Light from the rising sun illuminates Mount Shasta’s massive Hotlum Glacier.
Amazingly, after a month of smoke, little sunlight and no shadows, we have had three clear mornings in a row. Perhaps we really have turned a corner on the ordeal that has been the previous month of summer. If the smoke returns in force like it was through the rest of August, the last few days sure have been a welcome respite from the depressing conditions we have endured.
Up early and seeing clear stars and a white moon, I decided to head over toward the sunrise side of Mount Shasta and see how the mountain looks. What really drove me over there was the paucity of snow on the west side and the knowledge that the mountain’s great glaciers still blanket its rocky flanks. The presence of all the ice on the Mount Shasta really changes its appearance. From the west, with only small patches of snow clinging near the summit, the mountain still looks tall and massive but from the north and east, where the four great glaciers reside, the mountain looks tall and massive and distant. It seems to reside in a different world than where we go about our lives. Seeing the magnificent ice sheets light up with the rising sun was a refreshing and encouraging sight.
On the way home I observed that Mount Shasta had developed a great sunrise shadow. The mountain’s crags cut into the sunlight, casting seemingly solid beams that contrasted brightly against that which the sun had not yet graced. I headed over to one of my favorite go-to spots for quick pictures and found that the shadow had settled on top of Mount Shasta, forming what seemed to me to be a sort of shadowy crown. It’s a bit of a dramatic name for it, but Mount Shasta is a dramatic mountain, so in my mind it fits. Just one more morning at the foot of the mountain…
Despite the clear skies, a finger of smoke from the Hirz fire drifts past Mt. Shasta.
While yesterday proved to be a beautiful day, today proved to be even better. The skies were bright blue and the air crisp and comfortable. In truth, it really felt like fall, despite not even having made it to September yet. It was strange, in a way, to observe how the seasons had already started to change while we were living in a land with no shadows. The smoke that has enshrouded the region for a month blocked out almost any indication of summer passing away. It certainly blocked out the sight of all the snow melting off of Mount Shasta. Though the mighty glaciers still ensconce the mountain in ice, the western side has only vestigial patches of snow left. Despite its nakedness, we were all very glad to see Mount Shasta.
The feeling of fall was especially true up at Castle Lake. My wife and I, drawn out by the clear air, moved most of the days schooling for our three kids up to the lake and spent several hours at the lake. The kids were in heaven, crawling around the lakeshore, wading in the water collecting specimens of all sorts of animal life. In general, it was an idyllic morning. The highlight occurred when my wife spotted a creature crawling out of the water and attaching itself to a rock. It turned out to be a dragonfly. The sight of the insect’s emergence from the old exoskeleton was absolutely remarkable. My wife got some really amazing video of the process. Talk about a day at school!
Despite the clear sky, it was evident that the Hirz Fire still burned. Just south of the Mount Shasta area a wall of smoke loomed. It was also visible in the distance east of Mount Shasta as well. It was particularly interesting to see how just a finger of smoke pushed its way up against Mount Shasta while the rest of the mountain remained clear. These conditions actually aligned pretty closely with what was shown on the smoke condition map:
Smoke encroaches on the southern end of Mount Shasta.
Smoke sweeps northeast, past the south side of Mt. Shasta.
By the time we headed down from Castle Lake, the smoke had almost been blown out from around the mountain. Instead a line of clouds was starting to take shape around the upper reaches of Mount Shasta. These clouds continued to gather strength until later in the day it covered the summit. While I missed seeing the entirety of the mountain, it was great just being able to observe the beauty of the light, fluffy clouds. It is amazing the gratitude one can feel for things as basic as clouds and blue sky after living within the forest’s funeral shroud for a month. School may be here but the summer is not over yet! There is still a lot of time to get outside. At the very least, we’re only halfway through the season when the Old Ski Bowl is open! If anything marred the day, it was the return of the smoke in the evening. It wasn’t too think but I could smell it and the view definitely turned hazy.
