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July 16, 2008

The views from the White Mountains across the hot dry Owen’s Valley to the Sierra typically overwhelm even the most jaded traveler with superlatives.

On our recent trip to the Eastern Sierra, however, our views came and went with the winds and fires (some 1400 burning in the state). We could smell the smoke in the southern part of the valley near the Kennedy Meadow Paiute fire, and friends who’d just been up to Cottonwood Pass had said it was smoky at times so we were prepared.

On Day 1 and 2 of our trip, the smoke wasn’t too bad but on Day 3, when we hung out in the Owen’s Valley for the afternoon and the evening, we could barely see the sierra, we didn’t like breathing in the smoky air, and we were grateful we weren’t hiking in the back country.

When I backpacked the California section of the PCT in the 80s, we left the trail near Yosemite and hiked back to Mammoth since we were unsure whether there was fire ahead. Turned out the smoke the clouded our views and destroyed our lungs came from a fire in Ojai, but that the trail from Glen Aulin to Sonora Pass was closed anyway so we had to take a week off.

In California, the smoke from coastal fires gets swept up high and east; smoke from northern fires can blow south, and southern ones north. You never know where the smoke is coming from.

Here are some pictures from the recent Califire-nation more:

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