June 24, 2008

Holy Smokes!

First Day in Squaw Valley. Not what I expected!

View From WS Trail 1 mile from The Village of Squaw Valley

As I sat in the back of the plane in my window seat, I glanced across the horizon when we started our decent into Sacramento. I nearly did a double take. Do I see what I think I see? What appeared out the window had me baffled. The sky was enveloped in a thick, grayish/brown layer of soot. Was it smog? Couldn’t be. Way too thick. Fog? No way. This was smoke folks. Thick smoke. The kind you’d find at a Cheech and Chong bong party.

First 3 miles of WS Trail. The Mountain in middle you can't see? 1 mile away.

Being from Orange County, CA, I’m not easily alarmed by a fire, or soot filled skies. Last October I had to train indoor on a treadmill two weeks before my 50 miler because of the dreadful fires near our home. So I decided to take this one in stride. I picked up my rental car and set forth on the road to Squaw Valley.

“There is a health advisory in place, people are advised to not engage in any physical activity” the radio man clamored. “The air quality is hazardous”. Oh boy. I continued down the road trying to find pockets of blue sky. But there were none.

As I drove along I decided to pull off the highway to stretch my legs. I happened on a ranger station. Big Bend ranger station in fact. The ranger explained to me the reason for all the smoke was that there were, as we spoke, 10 fires burning in Placer County, or more specifically in the forest area where Western States will be run this Saturday. These were set by hundreds of lightening strikes over last weekend. The good news, as I interpreted it, was all but two of these fires were “contained”. The other good news is that today is only Tuesday, and there are three days for this stuff to clear.

Once I arrived to my hotel in Squaw Valley, I hiked about half way up the face of the mountain, doing my best to stay on the WS trail. I stopped several times to look around and assess the sky, the wind, wondering along the way what the running gods might have in store for us come Saturday. As one must often do when mother nature rears her head, I continued along the trail with some solace that what ever happens, happens. Will the running gods speak to her? Will they convince her to calm these raging blazes and push this soot through with her winds? As I write this, I look outside at the graying sky from my bar stool in the Blue Coyote Sports Grill less than 100 yards from the start. I cross my fingers. Tip my Sierra Nevada. And hope these formidable forces of nature and fate take care of us runners this weekend.


Scott Dunlap said...

Crazy, huh? I checked some of the forecasts, and it looks like it could get better, or it could get worse. Time to start smoking a pack a day to go with those Sierras. ;-)

Hoping to meet you at the start!


Anonymous said...

Holy crap, Will, I hope the smoke literally blows over. I'll be rooting for you and other Saturday. Try not to worry about things out of your control. You will do great!