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Portland Trip (August 2018)

Day 1 of 7

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Friday, August 3rd
Fly to Portland

Having been denied a Wonderland Trail (Mt. Rainier) permit in the lottery for the second straight year, we decided to backpack in the Sierra Nevada again. Too late to get a permit in advance, I settled on two options - starting at Leavitt Meadows (which has no quotas), or trying to get a walk-up permit for McGee Creek. The McGee Creek option would be our first choice if we could get it, with Leavitt Meadows as a backup plan.

So I spent the next weeks getting all the food ready, preparing the packs... But in the last 2 weeks before our trip, I cast a wary eye on the growing Ferguson Fire near Yosemite. It wasn't exactly close to where we'd be hiking, but the smoke reports were sounding less and less encouraging. In the final week before our trip, I saw that smoke was bad in Mammoth Lakes (where we'd be staying just before our trip). Still, containment was growing so I was hopeful.

But then the Lions fire (which was smaller but closer to where we planned on hiking), which was over 90% contained suddenly grew new life and started growing again. And Ferguson fire reports sounded less encouraging. On Thursday, the day before we were supposed to head to Mammoth Lakes, we decided to cancel our plans and scramble to come up with something else. Unfortunately, most of the state of California was on fire. The Carr Fire in Redding was even worse, so northern California was out of the question. Most of the Sierra was subject to smoky conditions, depending on the wind. Even southern Oregon was being affected by the Carr fire.

We considered Seattle, Denver, and Portland, and quickly landed on Portland. I had been considering doing a backpacking trip in the Eagle Cap Wilderness in eastern Oregon (a 5-6 hour drive from Portland). But we eventually decided we'd just stay in Portland and do day hikes in the area. We scrambled to make arrangements, and were on a flight to Portland on Friday afternoon.

As we flew north, I looked out the window and saw a massive smoke cloud, rising above the normal cloud layer - this was obviously the smoke from the Carr fire, and it looked like a nuclear bomb had gone off. I belatedly snapped a picture from the airplane window (it would have looked more impressive if I had taken the picture earlier).

Smoke rising from the Carr fire

By the time we reached Portland, though, the skies were clear. We drove to our rental apartment for the night and had dinner, then I started researching day hikes for Saturday.

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