All of this raises the question about what is going on with the Hirz Fire. According to the news briefings, the fire lines are being cut in around Tombstone Mountain and along Middle Salt Creek. The map that accompanied the briefing indicate that further lines are being cut in along North Salt Creek. It seems like the fire is not moving with the kind of speed that made the Carr Fire such a monster. It seems as though the lines are holding and hopefully this thing will be in hand soon. Here is what the fire looks like at this time:
Just like with the Carr Fire, the plan is for the lines to get cut in and then let the fire burn itself out. I certainly hope that this will soon be the case. One thing that made todays conditions so interesting was that it was close to what I would have imagined the conditions would have been like if all the other particulate had not been put in the air by all the other fires. I am not sure where all the smoke that has been plaguing us got blown off to but the smoke stew seems to have been flushed out pretty effectively. I sure hope that is a continuing trend.
For what it is worth, here is a progression of what the Hirz Fire has been up to the last couple of days:
I don’t often steer the Hike Mt Shasta website into personal stuff, but, as has been demonstrated in the past, I do occasionally post some pictures of what my kids have been up to. Today I am taking that one step further and I want to talk about Cub Scouts.
In a way, this whole website would not be what it is if I had not had my own experiences in Scouts. If anyone has read the “about the author” section of my books, they may have observed that I am quick to credit the Boy Scouts with playing an very important role in the development of my conservation mindset. While my parents and my brother were essential to inspiring a love of the outdoors within me, it was my experiences in the Boy Scouts that really channeled a lot of that into a focused framework of conservation. As a Boy Scout, I earned merit badges like Environmental Science, Forestry, Oceanography, Soil and Water Conservation and others. I was always drawn to these kinds of studies and this gave me a great avenue through which to pursue them.
Me as a new Boy Scout.
At my Eagle Scout court of honor.
Of course, the Boy Scouts also had a robust outdoor program and I thrived on numerous hikes, backpacking trips and campouts. It was my first trip to the Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico that sparked my love of the American Southwest (and I still maintain if I did not live here in Mount Shasta, I would probably be living somewhere near Taos!). All of these things combined to reinforce what my parents had already given me and to build a more nuanced understanding of nature and our role within it. Since I was a youth, the Boy Scouts have only increased their emphasis on these practices, especially through partnerships with Center For Outdoor Ethics (Leave No Trace) and other organizations. Now, I have even been educated as a Leave No Trace Trainer through Scouts!
This brings me to Cub Scouts. For the last year, My son has been a Cub Scout and he has loved it. The experiences he has had being outdoors with friends, learning skills and serving the community have been very good for him. He is really looking forward to the next year as a Bear (a rank in Cub Scouts), where more advanced skills like knife handling and wood working are developed. Just as I started my journey as a Cub Scout, now I am excited to watch my son on his own adventure.
The cars aren’t exactly Leave No Trace.
Since I am part of the leadership team in the pack, I work to make sure that there is some Hike Mt Shasta influence on events and the conservation ethic is passed on to the next generation. When we go on hikes or other outdoor activities we try to instill a focus on awareness to how our presence impacts what is around us. Needless to say, this is not done at the expense of fun but in an effort to strike the balance between the two. This is also acted out through service projects. The effort to teach the kids these ideals meshes well with rank advancement in Cub Scouts, since Leave No Trace principles and other conservation concepts are part of the requirements for certain ranks.
This leads me to the point of this whole post. Our local Cub Scout unit, Pack 37, is holding an open house for anyone interested in learning more about Cub Scouts, our pack and all the fun the kids will have over the next year. Pack 37 had a really successful year in the 2017-2018 pack season and we are really excited to build on our momentum and grow as a unit. We are poised to have an even better year this coming season.
If anyone is interested in having their son or grandson son join the pack, I hope you will consider coming to our open house. Here is the pertinent information:
Who: Any boy in grades K through 5th as of September 2018.
