Wednesday, September 20, 2023

2020 pandemic road trip to from Wisconsin to Montana: Chapter 1

A Smoky Sky

Photos by Retiring Guy

Wednesday, September 16, 2020 

We had a preview yesterday evening of what the sky might look like during the start of our road trip today. Earlier news reports indicated that an upper atmosphere haze from West Coast fires, carried by the jet stream, has reached Wisconsin. And as I learned from a later Google search, the haze is a coast-to-coast phenomenon, now visible in Boston. 

During yesterday’s ponds walk, when JoAnna and I spotted this heron, the sky seemed to clear a bit, blue becoming more prominent by the time we returned home. As I was getting the grill ready to cook steaks, Andy’s requested birthday dinner, I noticed the sun appeared to have an enhanced corona, due to the way its light penetrated the haze. As the sun continued to set, the sky took on an increasing dystopian tint, creating an appropriate setting considering the current surreal state of our nation — historic fires burning out of control, a presidency off the rails, a virus running rampant among needless young adults. 

And JoAnna I might end up driving deeper into it. The smoky part, anyway. For the past few days, I have regularly checked the weather and traffic webcams showing views of Yellowstone National Park and Great Falls. The picture quality isn’t the best — on one of the Yellowstone cams it looks as though there’s snow on the ground, which could very well be the case — but good enough to see that the skies are hazy. Nothing at all, though, like the burnt-orange-sky daytime photos coming out of California and Oregon, streetlights and headlights glowing, window illuminated as though it’s the middle of the night. That’s truly a dystopian scene. 

When we initially put together a travel itinerary, we considered including a visit to Auburn — and Seattle, since we’d be in the neighborhood. Even before the fires raged out of control, we decided that would involve too much driving and not enough sightseeing. Moreover, we felt that Seattle deserved a trip of its own rather than being piggybacked with other destinations. Now that large areas of the Pacific Coast states resemble a hellscape, it’s no longer an option.

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