“Smells like archery season.”
That’s elk-hunter code for “smells like September.”
Just what that encompasses is a combination of dry grass, warm wind and lately – the last decade or so – smoke in the air.
I muttered those words to myself last week as I stepped out of the office and into the 80-degree, smoke-filled air that was hanging in St. Maries.
Hopefully the recent conditions are not a foreshadowing of what we’ll have later this summer.
We lucked out in the fire and/or smoke department last summer in this valley, for the most part.
The summer before that, not so much.
We’ve all gotten a taste of what real fire danger looks like, especially those of us living in Avery or the Silver Valley, where residents were in the “set” stage of the Forest Service’s “Ready, set, go” danger levels, meaning you oughta’ be ready to hit the road at a moment’s notice.
We’d prefer – and we don’t mean to speak for our readers – but we’d prefer to not have that happen again for a while.
So after a few instances of walking outside and asking myself “where’s that smoke coming from?” and checking the Idaho Fish and Game’s handy fire map to find nothing local – I stopped worrying.
Later in the evening it was discovered by some fine investigative reporting through a television set that the smoke is coming from our neighbors up north.
There are three substantial fires burning in the area between Jasper National Park and Edmonton, AB.
We do not have a meteorologist on staff here, so we can’t be sure if those are the culprits.
But they are the largest, by far. One of them is larger than 82,000 acres.
The nearest fire is to the east of Lake Kookanusa, north of Eureka, Montana.
It is south of Fernie, BC, a quaint Canadian town and home to the Fernie Ghostriders hockey club.
Jeff Rayman, a Spokane Chiefs defenceman from 2013-2015, started his junior career in Fernie.
He was later traded out of Spokane and bounced around before landing in Kennewick and playing for the Americans. So we’ll leave him out of the rest of this column.
But the fires . . . something else, huh?
They’ve got nearly 200 of them going up there, and we’ve got a good bit of smoke coming down here because of it.
Some days it’s difficult to look out of our office window and see St. Joe Baldy.
Some days it’s so thick a guy steps outside and wonders if he’s on a movie set. There is no depth, no sight of anything past the buildings.
Those are good days to call in sick and go fishing.
Not that we’re recommending that – or have ever done that ourselves – but those are good days for it.
After all, while it does smell like archery season outside, there are still a few months left before we will be chasing elk through the woods with sharp sticks.
Collin Scheel is the sports reporter at the Gazette Record.
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