from Jeff Outdoors-

The Department of Transportation cam showed that the mountain pass was smoke free, so that’s where we went.

I had been waffling for days between depression and trying to hide from my children without breathing outside air.  The smoke from the forest fires was so bad that the Health Department shut down the schools and told everyone to leave the area, or at the very least not to go outside.

Firefighters flying water where it'll be more use than it had been

The Health Department doesn’t have children.

I was trapped in my home with a 13 and an 11 year old who have a penchant for fighting in the most irritating ways.  My only respite was an occasional foray into the smoke choked town for groceries.  Meanwhile, my wife was on a Mediterranean cruise with her mother and cousin.  My compassionate side was thoroughly relieved that she was missing all of this, while my selfish side was wanting to film our children for 14 straight hours and then force my wife to watch the video when she returned.  I needed someone to share my pain.

My children were just as stir crazy as I was by the time I got the car loaded with snacks, fishing poles and waterbottles.  As we drove for an hour up to the mountain pass, the smoke thinned like my hair, and at the top, it was clearer than my shower door after a vigerous Windexing.  I felt better just getting out of the car in the parking lot.  The fresh air gave me new vitality while yelling at the children to stop hitting each other with the fishing poles.  “If one of those hooks gets stuck in your skin, I’ll have to cut the barb off, and those hooks cost money!”

We started up the Jeep track toward the lake in the fresh, clean air, when my daughter started crying.  I thought for a moment she was shedding a tear of joy for being in a land where the only smell was of fir trees.  No.  She was crying because she wanted the trail to be downhill both ways.  I took a physics and topography approach with her, which, if you’re a woman, you’ll know didn’t work.  Apparently, I was supposed to say, “Oh, sweetheart, I’m sorry you have to walk up hill, but we’ll be there before you know it and I’ll have treats waiting for you at the top!”


When the physics lesson failed, I went with, “Suck it up and stop harshing my buzz.”

We made it to the lake after quite a lot of tears and attitude.  At the lake, all memories of discomfort flew out the window.  We fed gray-jays out of our hands, fished, waded in the pristine water, listened to the silence of the wilderness, and breathed clean, smoke-free air.  While I was reveling in my new low blood pressure and heart rate, I overheard my daughter demanding that my son untangle the snarl in her fishing line.  Her reasoning was simple, “I only know how to catch.  You know how to fish, so fix it.”

As the sun dipped lower, I decided it was time to go.  On the way back down the trail, the children raced, cheated, then experimented with new ways of “accidentally” hitting each other with their fishing poles (without the hooks).

We loaded back up in the car, took one last breath of air, and drove back into the smoke.

The children are now asleep and I’m checking the windows to see where the smoke is leaking into the house.  Perhaps tomorrow I’ll take the kids to coalmine or China… you know, somewhere we can breathe better.


Jeff, Intrepid Dad and inspired writer