Where: First Baptist Church, 812 Lassen Lane, Mount Shasta.
When: Tuesday August 28th, 6:30 to 7:30
I really hope parents reading this will consider getting their kids involved. Hopefully I will see you at the open house!
In closing, I want to include some images of what the Cub Scouts have been up to this past year. This is just a sampling of all the activities they did!
Smoke from the Hirz Fire creeps up towards Mount Shasta.
The Carr Fire is all but out but here we are nearing the end of August and the smoke persists. I think that, overall, we have had more stretches of better conditions over the last week and a half, but the conditions remain generally smoky. What is the reason for this? I believe that, to some degree, the Hirz Fire is to blame for this. However, that fire is not that big. In addition to its output, I think the mass accumulation of smoke from other fires in a variety of locations has basically produced a vast pall of smoke that has enshrouded much of North America. That’s a happy thought. Here is what the smoke map looks like this evening:
Various layers cover different areas but the large dark gray blob seems to be the mass accumulation of crud in the air. It is a giant stew of nasty particulate and it is covering a huge swath of our continent. It almost gives one a claustrophobic feeling, as though there is no way to escape it. What a waste of a summer.
So what is going with the Hirz Fire? There hasn’t been a ton of information, due to the more remote location and lack of immediate human impact that the Carr Fire had. Nonetheless, it is possible to tease out a few details. One I found particularly interesting in the inter-agency press release is that the area currently burning has had no recorded history of fire, other than a few spot fires. This translates to a rich reservoir of detritus lying on the forest floor, all of which makes great fuel for a fire. Add to the excess of fuels the rugged terrain and it makes since that the fire is proving challenging to tame.
Unfortunately, the Hirz Fire has grown to over 24,000 acres. While the Carr Fire torched several areas along the Sacramento Arm of Shasta Lake, a good chunk of the McCloud Arm has been burned by the Hirz Fire. There is some positive things to report though. On the map below the black lines around the fire mark areas were containment is set.
Note the thin line of pink on the northwest side of the fire. That appears to be a fire line in development, where back burning and other precautions are being implemented. This is what was done to contain the Carr Fire. That means that most of the upper portion of Middle Salt Creek will likely end up being overtaken by the flames. The large salients on the fire lines just to the northeast of the fire break could indicate the presence of other fire lines as well. Observe how the fire reaches the top of the ridge and then stops. This would make sense, since the ridgetop is a natural defensive strong point. Furthermore, crews are currently working on cutting in lines near Tombstone Mountain just to the north. This would represent another pocket for the fire to burn out. In this case, the McCloud River would block the fire (hopefully) to the east while the ridgetop fire lines hem it in to the west. Let’s hope it works.
Here is some progress of the fire over the last 24 hours:
Of course, while containing the Hirz Fire is important, we must still contend with the accumulated smoke from all the other fires. At this point, what we need is a good rainstorm (with no lightning, thank you very much!) to sweep over the west and douse the fires and clear the air. Nothing seems to be pending on the forecast, dern it.
It started off clear at the Old Ski Bowl but grew smokier as the sun set.
Monday proved to be the nicest day we’ve had in the last month here in Mount Shasta. The sky was blue, the breeze cool and the temperatures weren’t too high. Mostly, however, it was the fact that we had blue sky. There was almost no smoke at all. It was actually a bit jarring to look up and see Mount Eddy, Black Butte and the great blue canopy above it all. Though we had not planned to have another picnic dinner, my wife and I decided to take our kids out and enjoy the beautiful conditions. We initially intended to head over to Castle Lake. However, when we got to Lake Siskiyou, we could see a thick layer of smoke creeping up from the south and engulfing the Castle Lake basin. Lake Siskiyou also looked very busy and we figured Castle Lake would be no different. We turned around and headed up to the Old Ski Bowl, which looked to be as clear of smoke as it had the rest of the day.
