experiences during fires

Postby SSSdave » Wed Aug 05, 2015 11:27 pm

I've never been run out of the backcountry due to forest fires. However have walked through areas in timberline areas in Yosemite where small lightning fires were allowed to slow creep burn.

In 2002 my brother Joe and I were on day 3 of a 9-day backpack out of Pine Creek when the huge McNally fire began far to the south in Sequoia National Forest. Burned 240 square miles of our forest. Smoke swept up all across eastern areas of the Southern Sierra Nevada. Ruined photography during that week. We made the most of it fishing. Recall spending 3 days at Big French Lake. Was angry when I found out it was caused by a methamphetamine drug habit homeless woman who was high at the time and had made an careless illegal campfire to cook some hot dogs.

http://zimmermanmedia.blogspot.com/2011 ... updae.html

The recemt monstrous Rim Fire was started by a clueless hunter making a illegal fire too. With 3 times as many residents in the state today versus when I grew up, it can only get worse. Way too many people in the state. My birthplace Los Angeles, is the vast urban armpit of the planet.

Each summer smoke from fires increasingly limits my possible photography. A trivial personal issue versus the larger issue of destruction of forest environments. Our California atmosphere is also plagued by smog, especially the west slopes of the Southern Sierra where giant sequoia forests are in trouble. Air quality at higher elevations of the Sierra has significantly deteriorated versus summers when I was young. August is often hopeless.
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Re: Backpacking experiences during fires

Postby schmalz » Sat Aug 08, 2015 2:52 am

I aborted a trip in 2013 due to the Aspen Fire.

I took this video in Humphrey's Basin.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XH1XhTh4kmk
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Re: Backpacking experiences during fires

Postby maverick » Sat Aug 08, 2015 9:21 am

Thanks for the video, what time of day was this taken?
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Re: Backpacking experiences during fires

Postby oldranger » Sat Aug 08, 2015 9:34 am

As I recall early explorers reported a lot of smoke from fires burning in the foothill during the summer. So dealing with smoke is nothing new though it appears that the severity of fires is increasing.

Personnally my first experience with fire in the backcountry was in 1980 when I embarked on a three week trip across northern Yosemite. During the entire trip I monitored smoke from a fire to the west. The smoke never affected me because it consistently blew to the SE. On my last day I hiked out of Kendrick Creek, past Laurel Lake to Behive and down to Hetch Hetchy. The area between the e. shore of Laurel and Behive was still smoldering as I walked thru. No biggy. Nowadays the NPS would close the trail.

While stationed at Roaring River I was affected by fires (other than actively suppressing them) 3 times. A 3,000 acre fire in Sugarloaf Valley, another 3,000 acre fire between lower Roaring River and Palmer Mt, and a more distant fire that made things awfully smokey as I traveled off trail between Milestone Basin and the Colby Pass trail. I was the first to spot the fire 1985 fire in Sugarloaf Valley. It was a one tree fire at the time and I was riding out to the government pack station enroute to my 20 year high school reunion in Fresno (never been to one since but will attend the 50 year reunion this fall). I returned the next evening starting from the pack station about 6 pm. The fire had spread significantly and I had the experiene of a lifetime riding through a fire in the dark. I can best describe it as kind of like the burning city in the Pirates of the Carribean ride in Disneyland. This fire entailed extra work for me as I had to make regular trips thru the fire in order to keep the trail cleared from falling trees. Back then the NPS allowed people in at their own risk--a real wilderness experience. Both of the Sugarloaf/Roaring river fires created smokey conditions at my Ranger Station and up Cloudy and Deadman Canyons for several weeks. But it is what it is! And we lived with it and worked and played as usual.

In 2008 my cousin and I did a Sawmill Pass to Taboose trip when there was a fire in the Kings drainage to the w. Again there were smokey periods from time to time but we continued to do our thing--hike and fish and get to know each other as we had not been together since I was in my 30s and he in his early teens.

At any rate after being retired for almost 7 years and a confirmed old fart I now have the flexibility to choose when and where I go. So I expect that experiencing smoke and fire will not occur as frequently as in the past…. with one exception! My oldest daughter wants me to take her family into Roaring River next summer so my grandkids can see where she got to spend some time for 7 summers during her preteen and teen years. They have time restrictions, so the trip has to be between Aug 15 and Labor Day, not my favorite time in the Sierra.

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Re: Backpacking experiences during fires

Postby schmalz » Sat Aug 08, 2015 9:54 am

maverick wrote:Thanks for the video, what time of day was this taken?


Probably around 6:30pm. This was taken the day after the fire started and the first day the smoke hit this area of the Sierra. When I first went over Piute Pass it was clear. 5 hours later my visibility was as you see in the video.

The trip report is here: http://calitrails.com/2013/07/28/the-fa ... xpedition/
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Re: Backpacking experiences during fires

Postby sparky » Sat Aug 08, 2015 2:39 pm

the only one that had me a little on edge was i think called the lion fire just a few years ago. I have diverted trips to avoid fires....and have some worrisom moments while day hiking but I have been pretty lucky over the years.
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Re: Backpacking experiences during fires

Postby Cross Country » Sat Aug 08, 2015 5:31 pm

I aborted two trips due to a fire. One was on the way to Sphinx Lakes with MIke (he was sneezing a lot an 9 years old). The other was with Gregg Kawczynski on our way to Kid Lakes. We were inhaling ash.
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Re: Backpacking experiences during fires

Postby Eiprahs » Sat Aug 08, 2015 8:04 pm

When we did the JMT in Sept, 2002 we were informed by a north bound hiker that there was a fire near Deer Meadows, and that the NPS had closed the trail, and then was only allowing people thru with escort one time a day. He had been held up two days.

In the several days it took us to work that far south the fire situation stabilized. Fire was still creeping thru unburned spots and up the canyon sides, but there was absolutely nobody around. Several trees had fallen across the trail, including one while we were in the vicinity. No wind, kinda spooky.

Dave
Image

Susan

Image

North wall of Canyon

Image

Fire hollowed tree

Image

The next day a pretty good smoke column came up, so the fire burned into a new area, but the wind blew the smoke NE, away from us.
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Re: Backpacking experiences during fires

Postby maverick » Sat Aug 08, 2015 9:19 pm

Thanks Dave for including the photo's. :thumbsup:
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org
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Re: Backpacking experiences during fires

Postby Eiprahs » Sat Aug 08, 2015 10:15 pm

A broader view of Sept 2002 Deer Meadow Fire

Imagepanov2
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Re: Backpacking experiences during fires

Postby astrogerly » Fri Aug 14, 2015 2:46 pm

Well, we've only had one "bad" experience and it was this past week. Honestly, it was more of the smoke from the west side fires being annoying - I'm always happy to be on Evolution, especially when this trip involved a rock on the finger. Anyway, the mornings were bluebird, but around mid-day until well past 8:30pm it was intense smoke-filled skies. It was bad enough that while camping at Evolution Lake, we couldn't see Huxley... and while hiking to Hutchenson Meadow, we couldn't see Pilot Knob. It would have been nice to be back in EVO for longer, but the thick smoke made the decision to cut two days off the trip an easy one.
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