August's smoky haze, as seen from outside the Seattle Met office.

Magazine making requires living, in a sense, in the future. Our lead time means we’re working on any given issue of the print publication two, three, sometimes four months before the newsstand date.

The issue you hold before you now, for example—the October 2018 issue—was made in August 2018. You may remember August. The month the city of Seattle was choked in wildfire smoke. The month the sun and the moon hung red in the orange sky. The month so many dystopic comparisons were made to Blade Runner 2049 we probably all owe Ryan Gosling royalties.

Such conditions are all the more a pain when your cover story focuses on the great wide Pacific Northwest open (“15 Picture-Perfect Road Trips").

I became keenly aware of this one weekend during production of the issue—and a week before the smoke had reached the city—when three friends and I piled into the car for a semiannual tradition: a few days at Lake Chelan. We spent most of the three-hour drive blissfully unaware of conditions in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, where firefighters had tried to tamp down conflagrations for weeks.

As we inched closer, though, the hazy reality set in. Smoke had moved into the resort town of Chelan like a bad house guest; it spread itself through the streets, unapologetic in its imposition into the lungs of locals and tourists and the gaggles of roving bachelorette parties. It whitened out the scenery, the mountains, the picturesque glacial lake.

But people pressed on. Bridesmaids still taunted brides-to-be with shots of Fireball. Parents kept the family vacation rolling; they sent their kids out into the lake as if it were a water park and not the gray lagoon it had become.

My friends and I pressed on too. We rented a boat. We toured wineries. We joked we were in a dystopian novel. You do that on a road trip. Take the bad, make it your own.

Then, on our last afternoon, a break. A merciful wind swept the clouds away. We almost cried at the sight of blue sky. Later, lying on our backs in the grass, we saw stars, their light beaming to us in the present from years in the past.

Days later the smoke would hit Seattle. But by then I was ready. I coughed but I didn’t despair. The clouds would break. I’d seen the future.

Show Comments