My Thank-You Note to the Pacific Northwest
I moved to Washington in October and had zero expectations. I joined onto a travel therapy team thinking I was going to be placed in sunny California. I imagined my hair suddenly transforming into beachy waves and my pale, freckly skin becoming tan. The universe had other plans.
Now that I’ve been in Washington 10 months, I already feel that I’m becoming accustomed to the beauty here; that I am maybe not appreciating the Pacific Northwest (PNW) as much as I did when I first arrived with fresh Midwestern eyes. So, I thought (my glass of wine thought) I should recount my first impressions and second impressions while I still can.
What I’ve noticed about Washingtonians…erhm, Washingtoners? Anyway, I’ve noticed they all have this intense pride for their state. I mean don’t get me wrong, growing up in Michigan I would wear my Detroit hats and my ‘Great Lakes Proud’ shirts, but it is a whole different level out here, maybe 10 notches more intense. I find myself jumping on the bandwagon often. Ask my mom; I flew her out here for less than a week and you could see the captivation in her eyes. My friends are also transplants and on our hikes and backpacking trips we always joke that we understand where fairytales and fables came from after hiking in the fog shrouded, moss-laden mountains.
Most of my friends and family back home have yet to experience the PNW (except for my meager iPhone photography that I force upon them). My hope with this delirious Tuesday night writing is that I will inspire some of you to come visit (I have a large couch) and to also assist my family members in understanding why I’ll never come back to the Midwest.
Imagine you wake up to the sound of a river; green-tinted light streaming through your half-shut eyes. You climb out of your tent to see the sun glistening off of the turquoise glacier water rushing past you as a deer stares at you from the other side. You set off for the day in a meadow of wildflowers and grass, a glimpse of the mountain range in front of you. Your muscles scream, your lungs seize as you climb higher and higher. You question your sanity.
Suddenly a vast range of snow-covered mountain peaks come into view and you know you must be hallucinating, because how could something so beautiful be hidden away just 17 miles into a seemingly-normal trail? Sunday hits and you trudge down the mountains back into a dense rainforest where you spot a mother bear and her cubs in the trees. The sound of rushing rivers and waterfalls rings in again as looming trees covered in cloaks of moss emerge on both sides of the trail, elk grazing in the distance
Hoh River Trail – Olympic National Park Photo Credit: My ownI remember my first few hikes in Washington. I would get to the summit or viewpoint and remain in a fervent trance for a solid five minutes before speaking to anyone (until I heard the crisp pop of the victory beers opening). I see it when there are visitors on the trail. They are the ones at the summit standing in the way of everyone else’s Instagram picture, just standing, speechless. I miss that feeling.
Incredible views on large mountains looking at even larger mountains lamentably becomes the norm, and thus losing some of the magic. Instead of flinching when Mount Rainier comes into view, I just twitch a little. Yet, the appreciation of the beauty that surrounds me never dissipates. The mountains are my church, and I can’t wait to don my Sunday best again, and again, and again.
“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn.” John Muir
Check out my other post on North Cascades National Park in Washington > HERE <