Wildfire smoke didn’t blot out the sun last week but it did give the moon a red-orange cast. It’s part of life here in the high country—hazy skies from forest fires. Some are local, some are hundreds of miles away. We get smoke in the valleys every summer and it matters not where it comes from. All you can hope for is the wind to shift and push the smoke somewhere else.
Saturday evening altocumulus clouds emerged from the southwest and gradually covered the entire sky. Sunday morning and early afternoon were overcast and eventually rain clouds formed and we got evening thundershowers. It was nice to get a break from the smoke and be able to open the windows and let in some fresh—well, fresher—air. This morning the altocumulus were back and they looked like a big smear of frosting overhead and to the east. Sure enough the sun was obscured until almost noon.
Right now it is clear overhead but a big heap of clouds still covers the eastern sky. The smoke is back, not as bad, but persisting. This is pretty common stuff all over the West. Mostly summer days are clear, dry, and hot. Rain, other than from thundershowers, is unusual this time of year. If an eclipse were happening in two weeks over Yreka I would tell people that odds are excellent there will be bright blue skies.
We are going north in two weeks to the zone of totality in eastern Oregon. It’s a lot like here. Most of the time it is clear and dry. Sometimes there are thundershowers, but they are typically in the afternoon and mornings are usually could-free. Wildfires are a problem as they spew their smoke all about. It’s not so bad when you can get indoors and stay indoors. But we will be camping for at least five days. Right now the skies over where we want to go are described as “hazy” from smoke. Overcast skies and possible thunder, lightning, and rainfall are expected over the next few days. The National Weather Service graphics for this week up there look just like they did for last week down here.
What can you do? Unless a forest fire closes the roads or otherwise impacts local services we are still going to our planned camping spot. It’s a risk, I know. We could get “skunked” for the eclipse. Our viewing site could be overcast or fouled by smoke. If today, a Monday, is just like Monday the 21st, we’ll be watching the eclipse behind clouds!
But I don’t think that’s going to happen. It’s mostly hot, dry, sunny, and clear in this part of the world during this time of the year. So I’m banking on that. But if we do suffer the misfortune of totality being blocked by some other natural phenomenon then we’ll just have to make the best of it. Sure, I’ll be disappointed. And I’ll pursue my next chance to see a total eclipse with much more vigor and enthusiasm.
But chasing the moon’s shadow is an adventure. The journey is as much a part of it as the destination. The eclipse, in all its phases, is only a small percentage of the time that we will be out and about. So, we expect to enjoy ourselves regardless of the outcome. The part of the country we will be visiting is both beautiful and bizarre and I know I’ve a lot more to learn about it. It’s always fun being in the mountains. Our site is forested and there’s a big creek running close by. It’s remote, but accessible. We don’t have to go four-wheeling or ford a stream or winch ourselves out of some gully. So there’s little or no danger. It should be mostly relaxing. No phone, no computer, no TV. Lots of hammock time. The only uncertainties that matter are how long the ice and beer will last!
We are ready for whatever Mother Nature throws at us. I’m expecting a fastball right down the middle but if I get a curve or a change-up I’ll still put a good swing on it.