We woke up early, dressed, picked up our rental car (which we got upgraded to a Prius), and started down I-5 toward Portland. Almost immediately, we noticed how verdant the landscape was, from vines growing from overpasses in downtown Seattle, to moss on cut logs on the back of a lumber truck.
In January, my cousin Kathrin visited Chicago. She is looking to move on from our native Michigan, and while Chicago is on her list of potentially livable cities, so are Seattle and Portland. Kathrin suggested that Sean and I travel with her to both cities at the end of April. She and Sean had been to Seattle, but not Portland. I had never been farther north on the West Coast than Napa Valley. Sean and I were game for the trip, and soon we had our dates set.
I’m about half way through the revised edition of Tim McNulty’s Olympic National Park, A Natural History.
It was an Easter gift from Sean, along with the new seventh edition of the National Geographic Guide to the National Parks of the United States, both of which I’d asked for. What I hadn’t asked for, but which is intriguing, was the National Geographic Guide to the National Parks of Canada. A whole other world…literally.
The title of this blog is an adaptation of Theodore Roosevelt’s words upon seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time:
Leave it as it is. You can not improve on it. The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it. What you can do is to keep it for your children, your children’s children, and for all who come after you, as one of the great sights which every American if he can travel at all should see.
Roosevelt was talking about a great natural site before it would be protected. Already there were mining designs on sections of the canyon. Parts of it were no longer pristine wilderness, and they aren’t now, nor will be. Now, as then, there are parts of the park designated wilderness and others for heavy tourist use.
I have no illusion that the parks as my traveling companions and I will experience them are truly pristine (save for perhaps the remotest of the Alaska parks), but they are somewhere on a continuum between civilization and wilderness.
We’re rethinking Mount Rainier. While it is the most accessible, in some ways, during our trip to Portland and Seattle next month, it is also the least accessible in others. I had been prepared for there to still be a lot of snow on the ground, and that we’d essentially be driving into the park up to where the road is closed at Paradise to look at the scenery, etc. In my mind, I’d likened it to the trips to Park City we’d taken when I was younger. Snow? Mountains? No problem.
In digging further, though, apparently all vehicles entering the park are required to carry tire chains until May 1, a big problem with a rental car. The more I’ve thought about it, the more I think that it would be going to the park at about the least optimal time of year just to say we’d done it. Advice from a friend in Seattle had some impact on this thinking.
So, we’re going to a different park, which I think will be much more rewarding, and which won’t alter our larger travel plans at all: