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2017 Canadian Rockies Expedition: Smoky Update

August 02, 2017  •  Leave a Comment


Well, yesterday was supposed to be the start of my 4-night Brazeau (Jasper NP) backpacking trip.   I prepared my backpack, drove to the trailhead, and decided not to go.  After all the planning and prep I did for this trip, that decision did not come lightly.  Simple reason: the smoke in the air.  It was moderately smoky at the trailhead, and Jasper had been moderately to heavily smoky for the previous 3 days.  I could "clearly" see the haze obscuring trees only 1/4 mile away.  Mountains ~3 miles away showed no color, just shadows.  


Yes, I could have done the backpacking trip.  But for me, carrying a 38 lb (12 lb camera gear) backpack for 50 miles up and down a few thousand feet is worth it only if I have a good chance of coming back with spectacular photos where the beauty of the landscape can be clearly seen.  I'll shoot in foggy or rainy weather, but smoke obscures details and color, the two things I value most in the photos that I take.  August 1 was the only day I could start the Brazeau: the backcountry campground permits sell out months in advance.  I couldn't just wait a day to see if it would get clear.  It was go or no go.


It is August 2.  I've not shot any photos since the night of July 28, so 5 days down-time and counting.   The forecast for the next two weeks is for mostly sunny weather and for very little (almost no) rain.  I would normally love such a forecast.  But little rain means low probability that the smoke will be washed from the air.  Unless the wind changes from westerly to northerly, I expect the smoke to continue to blow in from wildfires west of the park.   The high heat and dry conditions means that new wildfires are likely.  From time to time the smoke clears somewhat to a light haze for 1-3 hours, but it is impossible to predict, and it has been rare.  British Columbia has air quality advisories out for most of the province.  This morning my car was coated in soot.


Banff National Park called me today to tell me that they cancelled the permit for my 2nd backpacking trip, to Egypt Lake, due to the Verdant Creek wildfire which is only a few miles away from Egypt Lake.  I probably would not have gone on that one anyhow due to the smoke, but now it is fait accompli.  0 for 2.  The road back into the parks from Radium Hot Springs, my current location, is now closed due to that wildfire.


I pray for the people and the environment of British Columbia who are struggling with this record wildfire season.


To see what this area is like when it is clear, here are three more photos from my aerial photography flight over the Purcell Mountains.  Seems I was lucky to have a clear day when I did the flight on July 25.


See more in the BC-Purcell Mountains gallery






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