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Clear skies above???

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Clear skies above???

Postby balzaccom » Wed Sep 14, 2016 7:45 am

We've come to a sad realization about our summer backpacking trips to the Sierra. It used to be that one the most dependable elements of those trips was the deep blue skies that we would find above us. There is something about being up at 10,000 feet that helps make those skies truly memorable.

But we're beginning to think that they may well be a thing of the past. Over the past few summers, those skies have almost always been smoggy with the smoke of forest fires, either near or far. You can see this as you explore our photos. What was once blue, blue skies and views that went on for tens of miles are now dingy skies, and the distant peaks are barely visible through the smoke.

It's sad. And given the state of our trees (Will they ever recover from the combination of drought and beetle infestations?) those vistas of deep forests that cover the lower slopes like a blanket may also be a memory that we can only tell our children about. Or show them our photos from years ago.

One slightly happier note is that we noticed both blue skies and healthy trees in our last trip up to the Caribou Wilderness, just to the north of the Sierra--as in the photo at right.

It was lovely. And it made us just a little sad to realize that we hadn't seen either skies or trees like that in a number of years in the Sierra.

check out our website: http://www.backpackthesierra.com/

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Re: Clear skies above???

Postby freestone » Wed Sep 14, 2016 7:55 am

I recall reading the Brewer expedition complained of the same smokey skies in the 1860s.
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Re: Clear skies above???

Postby dave54 » Wed Sep 14, 2016 8:08 am

Yes. Clear blue skies is a 20th century phenomenon. Prior to fire suppression once started fires burned all summer and fall until the onset of the rainy season.
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Re: Clear skies above???

Postby TahoeJeff » Wed Sep 14, 2016 2:53 pm

Unless there is a fire nearby, we have sunny, clear blue skies here in Tahoe all Summer long!
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Re: Clear skies above???

Postby wildhiker » Wed Sep 14, 2016 11:00 pm

We found this summer - yes, at Tahoe, too - that a diffuse haze of wildfire smoke from distant fires - for example, from the Soberanes File by Big Sur in August - can really ruin (obscure) the long views, even though the sky looks very blue directly above you. Looking straight up, you are looking through only a few thousand feet of this diffuse haze. Looking horizontally out from a peak, you are looking through miles and miles of it.

I am happy to report that in spite of a lot of smoke haze this summer, I was very lucky with the timing of my big trip Sept 1-7 in the Yosemite backcountry. The cold front that swept through at the end of August cleared out the wildfire smoke and kept it to the south with northwest winds along the coast, so I had crystal-clear blue skies and good long distance views the whole time. But it is sad that we can no longer count on this, and instead have to consult weather reports and hope for a "window" of clear skies.

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