[Update: Sept. 15, 2012 — Some smoke relief on weekend, but might return next week — Department of Ecology]
Sept. 13, 2012 — Smoke from the wildfires stretching from Wenatchee to Lake Chelan is drifting westward through the passes and settling on the western slopes of the Cascades.
I discovered as much when I headed up to North Bend on Thursday to ride my mountain bike down the Middle Fork Trail along the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River.
At first I thought there was still a morning mist in the air. When I rolled down the windows when I reached North Bend, the odor told me it was smoke.
Some 25,000 acres has been blackened by lightning sparked wildland fires on the eastern slopes of the Cascades. My olfactory and pulmonary discomforts are nothing compared to what the evacuated homeowners and firefighters are going through right now.
Over in Wenatchee, the popular River Run scheduled for this weekend has been canceled because of the smoke.
The smoke is certainly a factor in the mountain peaks and canyons of the western Cascades as well.
Bad air quality
Although I was disappointed that the smoky air would spoil some good photo opportunities, I soon realized that my lungs would be suffering as I headed up Forest Road 56. I was very short of breath on all the climbs and felt that I just could not get enough air.
When I returned home, I found that North Bend had the most unhealthy air in the region with a 117 air quality index, which makes the air unhealthy for sensitive adults. That means something if you suffer from asthma, like I do.
Although the smoke continued to linger in the air, I did breath easier as I headed down to the river level at the Dingford Creek Bridge. Either I got used to the bad air, or it didn’t descend all the way to the forest floor.
The bad air is expected to continue in the unhealthy range for sensitive individuals at least through Friday. Check Puget Sound Clean Air Agency for forecasts, if you’re concerned about heading into the mountains for the weekend.