Frenchmen’s Bar Apocalyptic Air Quality Hike

2020 Hike ; 174

Hike Distance: 2.3 miles

Elevation Gain: 100 feet

Yearly Hike Distance: 1315.8 miles

Yearly Elevation Gain: 194800 feet

It’s been eight days since we’ve gone on a hike, but the poor air quality was too dangerous for us to be outside. This has been the longest period of time, without hiking, in the 13+ years that I’ve been trying to reach my 25,000 mile goal! To be honest, I just couldn’t take staying in the house for even one more day!

So, seeing that only people that want to die will be on a hiking trail, we decided to head out to the Frenchmen’s Bar area. Given the pandemic is still raging on, this is possibly one of the few times we won’t run into another person, and they’ll be as insane as us. haha

Driving to Frenchmen’s Bar we noticed that the inside of our vehicle was slowly filling up with smoky, and toxic, air. The AQI today was about 250, which wasn’t quite at the hazardous level that starts at 300, but is sure to shorten your life if you’re not protected. Mind you, the past week was averaging an AQI of 300-500! 😦

As we drove into the parking area of Frenchmen’s Bar there were no people outside and only a couple of parked vehicles (with people still in the car). The first thing we did was to put on our respirators, with dual P100 filters (HEPA), and our sealed goggles! These respirators would protect us from any smoke particles, and Covid19, but not any toxic gases. I’d checked the Ozone level, prior to driving here, and it actually was at a low level. They worked exceedingly well, except for my goggles fogging halfway through the hike.

Our hike consisted of a small loop that included following the Columbia River. The hike was nothing short of surreal, and apocalyptic. We felt like explorers on a toxic planet that had been destroyed by a nuclear war. This isn’t normal, and it was nothing short of depressing. I stopped to take photos of just about everything I saw.

We saw some yellow flowers, and a few birds feeding in the Columbia River. A couple of vessels were moving along the Columbia River, and we watched the waves. The sun, well the sun was like a sickly colored light that barely penetrated the toxic pollution, and reflections off the waves looked like speckles of gold.

As we walked north along the Columbia River there was a nice breeze, and it cooled us down, but offered nothing more. We knew even this nice breeze carried toxic particles past us. A dusting of these forest fire particles coated most everything.

We couldn’t go for a very long hike as the respirators and goggles, that protected us, were digging into our skin. We were protected from the putrid air but in pain from the devices that protected us. This hike gave us an indication of just how long we could spend time on a hike, and it wasn’t long.

I’m glad we went out but can’t wait for the fires to end and the air to clear. Spoiler, in a couple of days the Pacific Northwest will see two storm systems arrive, and at least temporarily save much of Oregon and Washington from the toxic air. Unfortunately, our hearts go out to California, which doesn’t seem to be getting any relief from the fires, in the form of rain. Such a horrible fire season, and the future only looks grim in the coming years, if Climate Change isn’t taken seriously. 😦

Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge Hike at Kiwa Trail

2020 Hike #; 173

Hike Distance: 1.5 miles

Elevation Gain: 64 feet

Yearly Hike Distance: 1313.5 miles

Yearly Elevation Gain: 194700 feet

The fires along the west coast are destroying all of our beautiful forests, farmlands and many developed areas. Climate change is turning this gorgeous area into a wasteland, and it’s incredibly depressing to witness, and we’ve watched the weather change over the past decades. Because of the intense smoke moving throughout Oregon and Washington, almost everything having to do with being outdoors is closed. The air smells horrible and is dangerous to breathe.

We decided to go to the Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge and drive around the scenic loop. Very few cars were on the road, which was quite nice. There’s a small 1.5 mile hiking trail, along this driving route, and we decided to stop and give it a try, as there was only two cars in the lot. This trail is normally crowded, but the smoky air has deterred most people from coming here.

Steps to reduce Covid19 transmission, while on the Kiwa Trail, have been taken. This loop trail can typically be walked from both directions, but it has now been made into a one way trail! We wore our face masks, and only saw one older gentleman along the way, and unfortunately he wasn’t wearing a mask. Also note that the bathrooms were closed, so be prepared.

This is the first real hiking trail we’ve been on since the Pandemic started, and it was pure joy! Despite the smoke the scenery was amazing. 🙂 We saw deer, Egrets, ducks and turtles! The swampy channels were particularly beautiful.

One interesting thing to note is that the fields, covered in dry grasses, were being tilled. We were glad to see them doing this since it would prevent the area from being burned, in the event of a fire situation.

This was one fantastic hike, despite the short distance. The future wasn’t looking good in the near term, for hiking, as you’ll see from our next hike. 😦

Forest Road Hike

2020 Hike #: 171

Hike Distance: 7.7 miles

Elevation Gain: 762 feet

Yearly Hike Distance: 1304.5 miles

Yearly Elevation Gain: 193836 feet

We didn’t get out hiking the past four days as I was recovering from a cortisone shot to my upper right bicep. It turns out I have a propensity to getting calcific tendonitis, on some regular basis, at this location. If you’ve never had calcific tendonitis, then be very thankful. The first time I was diagnosed with this ailment I told my wife that the pain is excruciating, and completely debilitating. Of course, she didn’t believe me, and I can’t say I blamed her. As bad luck would have it, my wife happened to get a similar diagnosis just two weeks after me. Long story short, she said the pain was worse than giving birth to any of our children!

What happens is that hard calcium is deposited in the tendons, or joint, of the afflicted area. It basically feels like razor blades have been placed in the inflamed area, and any movement generates horrendous pain that can’t be ignored, and pain killers did nothing for us. My orthopedist breaks up the calcium deposits by extending a long syringe, filled with cortisone, repeatedly through the area, using an ultrasound machine to make sure he’s treated the entire area. Relief is almost instantaneous, and after several days of rest, I’ve been able to restart light exercise. I’ll need to avoid weightlifting for about 2-3 weeks to avoid possibly damaging the muscle/tendon group, but it’s no big deal. We’re so thankful that this ailment can be treated! Can you imagine how this would have destroyed a person’s life in the days when no effective treatment was possible. 😦

Today passed a milestone towards my lifetime goal of hiking around the circumference of the earth. I have completed enough miles to exceed over two-thirds of my goal. 🙂 It’s been one heck of a journey, and I’m hoping to look forward to the remaining one-third of this goal. At this point, our only goal is to get through this pandemic without losing our lives or compromising our health. We wish everyone a safe journey through these tough times!

Today’s hike was in an area we’ve visited many times before. There wasn’t much different today than on other summer days, except it’s now hunting season. We’re now wearing our Blaze Orange gear so that we’re highly visible to hunters. It’s currently bow/crossbow season and we’ve never had any previous difficulties or felt our safety was at risk. In the past, the hunters we’ve seen have been responsible and courteous, and there’s no reason to believe this season will be different. Besides, we go hiking in late morning and the afternoon, which we understand isn’t the best time of day for hunting. We also stay on the main trails and roads, and don’t venture off into the forest, brush or high grasses. Be safe out there!

The main event of the day was to photograph the flowers that are still blooming. I know the names of very few flowers, but still find it a joy to take photos of them. Maybe some of you know the names of them?

A fine warm day and great to be back in the fresh air.