The National Park Service turns 100 on August 25, 2016. Thanks
to John Muir and other naturalist, who had the foresight to preserve thousands
of acres of virgin lands for future generations, even in the face of advancing
commercialization, relentless industrialization and encroaching settlements, we
all have the opportunity to visit these sites a hundred years later. It was a
Seniors are especially fortunate, since we qualify for a $10
lifetime pass that allows us entrance to any of the 408 National Parks in the county
and many of the Federal Recreation Lands and Monuments, as well. Often, when we speak of National Parks, we
think of the breathtaking Grand Canyon or geyser-filled Yellowstone Park. I have been to both and know they are well
worth visiting. However, last month, my
husband and I decided to explore some of our Pacific Northwest parks and forests.
I can now tell you that no matter how many pictures you see,
you cannot sense the true grandeur of the Northwest forests without looking up at
those enormously tall pines, nor can you fully appreciate a horizon pointed
with snow-capped (yes, even in July) mountains without sensing an almost
spiritual wonderment. In the farthest corner of Washington state’s peninsula is
Olympic National Park, a UNESCO biosphere reserve and World Heritage Site. Here, in addition to Mt. Olympus, which rises
nearly 8,000 feet, we discovered the crystal clear, turquoise water of Crescent
Lake and visited the county’s only rain forests. Old-growth trees dripping with
moss tower above fern-covered forest floors in the Hoh and Quinault Rainforests.
A short hike felt like we were stepping back into a primeval place. We also used
our passes at Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. Observation points
along Spirit Lake Highway offered incredible views of the
crater and the mountain that lost 1,314 feet and 234 square miles of forest
land in the 1980 eruption. Several short, informative films at the Johnston
Ridge Visitor Center explain the geology behind the event and the natural
recovery in progress. We learned, for example, that beautiful lupines were
among the first plants to resurface on the barren landscape.
Another volcanic crater forms the focus of Crater Lake
National Park in Oregon. However, this one was formed 7,700 years ago when Mt.
Mazama erupted. It is one of the world’s deepest lakes at 1,932 ft. As an artist, who embraces color variations, I
was amazed at the brilliant blue water in the early evening and the vivid violets
of sunset. The 33-mile rim drive will astound you at every turn. Likewise, the
Lodge, built in 1919, offers magnificent views of the caldera and surrounding mountain.
In addition, while the lodge has no TV or air conditioning, it did set the mood
with its large stone fireplaces, bark covered walls, Pondarosa Pine ceiling
supports and elegantly rustic dining room.
If you do visit this region be sure to also stop at National
Forests and Scenic Areas such as the Columbia River Gorge, a 60-mile long
canyon between Washington and Oregon that cuts through the Cascade Mountain
range. It is punctuated with waterfalls, including Multnomah Falls, the
country’s second highest. Just below Oregon’s southern boarder, near Crescent
City, California you enter the Redwood National Park, another World Heritage
site, with 2,000 year old Coast Redwood trees that can reach 380 feet and 3,000
year old Sequoias, with diameters up to 40 feet. Created in 1968, to protect nearly 40,000
acres of these ancient woodlands from logging and commercial development, the
area encircles three state parks, which are jointly managed. We hiked the
easily traversed Stout Grove trail in Jedediah Smith Park where the warm smell
of the forest and the tangible quiet belies any photographic image, even the
hundreds of digital pictures my husband managed to acquire on this trip. (Click the photography button at the left.)
Below are recent paintings inspired by this trip. Crater Lake and Redwood Forest.