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(Last Updated On: January 14, 2021)

Photo Credit: Mike Velez

I used to only write about my memorable adventures in my journal. Relationships, hurts, successes, and dreams. I’ve had a journal for as long as I can remember. It is incredibly humiliating to read entries from middle school, but it makes you appreciate how you’ve grown. Now that I’m on the opposite side of the country of my family and friends, I have been motivated to share my adventures more publicly. So, I’ll take you back to last weekend.

I turn onto a dirt road, jostling my cousin (Elise – visiting from LA) awake in the passenger’s seat. I swerve around pot-holes, getting maybe closer than my cousin wanted to the edge of the mountain we were driving up. The mountain ranges are shrouded in a haze from the wildfires we assumed were miles away. The sun yellow-orange like a farm fresh egg yolk still visible through the smoke.

We get to the trail head, where already the parking lot has overflowed to the road. I sigh, not wanting to fight through crowds of people on the trail. We hit the trail. The weather is perfect. Cool, damp, with the scent of a perfect ‘Alpine fresh’ candle. We cross over streams and climb up rocks.

Then the elevation begins in the second half. We break for a minute along one of the never ending uphill stretches of trail. I squint at what looks like snow falling randomly from the sky, subtle, only visible against the dark tree trunks. I begin to see it covering the foliage along the trail, making the greens speckled. A speck of the foreign white snow lands on my shirt. I state out loud as I come to the realization, “Oh my gosh. There is ash falling from the sky.” We debated and concluded that ash can travel from far away fires. It shocked me to see even this impact of the wildfires that have been happening in Washington.

We make it to the lake treasured by many, instagrammed by many. It looks nothing like the pictures I am used to seeing. My eyes burn as I look at the mountain edges barely visible in the background. The normally bright turquoise waters appear dark and clouded. We eat our sandwiches as my friend (Mike -visiting from SF) dives into the blue waters. I am wearing my Detroit hat, per usual, and come across a group of 6 hikers that are also transplants from Michigan. We debate over University of Michigan vs Michigan State University.

We pack up and head out to make it back to Seattle in time for our dinner reservations. Ten minutes into our descent, we stop. Shocked. The semi hazy sky has turned into a solid, burning cloud of smoke eating up the blue sky in the direction we are heading. Mildly alarmed, we continue our descent. Thirty minutes later, I stop. I stare at the ground and the orange-red streams of light hitting the rocks and the trees. I look towards the sky and see the sun behind the smoke, glowing red as you would imagine it would look like during the apocalypse. The light dims and the earth has an eerie, quiet mood as the red light increases.

We continue chasing the blue sky and finally make it back to the car. The dark cloud still growing closer and larger. We pass a ranger closing off the trail, “It all happened so quickly, the fires. We are trying to get everyone out as fast as possible.” We drive back to our Seattle bubble in disbelief that we were in the shadow of wildfires scorching the earth nearby.

Thank you to all the fire crews that are working so hard to manage the destruction in the PNW.


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