It is that time of year again, but different. October is usually the season when the crowds leave and the storms begin to return. The crowds have left, but our dry spell continues. Stereotypical ‘Seattle’ weather is for the entire region to always be at least damp. This year we went three months with barely a half inch of rain, and there hasn’t been much since then. We’re experiencing something new; it is still quiet, but new.
Islanders are witnessing fewer crowds but sunny skies – or at least skies that aren’t raining on us. In place of a comforting covering of grey mixed with blue, many of the days have seen smoky haze, vivid sunrises and sunsets, and an uncommon opportunity to play outdoors. The days may be shortening, but that’s astronomy. The haze, however, is smoke from forest fires on the west side of the Cascades, particularly the Bolt Creek Fire, about fifty miles east of the island. The smoke and haze include ash. A forest is being delivered by winds flowing out of the mountains, counter to their usual direction.
For some, it is not much of a concern and emphasizes opportunities. Aside from chores, it is a good time for boating (unless you’re trying to sail on a windless day), hiking (as long as you stay away from the fires), and most things outdoorsy (unless the smoke affects your health.) For some, those health concerns are concerns which can be maddening to catch glimpses of the mountains and know this is not the time to go. And so it goes.
One week into October and the next week looks dry, too. Skiers can already start wondering when or how the weather will change. Droughts happen, but eventually our Pacific storms will probably return. Will there be a gap when the air is clear but still warm and dry? Will the storms return in enough time to cover the slopes so the skiers can pack the lifts?
Wildfires don’t last long in active winters and that part of the mountains is basically a temperate rain forest. It would be yet another oddity if the slopes were ready but the fire closed the road. But then, it has been a rare year.
In the meantime, enjoy the island’s emptier parking lots, trails through autumn colors, and a world that is quiet enough to hear the local birds and the ones that are migrating through. That’s a crowd many look forward to.