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Copyright 2012 Rocky Mountain Rider. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Reproduction of any editorial material, artwork and photos is strictly forbidden without express written permission of the publisher. For information about reprint rights, please contact the editor; editor@rockymountainrider.com.

 

Dog Hair & Mule Sweat

with Natalie Riehl

editor@rockymountainrider.com

 

October 2012 issue

 

     We’re living in the “Land that Time Forgot.” Yes, we’ve barely seen the sun for two months, and, no, we haven’t moved to Seattle .

     The fire season started in early August, and for most of the days since then, the smoke has been so thick we have not been able to see the mountains on either side of the valley. Typically, an “inversion” presses the smoke into the valley, and the notable lack of rain does not wash it away.

     In this third week of September, close to 550,000 acres of forest directly to the south and west has burned up this summer, and seventeen fires are still “burning actively on all flanks.” The monster Mustang Complex is over 330,000 acres alone.

     The Montana DEQ rates air quality as Good, Moderate, Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups, Unhealthy, Very Unhealthy and finally Hazardous. Yep. The air in the Bitterroot Valley has reached the Hazardous category on more than one day. (See Forest Service Air Quality photos: Current compared to Pristine.)

             ------------------------  

 

     Rick and I drove to Missoula last Saturday to re-stock RMR’s in our racks, buy supplies and, most importantly, to get out of the smoke for a few hours. Ha! Ha! Guess what? Missoula was also very smoky—so smoky, in fact, that we could not see the mountains surrounding that city.

     That reminded me of our drive through central Wyoming and Idaho in late August and not being able to see either the east or west sides of both the  Wind River and Teton Ranges .

     The summer has been waning and I have not been able to track it in my subconscious as I usually do, by noting the sunrises and sunsets, and the sun moving south along the horizon to the equinox.

     I was driving home from the office a couple of nights ago and looked west, where, against the charcoal-gray murky sky, I saw the glowing, blood-orange sun partially occluded by the mountain it was setting behind (See Rick’s photo). I crossed the Bitterroot River and observed that the cottonwoods were starting to turn gold.

          Riding one’s horses is not encouraged, as the thick smoke is hard on both riders and horses. I’ve been filling the water troughs daily and flushing out the ash that has fallen on the water’s surface. I feed the horses in hay bags, so they don’t have to eat from the dusty ground, and turn them out during the day on their eaten-down pasture. I have ophthalmic ointment to apply to the horses’ eyes when they get crusty from the smoky irritation.

 

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     Are you tired of the drought? We have been listening to the same forecast for weeks. “In the 70’s or 80’s during the day, and down to the low 40’s at night.”

     Becoming frustrated with the never-changing forecast and not understanding what is causing the drought, I prevailed upon the talented, Nevada-based meteorologist Matthew Fearon to explain it to me. You will find his explanation on page 12 in this issue.

      So, Readers, until next month, Happy Breathing!

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Copyright 2012 Rocky Mountain Rider. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Reproduction of any editorial material, artwork and photos is strictly forbidden without express written permission of the publisher. For information about reprint rights, please contact the editor; editor@rockymountainrider.com.

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