When we passed the Everitt Memorial Vista, we stopped and captured some images of the smoke dramatically creeping north, slowly inching toward town. It was a very eerie sight.
Above Lake Siskiyou the smoke pours through the canyons of the Sacramento River.
We continued up to the Old Ski Bowl and where we were able to see the smoke drift inexorably northward. Soon the Strawberry Valley was once again choked with the nasty stuff. We were grateful to be above it.
However, we were not completely above the smoke. Looking north toward the summit of Mount Shasta, we could see the smoke slowly obscure the mountain’s great crags. It went from clear and beautiful to smoky very quickly:
In spite of the slight haziness that appeared at the Old Ski Bowl, it was obvious that it was far worse in the valley below. We ate our dinner and the kids ran off to climb on rocks. My wife and I enjoyed the setting and were grateful our kids could have these kinds of experiences. Though a few people arrived and left while we were at the bowl, we were generally the only people at the Old Ski Bowl. This shocked me, since we figured a lot of people would have headed up the mountain since the air quality was really good and the weather nice. Shockingly, we essentially had the place to ourselves.
My beautiful wife enjoys the view from our picnic table.
My two older kids are complete goofs.
Hummingbird Ridge is turned red by smoke, not alpenglow.
The moon rises above Gray Butte and the smoke.
The Carr Fire is essentially contained at this point and is not throwing as much crud into the air anymore. That trend should continue. Now we have the Hirz Fire to contend with. Thankfully it is not nearly as large as the Carr Fire and is not producing the amount of smoke as its massive neighbor has done. We also have some smoke rolling in from other regions. Fortunately I think we are past the worse of the smoke (certainly praying that’s the case) and can get back outside and enjoy all the trails that wind through this region. If nothing else we can keep enjoying the Old Ski Bowl.
Mount Eddy is the lone mountain still visible through the smoke.
Well….you can sort of see the summit of Mount Eddy through the smoke.
It has almost seemed like a wasted month here in Mount Shasta. The Carr Fire has continued to burn, the Hirz Fire has sprung up right next door to it and grown to over 12,000 acres. Worst of all, the smoke has been think, nasty and nearly ubiquitous. However, the last week has seen a slight weakening of this pattern. There have been short stints of clarity as the winds shifted and drove the smoke out of the valley, if only briefly. Thursday was the brightest spot, as the air quality improved to the point that Mount Shasta was a clearly visible as it normally should be. This seemed like the first time that had happened in a month. However, even that bright moment was fleeting and the pall of smoke encroached once again, shrouding everything around us so that, even from the Abrams Lake overpass, Black Butte could not be seen. Disgusting.
The Pacific Crest Trail Association has a useful tool that puts up a satellite image of the entire PCT each day. This is a great tool for comparing the conditions. Here are the images for August 17th and 18th:
August 17: The smoke covers the Strawberry Valley. Note that the Trinity Alps are clear.
August 18: More smoke covers the entire region. The Strawberry Valley is really socked in.
However, I believe that we are nearing the end of this ordeal. I have continued to follow the progress of the Carr Fire via CalTopo and it has been remarkable watching the fire burn itself out. The most optimistic event in this has been the seeming total success of the fire line that was cut in north of the Carr Fire over a week ago. This line started at Shasta Lake near Lakehead and climbed up Backbone Ridge all the way to Damnation Pass. From there is swept west past the very remote Clear Creek campground and then south along the crest of the Trinity Mountains. Here is how the fire looked little over a week ago:
The firebreak is the thin crescent of fire extending from the top of the Carr Fire all the way to Shasta Lake.
