When we entered Montana last weekend, it didn't take long before we noticed the smell of smoke. Somewhere between Hamilton and Florence, the sky darkened with it and white ash floated in the air around us. The fires haven't stopped.
Western Montana is on fire. At dinner last night, we looked through the Great Falls Tribune someone had left behind, and it said there were twelve separate fires burning. July had record-breaking high temperatures, and there hasn't been rain in a while. Signs along the road declare the fire danger is Extreme.
In Garnet and in Moiese, the panoramic views were hazed over by the smoke that clung to the mountains. And in some places we could see the billowing of smoke rising from behind the hills. This was taken from inside the Bison Range.
On our way back home, we turned north at Clearwater Junction (easily identified by the giant plastic Hereford in front of the gas station).
The smell got stronger as the smoke from a fire moved in from the southeast to cover half the sky. Up the road, closer to Seeley Lake, another fire, which wasn't there this morning, was pouring up smoke from just over the hills, and it covered the sun.
Back at the pastor's house, his wife said the new fire was by Jocko Lake, one of the lakes nearby.
The fires haven't been in our way yet, though I suppose they could be sometime. We'll be heading for Yellowstone in the morning, and then we'll come back up to Missoula and Kalispell and visit Glacier before my mom's high school reunion. We'll see what we can and hope for the best.
In the meantime, there have to be an awful lot of firefighters up here who need our prayers.