The Columbia River Gorge 09/05/2017 at 3:00am (As viewed from the Cape Horn Viewpoint on SR 14. Phoca Rock visible in middle of river.)
The Columbia River Gorge 05/31/2010 (from Cape Horn Viewpoint)
I've aligned these images based on the positions of Phoca Rock and the navigational structure in the middle of the river to estimate what areas are burning.
When I arrived at the viewpoint, it seemed I had missed the explosive advance of the fire's front. Still, as the wind gusted, and photographers scrambled to secure their tripods, one or another tree or other combustible item would explode like a solar flare.
The smoke stung my eyes. The buffeting breeze reminded me of speeding through central Oregon on a 104 degree day with the windows down.
Whenever the breeze lagged, voluminous, billowing smoke would hang briefly, as if in collusion with the ravenous flames, attempting to cover their sins of gluttony.
Starting around 4:00am, I started receiving emails indicating that the fire had jumped the Columbia and set Archer Mountain aflame. The photographer next to me pointed out an ominous glow to the East.
I drove to the St. Cloud recreation area and caught site of the flames — ever expanding.
Looking South to the Oregon side of the gorge from St. Cloud recreation area.
Another view of Archer Mountain from a vantage point at Skamania Landing.
Looking South from Skamania Landing. Here, having exhausted its orgy options, the fire begins a more refined winnowing process.
At dawn, the fire is still occupied with Archer Mountain (from a viewpoint at Shahala Lake).
I had hoped to catalog the landmarks affected by the fire in the daylight, but smoke from the fire proved to be too thick, obscuring even the sun hours after dawn.
The blanket of smoke continues to obscure the sky at 9:00am (as viewed from Rocky Butte)
Editor's Note (09/07/17):
Thank you for your comments (here, and on Facebook). I find them fascinating.
Let me re-assure some of you, particularly my mother, that my self-preservation instincts are fairly well refined. I am keen to avoid burning, blunt force trauma, falling great lengths, suffocation, drowning and drunken drivers — for starters. But thanks for the reminders.
The wildfire in the gorge is frightening. It is like an uncaged wild thing, or like a malevolent genie unwittingly released from its lamp. It feeds with evident cunning, and takes what it can with absolutely no empathy. With the capriciousness of a tornado, it obliterates some locations, while leaping over others and leaving them nearly unscathed. Lives and the works of lifetimes hang in jeopardy.
I do not take lightly the terrible consequences of this fire, but I do want to briefly address the recurring theme of sadness at the loss of so much beauty in the gorge, by suggesting that the very beauty we have grown up with is itself a product of volcanic ‘disasters, geography altering super floods, tectonic plate level seismic events and countless fires through the eons.
Living in a scenic area where we have found it necessary to fence off our waterfalls and pave our wilderness trails, it is easy to believe that our Gorge is a permanent unchanging feature, bereft of natural cycles. But I suspect this is an illusion fostered by our short lifespans.
Born from the stars, life has always contended with fire. Indeed, some life intimately depends on it. New niches will open, and various specialized plants and animals are just waiting to move in and make the world new again. And we humans, I suppose, will continue to risk building our houses near flood plains, or deep in the new forests of the future, because … it’s always going to be pretty.
Tuesday, September 5, 2017
Eagle Creek Fire Jumps Over the Columbia: Childless Adults Even More Thankful to be Childless.
Just a reminder:
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