If my calculations are close to correct, that fire break is about 18 miles long. It basically bottles the fire up inside the Clear Creek watershed and forcing the fire down to the edge of Shasta Lake. If the fire break held, the plan was for the fire to consumer everything from the crest of the Trinity Mountains down to the lake, at which point it would essentially burn itself out. As planned, this is exactly what happened. Note the progression of the fire on this series of maps:
August 17 10PM
August 18 8:30 AM
August 18 3:30 PM
August 18 6PM
August 19 7AM
It is obvious from this progression that the fire is essentially burning itself out. It has consumed everything all the way down to the shore of Shasta Lake. There is nowhere left for the fire to go and there is nothing left to burn. Now it is just a smoldering mess and we can just wait for the smoke to eventually blow away. Of course, what this map also reveals is the growth of the nearby Hirz Fire. It is now putting out a significant amount of smoke of its own so we still have that to contend with. However, I hope that the knowledge that we are near the end of the Carr Fire is encouraging.
All we are left with then is the charred mountains that hem in the northwest corner of the great Central Valley. In some ways, it brings that area full circle. Much of those hills had been rendered bare by mining operations and other activities at the turn of the century. When the Shasta Dam was built, there was little vegetation on the surrounding mountains. We have returned to similar circumstances and get to watch nature heal all over again. Hopefully the air will be the first thing to clean up and soon.
Note the bare mountains in the distance through the gap in the dam. They are bare once again.
Meager alpenglow illuminates the thick blanket of smoke on Mount Shasta.
The last couple of days had somewhat better air quality in Mount Shasta despite the still-burning Carr Fire as well as the addition of the newly ignited Hirz Fire. Nonetheless, the smoke poured back into the area around the mountain with a vengeance today. In spite of this, my family and I went up to the Old Ski Bowl to have a picnic dinner. No doubt due to the smoke, the entire mountain from Bunny Flat to the end of the road was strangely empty of activity. It made our dinner strangely eerie. While my kids played on the rocks, my wife and I watched the sun set amidst the smoke. Oddly enough, we spotted someone descending past the sun on a parachute. After this, I managed to capture a few images of the smoky but gorgeous sunset. At least some beauty can be found midst the terrible conditions.
Click to enlarge:
Note the parachute!
Everyone is eager for the smoke to clear out. Hopefully the end is in sight. A quick glance at the Carr Fire incident map from 10 August reveals a well-established fire line hemming in the conflagration’s northern advance.
The long line at the top of the map indicates the fire line that has been established. I imagine that the plan is to let the fire burn up the Clear Creek watershed and then get contained within the lines. Everything below the line will like get consumed by the flames but the fire will have been effectively bottled up. The live map, as of 12:30 AM indicates that this is the case:
Note how the valley below the fire break is filling up but, for the most part, the fire has not advanced past this rallying point. Hopefully the fire line will hold and this will spell the ultimate end of the Carr Fire. Unfortunately, as is evident from the map, the new Hirz Fire has sprung up along the McCloud arm of Shasta Lake. Let’s pray this fire is brought to heel swiftly. Either way, it feels like, at long last, we are nearing the end of this ordeal. Lord willing.
Thick smoke surrounds Mount Shasta but gets thinner as one moves west (bottom of image).
Before I write anything else, I want to preface by saying that, at this point, the smoke is so pervasive that it can really show up anywhere. I am not an expert on these matters and I am only offering a suggestion based on empirical observation. I really don’t want anyone to head off and expect clear skies only for them to be smoky.
That admonition being made, I wanted to point out something I have noticed occurring consistently since the beginning of August. While the smoke in Mount Shasta has been the worst it has been in the 11 years I have lived here, I have observed that the smoke tends to blow northeast from the Carr Fire, flooding into the area and filling the valleys that lie around the foot of Mount Shasta. However, I first noticed on August 2nd, as I flew from Medford to San Francisco, that the Trinity Alps were surprisingly clear of smoke. There was a slight haze over them but, for the most part, they were remarkably free of the thick pall that hung over the Mount Shasta area. In truth, the clear air extended from the Russian Wilderness, just north of the Trinity Alps, all the way down to San Francisco. It seemed as though the air currents pushing in from the coast moved the smoke inland on a regular basis.
