On Tuesday morning, we woke up to a city covered in ash. The air was dense, smoky, and ominously gray and the temperatures remained too hot. Everything about the day felt eerie and strange; it’s as if the entire city was under a shroud of sadness, mourning the loss of thousands of acres of beautiful forest.
A few days before we drove by the flames and smoke up on the hill as we made our way out to the Gifford Pinchot National Forest to run and explore Soda Peaks Lake. It was surreal to see the angry, bright orange sun and even angrier bright orange flames bouncing above us on the hillside. I almost couldn’t and still can’t believe it’s happening. We watched the burning hillside with sadness as we crossed the Bridge of the Gods over in to Washington…driving away from the fires. We drove about 20-25 miles away from the fires but could still see and taste the smoke in the air. And it just felt sad and wrong.
As an ultrarunner, and outdoor lover, I’ve run and hiked through these now burning areas countless times. Hell, I did my first ultramarathon as an Oregon resident on those trails. And I never thought for one minute just how lucky I truly was. I never imagined that in the course of a week something so devastating could happen to that beautiful, lush, green land, and all of its inhabitants – both people and animals.
As we sit under the shroud of smoke, it’s hard not to feel negative. It’s hard not to be angry at the people (they were just kids, really) who made such irresponsible and devastating choices. It’s hard not to feel sad, even while we should be celebrating these last few weeks of summer.
But in times like this, the only thing we can truly do is hope. We have to hope for rain, hope that people will learn from this and not take for granted the land and life that we have. And send gratitude and hope to all of the people who are their fighting to put these fires out – the firefighters, volunteers, and communities who have come together.
If you want to help, you can make donation to the Red Cross Relief Fund or the Hood River County Search & Rescue. If you need an escape, try and do something you love…but try and keep your activities inside until the smoke clears. For me, that escape has been yoga and I can’t thank my community enough for keeping my spirits up during this very sad week.
Stay sweaty (and safe!)!