The first stop in Washington was Mount St. Helens. It's been a place I've wanted to visit ever since I was a kid and I heard that there was this volcanic explosion that took away half a mountain. Explosions like that seemed so prehistoric. This park is spectacular despite suffering such catastrophic destruction only thirty years ago. The amount of life and growth surprised me. Many dead trees are laid out exactly as they fell in directions pointing away from the blast. Spirit lake is so inundated with logs that one entire section is completely covered in a floating, dead log matte. The areas that were once forests are now covered in wildflowers and small brush but it's coming back.
Just like so many other areas in the Northwest, the loggers made their marks here as well. After the blast they removed about a billion board feet of timber. In layman's terms that's roughly about a "shitload." I was surprised to see this same situation happening in Yosemite. After the Rim Fire, acres upon acres have been logged and new logging roads have been created with little supervision. Again there's a big battle between environmentalist and logging companies with both sides spewing so much false propaganda that it's hard to conclude who is right. A friend made an interesting metaphor saying how it doesn't make sense for a system that just went through the severe shock of a forest fire to then go through the severe shock of logging immediately afterwards. But what do I know? I just picked up some charcoal and will eventually do a drawing of the forest using the forest as the medium.
After spending a few days in such an isolated area, I could hear the city calling. The mountains give the inspiration to create and cities give me the motivation. Seattle was a short drive away and it made me appreciate the easy access to nature that so many westcoast cities have. I felt an instant attraction to the Seattle area. Unfortunately I don't have an exact reason why. When I visit cities I just walk around and see how I feel. I talk with people, wander down streets, and just get lost for a bit. Then at the end of the day I'll have a better idea of how I feel about a place. With Seattle, I didn't need the whole day to decide how I felt. It was good from the start.
The first stop were the art museums and I was thoroughly satisfied. Olympic Sculpture Park was nice because it was outside and worked into some green, park like surroundings. Art needs to be put in more places where people go. Museums are fine for those looking for art, but art makes people think so it needs to be put in unexpected places. Humans are too complacent with ideas and current forms of structure and art can help challenge those preconceived ideas. One thing I wasn't a big fan of was the Chiuli museum. I'll give it a big 'meh.' I know his work is technically advanced, I know it's expensive and time consuming, its just that I don't care. His work bores me. The museum was small, the work lifeless and now I know.
Outside of Seattle lies the amazing Mount Rainier. This is one bad ass mountain. It's massive and beautiful. The forests surrounding it are lush. The rivers, full and alive. Mount Rainier is also on the Decade Volcano list. That's a list of volcanos that are worthy of study because they have a history of destructive eruptions and they are close to largely populated areas. Mount Rainier has had a mudflow a few thousand years ago that produced a lahar (wall of mud) over 460' high. That'll do some serious damage down river. Many communities are built right on top of lahars of the past. I think I'd prefer earthquakes to mudslides on most days.
The clouds are tricky in this area. I stayed for a few days under cloudy skies hoping to get a glimpse of the top of the mountain, but had no luck. So I decided to head eastward. Once down out of the forests and about an hour into the eastern deserts, I looked in my rearview mirror and saw Rainier's white summit standing out stark against the blue sky. I figured it would be best to turn around and just head back. I'm glad I did. The top of that place is just as cool as the bottom.
After some sunny time around there, it was time to head eastward to Wyoming but first a quick little pitstop to check out the a new area. Palouse is just a bunch of smooth rolling hills, and acres of farmlands with tractors creating beautifully simple patterns over the landscape. I hit this after the crops were harvested but it's probably worthy of another visit earlier in the year.
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