DNA-X 2012 #5 The Inferno

December 22nd, 2012 by


As we began our drive west this summer on our Discover North America Expedition we took a northerly course searching for cool weather. North Dakota and the Great Lakes provided some relief but now our course was aiming at Montana and Wyoming two of many western states up in smoke. We eyed the forecast warily – “sunny, windy, hot, …air quality – poor…” By the time we reached western Montana a shroud of smoke blocked out the mountains, our eyes watered and we felt like we were driving through an old west, smoke filled saloon, with no exit.

This was the hottest summer on record for many states with two thirds of the country experiencing “severe to extreme drought”. So far as of 11/30/2012, 55,505 fires burned over 9 million acres (and still counting)- some big numbers indeed. We settled into a small Montana town near Yellowstone National Park where we planned to explore some new sections of the park. The park had it’s own fires, mostly small but in the surrounding national forests and ranch land there were too many burning to count. Ranches and cattle were torched, hayfields ruined, wildlife were on the run and locals worryed about what was next.


We adjusted our schedule to head south to Jackson, Wyoming- maybe we could breathe there? The Grand Tetons were cloaked in smoke as we passed them and headed to town for some rest at the historic Wort Hotel. This Jackson landmark opened in 1941 and maintains a classic western ambiance in the heart of town. Check out their Silver Dollar Bar for live music and great food. The wind shifted the next morning bringing in clear air for the weekend downtown art show and auction. Lively bidding went into the 30G+ range for some paintings. The smoke returned that night, however, and our lungs suggested we plan our escape immediately. Early the next day we aimed ‘G’ south which took us through narrow canyons. The ridges above us were burning, encouraging a swift exit. Maybe

Colorado had their fires under control? Maybe it would be cooler? Maybe…