Monday morning: Smoke prevails in the air as it has for close to a week. The extent of obfuscation it creates is dependent on the winds, and today we can see mountains, albeit hazy, that at times were totally lost to view. There are varying reports about which of the many fires is causing the smoke; suffice to say it has not been absent for some time.
This morning we went to Early Winters Campground, the remaining hosted campground on Highway 20 headed west. Others have had the campground hosts evacuated. Darrell and wife, Vonnie, were getting ready to leave as well, although not officially under an evacuation notice. Their son Duffy, a fire control officer for the U.S. Forest Service, told the couple to be prepared, when the evacuation notice came, to get out within five minutes. That could be problematical, as many of us have discovered.
Here in West Boesel, 7 miles from Winthrop, when we heard via various media that the Winthrop “area” was under a level 3 evacuation, we wondered if that included us. Or how much of the upper valley was considered “area.”
We still don’t know, but we calmly scrambled to decide what stuff was most important to save, in which vehicle to put them and then where to put the vehicles if the fire came from any direction. The neighbors’ big lawn seemed most expedient. I shamefully admit we were not prepared for an orderly withdrawal.
Ms. Gloria, ever more sensible than I, thought it would be a good idea to go to Mazama and fill the gas tanks in case there would be no fuel deliveries to the entire valley. Westward we departed, arriving at a scene reminiscent of the 1973 gasoline shortage. There were lines of vehicles waiting for fuel, in either direction for some distance. Some were parked across the road from the store. Some, having filled their tank, had a hard time getting out of the line. It was a mess.
But wait! Jay Lucas to the rescue. Not a store employee but always ready to be of service, he assumed the role of traffic cop, and worked his way around and through the turmoil, and relative order was restored. The amazing thing to me was that I did not hear a single horn blast, there were no arguments, no finger pointing in any direction. This was a far cry from ’73.
Another revelation has been the paucity of traffic on Highway 20 up here. One can drive to Mazama at 30 mph and rarely have a car behind you, not like the bumper-hugging that happens on a normal day. This is all currently due to the slides and fire at Newhalem. Sadly, all the businesses are suffering loss of revenue, some still recovering from last year’s fires.
Even the heavy equipment at the salmon recovery project here was pulled out — track hoes, monster dump trucks and smaller vehicles were ordered out when placed at a level 4 Department of Natural Resources (DNR) alert, project foreman Darrin Flitton said via telephone. This is the point at which the state requires that all work in the woods be terminated. Flitton could give no estimate when the work would resume — it is all dependent on DNR.
Meanwhile, the North Cascades highway is Nirvana for hikers and bikers with the termination of through traffic. Please keep an eye out for them if you are driving up to the pass.