Monday, August 31, 2009

The View From the Top

On Saturday afternoon Cameron and I went on an incredible hike at Mt. Baker, WA with my sister, Alison, and her husband, Stan. There were times when the climb and the views literally took our breath away.

The trail wound along the right edge of this valley, through the patch of snow, and climbed higher and higher, eventually passing through the saddle to the right of the flat rock formation (Table Mountain) at the top left of the photo.

From up above the views of Mt. Shuksan and the valley were spectacular.

As we passed through Herman Saddle the imposing peak of Mt. Baker came into view.

We descended to a chain of three lakes and were more than ready to have some lunch and rest for a while before making another ascent.

As we rounded the trail Mt. Shuksan came back into sight.

On a plateau in the valley below was a herd of mountain goats (the teeny weeny white dots running horizontally across the flat area in the foreground).

We watched them as we made our way along the ridge, through a meadow of fireweed, back to where we’d begun our hike almost five hours before.

As we enjoyed the serene alpine scenery I couldn’t help but think of the contrast between it and the fire-ravaged slopes in the area surrounding our family cabins, near Clinton, BC. The Kelly Creek wildfire began on August 1st, when a lightning strike sparked a small blaze in Edgehills Provincial Park (click for photo). Even though several mountain ridges and a considerable distance separated them from the fire, my parents and other relatives were alerted to the possibility of evacuation should the fire threaten their lives and property. As they were returning from a day trip the afternoon of August 20th, my aunt and uncle saw a portion of the mountain flare up under the force of gusty winds and likened the sight to an atomic explosion; our cabins were evacuated later that evening, along with other homes in the vicinity. By the next morning the fire was estimated to cover 10,000 hectares, having more than doubled in size overnight. Since then hot temperatures, high winds, and rugged terrain have continued to challenge efforts to bring the blaze under control and it currently covers approximately 18,500 ha or 185 square km (115 square miles).

Thankfully, this past weekend saw calmer weather conditions and fire crews successfully conducted burn-offs along the shores of Kelly Lake (click for photo) and immediately behind nearby evacuated homes, including our family cabins. From what I understand the entire hillside behind us has burned to within several hundred feet of our cabins but unless something unexpected occurs our buildings will remain intact, even though the surrounding landscape will bear scars of the fire for some time to come.

However, we are not yet able to breathe a full sigh of relief. The fire continues to grow to the north and east and the evacuation alert has been expanded to include the village of Clinton, which is where my parents make their permanent home. Even though the fire is 12 km from the townsite and it is unlikely that they will actually face an evacuation order, they are taking precautions by moving irreplaceable items to a storage locker in another town. And with other residences in the outlying area also under threat it will be difficult to completely relax until the fire is fully contained and extinguished and evacuation alerts and orders are rescinded.

True to plan I have managed to get a fair bit of knitting done these past few weeks and hope to update the blog again soon. In the meantime please send good thoughts to the firefighters and residents of the Clinton area—their ordeal is far from over.


Anonymous said...

Those views take my breath away too.

Jessica - The West Coast Knit Wit said...

I finally braved it and looked at those pictures, and it's scary. Only a few months ago, we were admiring the thickly treed hills from the lakeside, the weather was perfect. It's so sad to see this happen to our little Utopia.