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donthompson

Fires in Western U.S. and Canada

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I think this is the last trip I'll take to Montana and the Canadian Rockies in the late-summer or fall. Fortunately, fires and smoke didn't affect my backcountry dirt/gravel loaded bike tour in and near Glacier N.P. from August 5 to August 11. But on Saturday, August 11 three fires started in Glacier due to lightning strikes. We hiked on Saturday and Sunday, but by Monday, some campgrounds were being evacuated and part of the Going to the Sun Road was closed. I left Tuesday for the Canadian Rockies--I should have researched the fires in BC and Alberta. The air quality was horrible and the visibility was very limited. I spent one night and turned around to head back to the U.S. British Columbia has had 1500 fires this year and Alberta has had almost 1,000. I'm going to try camping at or above 10.000 feet in the Carbondale, Redstone, Marble and Aspen Colorado area. Air quality is better there. I talked to campers from Alberta and B.C. who said that traveling to the Canadian Rockies in June is best. By August, the forest is very dry and they have had lots of fires in 2017 and 2018.

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Don

 

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Agreed, my last two summers have been pretty much ruined by the beginning of August. Visibility has been horrible. I have smoke and dust allergies too, so I cannot stay outdoors very long when the particle count is above 75. Thank goodness for room HEPA filters.

 

Another thing to be VERY conscious of when rough camping is to never stay in a dead end campground. Pick one with at least two ways out, preferaby in different directions. They need to be routes that you can tow your Ollie over. It would really ruin your vacation to be incinerated, or to be helicoptered out and leave your truck and trailer behind to burn up..... I am not kidding, this is important around  the West when you are in dry and brushy timberlands and desert.

 

A SPOT or preferably an inReach should be part of your emergency gear, and keep it turned on and in a handy location, not buried in some storage compartment. Within easy grasp of the driver is best, in case you are trapped in the front seat. I keep a small hydropack with my inReach hanging behind the driver seat, it seems to keep a good satellite lock in that location, and I keep the inReach running when I grab the pack for a short hike.

 

Speaking of packs, you should have a sizeable, well equipped bugout bag with water pouches, purifier, food bars, bear spray and/ or big-bore firearm, first aid kit, firestarter, space blanket and the minimum gear you need to survive outdoors for at least a couple of nights. My big “carry” BO pack is in the back of the truck, along with extra emergency stuff in a bright red duffle, and an extensive med kit....

 

Stay aware, prepared and safe.

 

John Davies

 

Spokane WA

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Yeah, we are rethinking our 2019 trip out to Glacier, Banff and Jasper. We were planning on late August and September but after the fires the last 2 years in that area and what we had to deal with in Colorado this June getting chased out of the Ouray area because of smoke and ash we may go earlier even though some areas may not be open yet.


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Tom & Cheryl 

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Thanks for this post.  We were planning to head up to Canadian Rockies in a couple of weeks, but now will rethink it as the time grows nearer.  We check this site for US updates  https://inciweb.nwcg.gov. Which one do you recommend for Canada?

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Don, Sorry to hear about the woes of your travel experience up this way. I feel your pain!

 

FWIW, this is not a new situation with fires in just the last couple of years. I've lived in Montana for over 40 years and yes there were always threats of fires and a few cropped up from time to time, probably the most famous being the Yellowstone fires of 1988 but even that was unusual in those days. I used to live here for the summers, certainly not the winters, having frost bitten my feet a couple of times with long cross country ski trips. Anymore summers are a season of dread, I'm dead serious about this. Air quality here in SW Montana is awful now although our fire season started considerably later than all of our neighboring states, mostly due to the extreme winter we had with heavy snow. But we get smoke from fires in other states as far away as CA, NV, OR and or WA and others. What I am getting to is we have been experiencing wide spread western fire seasons such as this for what has to be a decade ± a year or so by now, and doubt there will be much of an end to it anytime soon if ever.

