I first noticed it about an hour after we had crossed the border into Canada, although I thought it was smog. “Wow,” I remarked to Melissa, “I never thought there’d be this heavy of a haze in Alberta. You can barely make out the mountains.”
We had been traveling north along the Rockies from Glacier. I thought maybe it would pass as we got closer to Calgary.
It didn’t. And then we noticed the car began smelling like campfire. It dawned on me then that there had to be a forest fire somewhere in the distance.
We’d heard countless times that the immensity of the Canadian Rockies would blow us away. And it has some. But the majestic views have been clouded over by smoke. The acrid smell of a fire hangs in the air at all times. I woke up to see if I could catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights only to see the sliver of the waning moon shrouded in red.
I heard again about the importance of forest fires to the ecosystem on a ranger led hike in Montana. Fire deals with the underbrush that has gotten too dense. Some trees, like lodge pole pines, can only spread the seeds from their pine cones under immense heat. We noticed fireweed–glorious purple wild flowers–on that hike in Glacier, which immediately spring up after the flames rip through a forest. It has been a few years since fire had hit the trail we walked, and I saw shells of tree trunks with their insides completely charred.
While the end result may be beneficial, no one likes the impact of a fire when it’s happening. I know I wish I could see the stunning views better. And I know when the fires have raged in my life, the last thing I could imagine was new life.