I just came home from a week long camping trip vacation. What was supposed to be a week long camping trip. What was supposed to be a vacation. Supposed to be.
There are always going to be those trips that don’t quite go as planned. This trip was barely planned in the first place, and it kind of just went downhill from there. The “plan” was to take off on Sunday and take a pit stop at my cousin’s home (free hotel! and she feeds us well!), then head on up to the far reaches of Northern California the next morning. No, San Francisco is not the far reaches, you have several hours more of driving to go. It’s a big state.
On the way there, I noticed a large plume of what looked to be clouds to the east of us as we traveled north. It didn’t look right, and it took a moment to realize what it was. It was the smoke from the Ferguson fire in Yosemite National Park. We had been breathing in some of it off and on throughout the week as it burned, depending on what direction the wind had been blowing. The smoke cloud was mind bogglingly huge.
The next part went as planned. We reached Redding, which was just a couple of hours away from the main reason we headed this direction, and stopped for food and gas. We were taking the middle boy to a summer camp focused on fly fishing, not too far from the Oregon border. As we were about to leave the parking lot, the Old Man realized that something was wrong with the brakes. Because brakes aren’t important, right? The vehicle was drivable, but it was going to need repairing sooner than later.
We got the middle child to camp, very carefully, and returned to Redding, very carefully. In the sky was an ominous color that hadn’t been there earlier in the day, a color Californians have become too familiar with. It was smoke, the beginning of the Carr fire. At that moment we had no way of knowing how bad it would become.
We wound up staying the night in a hotel room. The news on TV focused on a spreading fire, but this was the devastating fire in Athens. I knew that my mom had some family in the area but wasn’t sure where. My parents were visiting in Thessaloniki in northern Greece, so I fired off a quick email to make sure everyone was okay. How could I know that in just a few days they would be doing the same because they were hearing about the Carr fire in Greece, as well.
Our vehicle was repaired by the end of the next day, thankfully. (A huuuuuge shout out to Ross at Flex Point in Redding for getting us back on the road so quickly!!) Already the heat was pretty bad and the smoke from the Carr fire was making things nasty, but it was not yet the monster it would become. We headed to our campsite in Lassen Volcanic National Park, where we would catch up with the camping trip we had hoped to have. That’s when we realized how many things we forgot to bring. Great.
Folding chairs to kick back in? Nope. Shade tent to cool off under after hiking? Nope. Air mattress that didn’t have the leak? Nope. (At least we now knew that 1) we hadn’t thrown it out, and 2) which one needed to be thrown out.) Oh well.
We at least had one good day of beautiful skies and good hiking conditions. Lassen is a dormant volcano, but the area around it still has a lot of active geothermal sites. There are a lot of neat things to see, whether you hike or just stop by the road side. The following day we had hoped to hike to the top of the volcano at roughly 10,500 feet but the smoke was so bad we decided not to. I have a hard enough time breathing at the higher elevations as it is, no need to compound it with thick smoke.
It wasn’t until the day we packed up to leave that we realized how bad things had gotten. On Friday we drove out and finally had some cell phone reception and saw the fire was now well over 40,000 acres of burned area and how many people’s lives had been impacted. This was also when I was finally able to see the messages from my parents trying to figure out where we were in all of this. Our son was to be brought to Redding with his camp for a fishing trip, but that had to be cancelled due to the hazardous conditions. When we picked him up from an alternate drop off point in Redding, the skies were literally dark brown in color. (The header picture was taken in Redding on July 27th, at about 3 pm.)
Driving home, there was never any real break from the smoke. The center of California is one massive valley, and with two major fires, and several other small ones, the smoke has filled the air from one end of the Central Valley to the other. That’s 450 miles long and 40-60 miles wide. It’s a big state.
We are happily home and safe. The air is nasty outside, but I won’t complain. I still have a home that I can look out the windows from to see that air, with family by my side. I am more fortunate than so many others. Please take a moment and consider donating to the various charities that have been established to help those in northern California affected by the Carr fire, or any other fire here, as well as to help those affected by the fires in Attica outside of Athens, Greece. This link is for an article in the Sacramento Bee that has several options for donating funds to help those affected by the Carr fire. It is being regularly updated. This link is for an article on CNN that also has various options for donations to help those affected by the fires in Greece. I appreciate you taking the time to help.