(So, yeah, it’s just an attention grabbing title.)
Many people commented on last week’s pictures of fire in the Columbia Gorge, expressing grief and sorrow that the gorge would never be the same. The hellish orange outlines spreading before the wind were all too reminiscent of those hot embers we study in the heart of our campfires, leading one to believe that morning light would reveal only a valley of charcoal and ashes. But when morning finally did come, the gorge was hidden by heavy blankets of smoke, and so I was unable to determine the consequences of what I had seen in the night. It was frustrating — and it still is.
The fire, as of this writing, is still only 11% contained. That means somewhere amongst the trees, a fire that can spread from Cascade Locks to Corbett in an evening, is feeding and biding its time, just waiting for a favorable wind.
Monday was a clear and sunny day with not much wind. I decided to retrace my route from the night of the fire (I-84 is still closed), and see what a wild fire means to a forest.
I’ve tried to identify the locations of the areas depicted in my images with the aid of Google Earth and various maps. It was harder than I thought, and I want to caution you that my comments are tentative.
|In this supplementary image and the ones that follow, the number shows which image is being referenced and also the point where the picture was taken. The yellow cone shows the approximate field of view. |
The map is copyright 2017 by GOOGLE EARTH
Perhaps East Bridal Veil Rd (as viewed from SR 14 overlook)
Editors’s note: This does not look like the apocalyptic vision I saw last week.
Looking eastward up the Columbia River. Angel’s rest is directly behind Phoca Rock. Beacon Rock is the monolith on the horizon at left (as viewed from SR 14 overlook) .
A singed Mt. Archer pokes its head above the tree-line at St. Cloud recreation area.
Smokey arms of a marauding fire embrace the mountains, pantomiming an apocalypse. Meanwhile, a man in a hat reels in a monstrous smallmouth bass and comments happily, “We’re eating fish tonight!”
The tops of some ridges seem a little bit more than singed.
Dozens of smoldering fires contribute plumes of smoke to the valley (view from Beacon Rock State Park).
If I had to guess, I’d say the fire in this picture has a source close to Dodson.
Fire’s method, to my inexperienced eye, seems random and haphazard. Here a wisp of smoke threatens, “I’ll be back.”
Looking downriver, an enormous plume climbs into the sky like a thunder cloud. The smoke from the Dodson area is just a smudge beyond Ives Island (as seen from the S.W. edge of Hamilton Island).
The mouth of the smoke shrouded canyon to the right leads to Wahclella Falls (from a vantage point on Dam Access Rd. at Bonneville Dam).
(Go east past the Chevron station and then turn right on that dam access road)
Behind the dam, the notch at center-left is, according to my reckoning, the mouth of the canyon that contains Eagle Creek.
Looking South across the river to Cascade Locks. The Bridge of the Gods is spanning the Columbia at right.
This view from the waterfront in Stevenson shows that the fire is vigorous and strong. I’m not sure what’s up there on top of the gorge, but judging from Google Earth, I’d posit maybe the Benson Plateau.
Looking slightly S.W. from the same vantage point, Cascade Locks and Bridge of the Gods are concealed by smoke settling over the water.
“…a pillar of cloud by day…”
The vagaries of smoke and wind allow a brief glimpse of the Bridge of the Gods.
Looking upriver to the Government Cove recreation site.
Back at the SR-14 overlook, I survey the scene as night falls. The yellow hued fire to right is probably the Bridal Veil area. The small orange hued fire may be the one I saw near Dodson, and the high reddish plume has got to be the fire near the Benson Plateau, almost 17 miles away.
From this wider angle view, another orange line of fire can be seen up and to the right of the yellow hued fire. The lights of Cascade Locks and Stevenson illuminate the smoke settling in the valley.
These two minute exposures reveal the Earth’s spin, showing the apparent motion of the stars.
There’s nothing like juxtaposing all of our anguish beneath stars burning steady for billions of years.
SEE ALSO: EAGLE CREEK FIRE JUMPS OVER THE COLUMBIA