Duck Lake in the Russian Wilderness
Long Gulch and Trail Gulch Lakes in the Trinity Alps.
The Swift Creek drainage, with Ward and Horseshoe Lakes.
Gibson Peak and Stonewall Pass areas.
This conformed to what I would speculate is a natural flow of area from the coastal mountains to the inland areas. It also fit with what I observed while flying over the Carr Fire. All the smoke on the western edge of the fire was blowing inland:
Though the Trinity Alps were immediately adjacent to this area, they were pretty smoke free due to their westerly position.
This prompted me to start looking at more satellite smoke imagery. What I found (not a scientific search!) showed a consistently eastward flow of the smoke and the Trinity Alps left relatively smoke free. Here are a few of the images I found:
On this image, note the small white crescent immediately above and left of the Carr Fire. That is the granite block that forms Canyon Creek. Note how it and the mountains immediately east (the “Red Trinities”) don’t have much haze over them. Image from August 7th.
This image shows both the Mendocino Fire and the Carr Fire on the left side. While there is a little haze immediately northwest of the Carr Fire, it has noticeably better air quality than the Mount Shasta area. Image from August 3rd.
Here the Carr Fire is near the center. Mount Shasta is also visible. While it is clearer around the mountain, it is still obviously hazy. Also note the two fire burning in southern Oregon. Their smoke seems to trend to the southeast, still missing the Trinity Alps. Image from August 6th.
Unfortunately, as this time lapse shows, the smoke does, at times penetrate into the Trinity Alps region. However, while the smoke is present, it is still thinner than the thick clouds of smoke that seem to have coalesced around Mount Shasta. To those “taking my advice”, consider this image from August 8th fair warning that nowhere is totally impervious to the smoke.
So, if one accepts that there is a reasonable chance of enjoying the Trinity Alps with good air quality, the question then remains where to go? Most of the Trinity Alps is a backpacker’s wilderness. Fortunately for those of us here in Mount Shasta, the northeast corner of the range has the highest concentration of good dayhikes. An additional bonus is that a number of these shorter hikes are reasonably graded and not excessively steep like many of the trails that make the Trinity Alps notorious.
The following trails are all reasonable dayhikes and easily accessed via Parks Creek Pass from Mount Shasta:
For my birthday, my wonderful wife sent me off to Texas for a few days to hang out with my best friend for a few days. He has been my best friend for 16 years but, since we finished school in 2006 and I came back to California from Texas, I have only seen him 6 times. We talk all the time, but distance keeps us from spending time with each other. Not only did she send me out there, she bought tickets to one of my favorite Texas country stars. Needless to say, my friend and I were both excited for a weekend of no work, no kids, lots of barbecue and music and time hanging out together.
The one drawback was I had to fly out to Dallas first and I am not a fan of flying. The way I have coped with this is by sitting by the window and trying to figure out where we are by the landmarks visible below. This trip was no different, though the smoke and a bunch of storm clouds did obscure the view of a good portion of the trip. However, what I did see, especially in our local area, was quite interesting. Hopefully it is interesting enough to endure a few pictures of Texas too…
I flew out of Medford, which was even smokier than it was here in Mount Shasta. However, shortly after takeoff I spotted Mount McLoughlin poking up from the top of the smoke. At 9,493 feet, it was a good barometer for how high the smoke layer extended.
After flying over the Marble Mountains and Russian Wilderness, I finally had a good perspective on Mount Shasta. Several thousand feet of the mountain rose high above the smoke. It seemed like an island of clarity amidst a sea of chaos. Several other landmarks were visible, including the Whaleback, China Mountain, Mount Eddy and Porcupine Peak. The visibility, such as it was, of much of the Trinity Divide was evidence that the smoke was actually a bit better than it was in southern Oregon. It was good to see the mountain after its obscurity in the smoke for several days.