 

I can understand those who want to come earlier (May & June), and you can certainly do that but understand there will still be lots of snow in the mountains meaning hiking becomes very difficult if not impossible unless you're an extremist. For active people you might end up with a windshield tour of the area rather than a true outdoor adventure unfortunately. Weather can also be highly unpredictable during these months too. Its not at all uncommon to experience 1-3 foot blizzards and snowstorms during April and May, (they are a given in Mar-Apr) here in Bozeman at just under a mile high. I have photographs to prove it too. But on a good year May and early June can be downright gorgeous with snow capped peaks and green grass and fields that defy the imagination. Just don't expect to bag too many peaks during this time. Lower elevation cycling is generally good however during this period, albeit a bit brisk and chilly at times. Come prepared.

 

Feel free to contact me directly for any future trips, be glad to provide an on the ground report. Hope this helps, but probably not too encouraging.

 

 

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Don, Sorry to hear about the woes of your travel experience up this way. I feel your pain!

 

FWIW, this is not a new situation with fires in just the last couple of years. I’ve lived in Montana for over 40 years and yes there were always threats of fires and a few cropped up from time to time, probably the most famous being the Yellowstone fires of 1988 but even that was unusual in those days. I used to live here for the summers, certainly not the winters, having frost bitten my feet a couple of times with long cross country ski trips. Anymore summers are a season of dread, I’m dead serious about this. Air quality here in SW Montana is awful now although our fire season started considerably later than all of our neighboring states, mostly due to the extreme winter we had with heavy snow. But we get smoke from fires in other states as far away as CA, NV, OR and or WA and others. What I am getting to is we have been experiencing wide spread western fire seasons such as this for what has to be a decade ± a year or so by now, and doubt there will be much of an end to it anytime soon if ever.

 

I can understand those who want to come earlier (May & June), and you can certainly do that but understand there will still be lots of snow in the mountains meaning hiking becomes very difficult if not impossible unless you’re an extremist. For active people you might end up with a windshield tour of the area rather than a true outdoor adventure unfortunately. Weather can also be highly unpredictable during these months too. Its not at all uncommon to experience 1-3 foot blizzards and snowstorms during April and May, (they are a given in Mar-Apr) here in Bozeman at just under a mile high. I have photographs to prove it too. But on a good year May and early June can be downright gorgeous with snow capped peaks and green grass and fields that defy the imagination. Just don’t expect to bag too many peaks during this time. Lower elevation cycling is generally good however during this period, albeit a bit brisk and chilly at times. Come prepared.

 

Feel free to contact me directly for any future trips, be glad to provide an on the ground report. Hope this helps, but probably not too encouraging.

 

 

 

We cancelled our plans to visit Glacier this year, but have reschedule our trip for 2019.  Thanks for the update.


Horace & Dianne

Chesapeake, Virginia

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Feel free to contact me directly for any future trips, be glad to provide an on the ground report. Hope this helps, but probably not too encouraging.

 

Given the current situation out west, it helps to have someone "on the ground" to provide accurate info. If plans work out, we will be heading that way next spring - end of May through end of July. The last time we out that way, it was dry, but the fires were not much of an issue. We want to spend more time in the Montana/Idaho area this time. BC and the Yukon were just lovely, looks like it isn't right now.

 

I'm not sure what the answer is on these fires - lots of opinions- global warming/climate change or not.

 

RB


Cindy,  Russell and  "Harley dog" . Home is our little farm near Winchester TN

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Rob,

 

Thanks for your response to my post. I spent last night at a friend’s near Bozeman and I’m camped in Grand Teton NP tonight. The smoke is not as bad in Bozeman or GTNP as it was near Banff, but it is still a problem. I’m headed to the Carbondale, Basalt, Aspen, Redstone, Colorado area. I’m sure I’ll encounter some smoke, but I’m not ready to return to Iowa yet!

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Don

 

2020 Conqueror UEV 490 Extreme Platinum

 

 

2019 Ram Rebel

 

 

States I visited with my Ollie (Sold October, 2019)

 

 

States Visited Map

 

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John, excellent advice. I confess that my campsite doesn’t meet the criteria that you’ve described and I regret that. I’ll keep in mind your advice about making sure there are a couple of ways out in the future!

 


Don

 

2020 Conqueror UEV 490 Extreme Platinum

 

 

2019 Ram Rebel

 

 

States I visited with my Ollie (Sold October, 2019)

 

 

States Visited Map

 

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