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Yesterday the girls and I joined with Molly (remember Molly from last year?) and Mary for a nice hike, mostly above tree line in the North Cascades. We drove through a layer of wildfire smoke to get to the trailhead and found perfect blue skies with fluffy clouds. Ground squirrels and hoary marmots and pikas gave their warning calls as we walked by.  At the end of the hike we could see the smoke column from the Diamond Creek wildfire east of us. In the meantime we were treated to vast vistas of mountains in all directions. We all felt grateful to have this in our ‘backyard’. The dogs were most grateful for the last of the snow and a creek of snow melt leading to a clear refreshing pond for cooling off.

Despite the heat and the valley full of smoke, animals are abundant. There is a mule deer with twin fawns that we see around our hill pretty often. All the young birds have fledged and are learning to forage with help from their parents. Ken’s bees are still out collecting pollen and nectar from our garden flowers. I do wonder how the smoke affects these animals and if they have shortened life spans because of it.

Wildfires in British Columbia and a 10,000 acre fire in the Pasayten Wilderness have left much of Washington blanketed in a thick layer of smoke. Air quality in Twisp and Winthrop was the worst in the nation in recent days. People are warned to stay inside with windows and doors closed and not everyone has air conditioning. Temperatures have been in the high 90’s. It is strongly suggested that a person should wear a mask when outside and strenuous activity is being discouraged. Needless to say in our area with a strong emphasis on outdoor recreation, this is a great hardship. I ventured out with the dogs for a couple of hours yesterday and it was painful. ‘They’ say a weather system should be here in a few days, perhaps with wind and rain but most likely with lightning too, and that some of this smoke may be dispersed. It’s hard to hope for lightning but I do want a break from this thick air pollution.

The girls and I have been out and about on some trails this summer. After a wet and cool spring, we have not had any rain in weeks. The paths are all dusty and dry. I carry water for my dogs and they appreciate it. The streams and lakes and snow patches are welcome sights!

Lots of terrific music comes through the Methow Valley. This weekend is the Winthrop Rhythm and Blues Festival. Next week is the start of the Methow Valley Chamber Music Festival. Last night we got to see Rob Ickes and Trey Hensley, a pair of uniquely gifted musicians from Nashville. According to their website, “Rob Ickes is a longtime, well-established instrumental giant, and Trey Hensley is newly arrived in Music City, bursting with talent both as a vocalist and guitarist. They are in town for the Blues Fest and the Methow Valley Ciderhouse hosted them for two hours. What a treat for folks that don’t get to go to the festival.

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