Mount Shasta and a beautiful morning sky, just after sunrise.
Compared to July in the summer of 2018, this month has been quite mild. The temperature has been fairly mild with few lighting storms. This obviously reduces the danger of fire, a threat further mitigated by the long, wet winter we were blessed. That by no means removes the danger, but it does improve conditions. Unfortunately it does not remove the threat completely.
When I woke up this morning, I was surprised to see a lenticular cloud above Mount Shasta. Given the forecast for high temperatures, I had not anticipated a formation today. Nonetheless, there it was. I headed out, hoping to catch it before sunrise. Clouds to the east frustrated by efforts, and the light never really hit any of the clouds. In spite of this disappointment, it was great to see a morning on the mountain, after having been gone for as long as I have been.
A free-floating lenticular hovers above Mount Shasta.
I decided to head further north, in the hopes that the rising sun would work its way through the clouds. This ended up being the case, and numerous other clouds also joined the lenticular, giving the sky a busy, energetic look. However, I was shocked to find the Shasta Valley choked with smoke. Around the mountain, and even just north of Edgewood, there was no smoke. Beyond that, the haze was thick and even crept up toward the northeast corner of the mountain itself. While the presence of smoke was dismaying, it actually made for a very beautiful morning in the valley.
As for the source of the smoke, it turns out that it is from the Milepost 97 Fire up near Canyonville in Oregon. At this point the fire has burned about 6,000 acres (much of it in a previously burned area) and is thankfully a long ways from Mount Shasta. Around the mountain, the air is clear and there is no hint of smoke. Even areas further north, closer or adjacent to the smokey zone, the high country is well above the haze layer and trails in that area are seemingly unaffected.
Meanwhile, the lenticular cloud persisted above Mount Shasta for much of the day. Seeing a cloud of this nature on a hot day in July is somewhat unusual. Strange currents are afoot in the sky above the mountain.
The hiking season around Mount Shasta is in full swing now, with most of the trails accessible. The biggest exception is the Old Ski Bowl area. The road remains closed and the Forest Service does not anticipate it opening until after August 1st. Last week there was still up to 2 feet of snow at Panther Meadow. That needs to melt off, the meadows dry out and the road cleared of debris before the gate is opened. Let’s hope this happens swiftly. In the summer of 2017, after the last really heavy winter, it took them a few weeks to open the gates, even though all the aforementioned conditions had been achieved.
Lastly, I just wanted to note that I am back in Mount Shasta for the summer. After my family’s cross-country roadtrip, we turned around and headed off to Yosemite for a few days. It was great to be back. We joined the rest of my family during the annual week-long stay. I am thankful that my kids are able to connect with Yosemite, just as I did. They had a ball. Aside from living life in Mount Shasta, they capped their summer adventures at what is arguably the most beautiful place on earth. Life is rough.