Our last hitch of the season started out just like any other. Austin, Levi, and I returned to the William O. Douglas Wilderness to complete our surveys of the area. After hiking in 11 miles from Bumping Lake, we set up base camp at Twin Sisters Lakes and set out to explore the vast web of hunting trails which compose the wilderness. A hike up Tumac Mountain rewarded us with views of both Mount Rainier and Mount Adams. We returned to the bunkhouse after the four-day outing, unaware of what had been happening during that time.
Another team, comprised of Susin, Caitlin, and Jesse, set out into Alpine Lakes wilderness to survey the area near Paddy-Go-Easy Pass. On the night of the third day, however, the team was contacted by dispatch and informed that the wilderness was being evacuated. Several lightning storms had moved through, igniting over 100 forest fires in the Eastern Cascades. Both teams reconvened at the Lake Wenatchee bunkhouses the next day, wondering what was in store for the last five days of our service.
With the woods unsafe to enter and an enormous smoke cloud obscuring the nearby mountains, we set to work at the Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery, helping to prepare for the Salmon Festival, an annual event geared toward educating elementary school students about the spawning process, as well as the negative impact that humans have made in regards to populations of fish. Apart from the feeling of the doing something good for the community, our time at the fish hatchery was rewarding on a whole different level. We were given a tour of the facilities and met many of the workers, and the chance to learn about the importance and inner workings of our fish hatcheries made a real impression on the team.
In other news, Levi, Austin, and I will be staying on for one extra hitch, and we can't wait to get back out in the woods! Hopefully the wilderness firefighters are able to make some real progress by then, so we can get out there and explore before winter arrives.