The Pacific Northwest, from Oregon to British Columbia, is often presented as an especially alluring part of North America. It has some incredible natural beauty. One of my favorite places in the world is Mt. Rainier National Park, especially the Sunrise area on the northeast side--where I spent the summer of 1964 working for the U.S. Park Service. Unforgettable. And it also has some superb man-made structures and cities. Finally, it has near perfect summer weather, lots of sun and rarely miserably hot and muggy. My seven visits there were filled with joyful times.
However....after initially considering living there, I discovered two intolerable aspects of the Northwest. First, more than half the year has nearly constant mist, rain, or fog. Second, maybe it's just me, but I prefer the leaf colors and textures of deciduous trees significantly more than conifers, which (again, for me) lack the vibrancy of the trees of home. I'd miss them too much to ever live in the Northwest. So, I'll just continue to visit every now and then. I recently went to Portland to attend the convention of the North American Japanese Gardening Association, where I presented a lecture on moss gardening in Japan.
Millions of years of pounding ocean waves along the Pacific coast created thousands of jagged, interesting, and beautiful rock formations. Driving US Highway 101 allows viewing of many of them.
The Cascade Mountains parallel the Pacific coast, and they are about 50-70 miles inland. The mountains were formed by volcanic activity quite late in geologic time. Several volcanos are active, most famously Mt. St. Helens, which erupted in 1980. Crater Lake, 1950 feet deep, is a water-filled volcanic crater, which was formed 7700 years ago when Mt. Mazama erupted.
Washington is called The Evergreen State. However, more than half of the state is in the rain shadow of the Cascades, so it gets relatively little rain, leading to not-evergreen scenes. The Cascades have the memorable volcanic peaks of Mt. Rainier, Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Adams, Mt. Baker, and Mt. Shuksan, the last two near the Canadian border. I could see all of them while manning my fire lookout tower when I worked at Mt. Rainier National Park the summer of 1964. I made a successful ascent of the 14,410 foot Mt. Rainier in 1973. I was fortunate to climb along with Sherpa Nawang Gombu, at the time the only man to summit Mt. Everest twice. He put me to shame.
Vancouver, British Columbia
Vancouver is less than an hour from the U.S.-Canada border. It is in a beautiful setting, with water and hills galore. I went there mainly to see Nitobe Memorial Garden, the fourth ranked Japanese garden in North America. I was impressed, especially with their extensive moss gardens.
I never tire of visiting the Pacific Northwest. If you haven't seen it, try to do so, as I am sure you will find it quite satisfying.
Come along with me
I am now entering my foreign travel season, lasting until April. So far, I arranged trips to New Zealand in November, Ethiopia in December, Mexico in January (no resorts), and four islands in the Atlantic and Caribbean (Bahamas, Virgin Islands, Jamaica, and Trinidad/Tobago) in February. In March I might be going to northern South America, then to the Galapagos Islands. Finally, April might see me in Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan. I feel sorry for the airlines, as they have so many seats to fill, so I am obligated to help them.