Friday, June 27, 2008

The Great Outdoors

SUMMARY: Ticks and Fires and Heat, Oh my!

After Sunday's hike, I was so worried about burrs and foxtails and poison oak that the dogs got combed fairly thoroughly (although Tika's coat is so dense it's hopeless) and bathed. And I still found a tick chomping on Boost's throat Monday evening. Had to flip her onto her back to be able to get hold of the thing and ease it out. She wasn't at all pleased about that activity. It wasn't at all engorged yet, so either it hadn't really settled in yet (I've been told it takes 24 hours--this was more like 30) or the Frontline Plus was doing its job and was in the process of wiping out the little parasite.

I have yet to pick up a tick of my own while hiking. Had one on my head a couple of years back, but I'm pretty sure that came from the dogs sleeping on my bed.

This week's hiking hazard is the smoke from all the wildfires. This weekend's lightning storm that I mentioned made an amazing 8,000 dry strikes around northern California, sparking 800 fires--700 of which were still burning on Wednesday. Plus fires that were already going. Several of them are major.

From the California Department of Forestry web site as of this morning:

Current Situation: State and Federal firefighters continue to battle hundreds of wildfires throughout Northern California and are preparing for light to moderate dry thunderstorm activity beginning tonight through the weekend. Fires are activity burning and continuing to spread. News fires are being identified on a regular basis. Priority of firefighting effort is for the protection of life, property and natural resources.

* Total Fires: 1,211
* Acres: 193,470
* Contained Fires: 266
* Personnel Committed: 11,322


It doesn't matter which way the wind blows--major fires hundreds of miles away produce enough smoke to make the valley as hazy as the worst smog days that we remember from our childhoods in the '60s and '70s. The air-quality monitors recommended that people with existing respiratory or heart problems stay indoors and keep the windows closed, but that healthy individuals should suffer "no lasting effects." For what that's worth.

So there was some debate about whether to do our usual 5-mile brisk hike Wednesday evening. It was at a higher elevation, so we thought we might be above most of it, but we weren't.
View from same hike in April:


Same view Wednesday night:


Still, we went ahead and did it, and although several people said that they could feel the effects, my legs were more tired than my lungs. Everything had a reddish glow to it, and all the views were somewhat obscured by the reddish haze. The sun glowed a muddy orange the entire time, but that didn't show up well in most of the photos; we just got lucky on a few that captured the sky's inflamed colors: Here's the group atop Black Mountain, sharing a snack.



My dogs don't seem to be bothered by the smoke, but I don't know how I'd tell. I wonder about those flat-nosed breeds, though, and the really small breeds. I can smell the smoke the minute I step outside. The Basin Complex and Indians Fire down in the Big Sur area have been burning for a long time, for a combined 87,000 acres. Closest big fires north of us are the Walker Fire and the MEU Lightning Complex, north of Napa County, for a total of 42,000 acres.

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