In August, I returned back to the Sisters Wilderness, located in the Willamette and Deschutes National Forests. When I traveled here earlier in July, the wilderness was still very much covered in snow, making it difficult to stay on the trail. Upon my return, I was disheartened to discover so many wildfires burning throughout the cascades. The fire burning here in the Sisters Wilderness is believed to have been sparked by lightning. Unfortunately, this is only one of many large fires burning in Oregon (and the West).
Dee Wright Observatory with Pole Creek Fire burning in the background- August 2017
Fires are a natural part of this world, but their initiation has recently not always been so natural. Although the Sisters fire is believed to have started naturally, these fires are still a reminder of the responsibility we have to not exasperate their occurrences. I took the photo below on my first trip to Oregon with my friend Trent. The picture is of Tunnel Falls, along the Eagle Creek Trail. While we were hiking this day there was a wildfire burning further up the trail from the falls. Since then, that fire has connected with a much larger fire that was started by fireworks along the same trail. There are currently 33,000 acres of wilderness burning in this area along the Columbia River Gorge and the Eagle Creek trail.
Eagle Creek Trail, July 2017. There was a fire burning just beyond Tunnel Falls (pictured here), but nowhere near the size it would grow to by September.
2017 was well above average for wildfires in Oregon, but it was not the worst on record. There is a reason for the fires here. Above-average precipitation and snowfall created more flammable fuel. The snow carried on very late into the season and was followed by an extremely hot summer that rapidly dried this fuel out. Add some lightning storms and some human irresponsibility and we get 665,000 acres blazing across 2,000 different fires, totaling over $450 million in state costs.
Trent & I lost on South Sister, off the Green Lakes Trail in July 2017. Broken Top is in the background. Heavy snow late this year made it impossible to stay on trail.