Earlier today, guided by a cobbled-together plan consisting of basic knowledge, general guidance and personal perseverance, I ventured eastward from Portland, Oregon through the shadow of the Mt. Hood National Forest. After an hour or so winding through old-growth redwoods, I rather abruptly emerged onto the straw-colored expanse of high desert. Windows down, I caught the whiff of woodsmoke even before catching sight of the mounting haze that had visited often on this trip. Though I hadn’t encountered a live burn at this point, distant wildfires have a persistent way of making their presence known.

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