O my stars...

After weeks of muted light, thick haze, and skies that are more dead-fish white rather than our normal expansive blue we got some high winds and, for a brief window, clear skies. And just like that, we were suddenly treated to stars.

Last night, just when I was ready to turn in, I stepped out on my back porch to look up at the sky. When I realized how clean and clear the air was, I knew I couldn't sleep. I needed to go to Glacier.

This simple photograph with my camera aimed straight up and sitting on my porch rail for stability is what convinced me that not going to Glacier simply was not an option.

This simple photograph with my camera aimed straight up and sitting on my porch rail for stability is what convinced me that not going to Glacier simply was not an option.

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The light source is my headlights. ;)

The light source is my headlights. ;)

Camas Road leading into Glacier National Park. On the left, you can see the hint of fire in the smoke from the Sprague Fire.

Camas Road leading into Glacier National Park. On the left, you can see the hint of fire in the smoke from the Sprague Fire.

View of the North Fork of the Flathead River from Camas Road on Saturday night, September 9. The reddish light from the Sprague Fire and the smoke it is creating are clearly visible.

View of the North Fork of the Flathead River from Camas Road on Saturday night, September 9. The reddish light from the Sprague Fire and the smoke it is creating are clearly visible.

I have been avoiding Glacier. I suffer from asthma and the more than one million acres that are burning in Montana have made the simple act of breathing more difficult for everyone, but especially for "at risk" people like me. So, to protect my health, I haven't been photographing the fires. But the clear skies over Whitefish were enough to have me thinking, hoping, that maybe tonight, I could go see the park. And besides, I have been missing the stars. I wanted to be out photographing.

"It's like looking through history." At one point in along Camas Road I found I wasn't the only person who had thought the clear skies would be the right time to go to Glacier. I met a young woman from Virginia who has been coming to Montana and to Glacier for three years. From where we were, we were looking out at a mostly clear view of the Sprague Fire because of the devastation from the Roberts Fire. Her comment about looking through history stayed with me.

"It's like looking through history." At one point in along Camas Road I found I wasn't the only person who had thought the clear skies would be the right time to go to Glacier. I met a young woman from Virginia who has been coming to Montana and to Glacier for three years. From where we were, we were looking out at a mostly clear view of the Sprague Fire because of the devastation from the Roberts Fire. Her comment about looking through history stayed with me.

My photos of the Sprague Fire are less dramatic than a lot I've seen. My goal was more to photograph the stars than the fire. But once I was in Glacier, I couldn't not photograph the fire. It's a journalism thing. Journalism is so ingrained in my thinking, that even when I am not working, a part of me is always tuned in to what I am seeing and whether or not it needs to be something that goes in the newspaper. I've been a full-time photojournalist since 2002, some things you just can't escape, even in the off-hours.

Moonrise over Lake McDonald at just before midnight on Saturday, September 9, from Apgar in Glacier National Park.

Moonrise over Lake McDonald at just before midnight on Saturday, September 9, from Apgar in Glacier National Park.

It made my heart lighter to finally have stars. I am hoping and praying for rain and an end to this year's fire season. This has been the heaviest smoke in my eight years in Montana. But the same high winds that brought us these clear skies, may also bring us more fire and then more smoke. But for one night, I'll take the blessing of stars and I'll count my blessings just to have seen them.

A parting shot of the moon and the stars over the Middle Fork of the Flathead River near the entrance to West Glacier.

A parting shot of the moon and the stars over the Middle Fork of the Flathead River near the entrance to West Glacier.