Next up was the Trinity Alps. These were surprisingly smoke free, which is remarkable considering how close they are to the Carr Fire. The area visible in this image includes Granite Lake and Gibson Peak near center and Siligo Peak with Deer and Summit Lakes in the center bottom. Middle Peak and Echo Lake are further to the right. Trinity Lake can be seen in the upper right hand corner.
Shortly after the Trinity Alps, the plane flew past the Carr Fire. Here the western edge of the fire can be seen burning down toward Trinity Lake and the town of Lewiston. I could see planes diving low and dropping clouds of red retardant on the fire. It was a pretty dramatic sight.
Once we left San Francisco, the smoke and clouds quickly closed in, making for a really bumpy flight. When things cleared up, the first landmark I was able to make out was Navajo Lake, which is near the Four Corner. The lake, formed by impounding the San Juan River, is mostly in New Mexico, though the upper most part of the reservoir extends into southern Oklahoma.
Next up was the Truchas Peaks, the 2nd highest collection of peaks in New Mexico and the southernmost 13,000 foot mountains in the Rockies. These towering summits lie in the heart of the Pecos Wilderness, one of the great wildlands of the Southwest. The darker ridge running vertically at the bottom of the image is the Trailriders Wall. It is probably my favorite spot in New Mexico. If you ever get a chance to explore this area, I strongly encourage it.
I finally landed in Dallas where my friend picked me up. I hung out that evening and I met his kids for the first time. The next morning we took a lap around our old campus and then headed south into central Texas, to the Hill Country, where he has a ranch. We spent the rest of the day shooting and driving around the old roads that wind around the property, which is several hundred acres in size. I spent a lot of time down there when we were in school together and it was a place with a lot of great memories.
When I first moved to Texas, I had different perceptions of beauty in the natural world. My time there broadened my sense of what what beauty was, where to find it, and how to appreciate it. Naturally I prefer mountains and other such environments but it was good to get back into a land more subtle and be reminded of the value of the great scenic palette we have in this country. The sunrise we watched from the bluff was particularly magnificent.
After leaving the ranch, we headed to Lockhart, Texas, where we planned to feast on BBQ for lunch. On the way, we went through Luckenbach, which is, though a bit of a tourist trap now, still sort of the center of the Texas country music scene (Gruene Hall is the real heart of Texas country, of course). Once in Lockhart we had lunch at all three of the great barbecue places, Blacks, Kreuz Market and Smitty’s. All were amazing but Kreuz was far and away the best. If anyone is in that area and likes BBQ, stopping and having some brisket is a moral imperative.
That night, we went to New Braunfels and watched Wade Bowen. It was a fantastic show. In my assessment, he is the top of the heap in the current Texas music scene. A few samples, if anyone is interested, can be found here, here and here. After that, it was one more day to hang out with my friend, head back up to Dallas and get ready to leave the next morning. It was a quick but great trip.
My predawn flight let me watch the sunrise from the air. It was magnificent. However, smoke covered much of the Southwest. It began halfway between Dallas and the New Mexico border an continued, for varying degrees, all the way to San Francisco Bay, where it came to an abrupt halt on the eastern edge of the Bay. San Francisco was crystal clear.
Near the end of the flight, we made a dramatic crossing of the Sierra Nevada. The bulk of the smoke covering the Great Basin was held back by the mighty mountain range. The morning light, mixed with the thin smoke over the Sierra turned the range pink. Range of Light indeed. Special credit to anyone who recognizes where this is. There are a number of good clues if anyone is a real geography nut and wants to figure it out.
The smoke was really thick all over California, but once again, Mount Shasta rises above it. I sure will be glad when this all blows away. Though it is small consolation, this stuff is everywhere, from Texas to California, so it is not like we are particularly afflicted.
I just want to offer a special thanks to my amazing wife for such a fantastic and selfless birthday gift. I am blessed beyond words.
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