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. 😦