It’s been a difficult few weeks here in Portland. On the afternoon of September 2, a teenage boy tossed a smoking firecracker into Eagle Creek Canyon, igniting a blaze that quickly consumed more than 35,000 acres. As firefighters worked to contain the devastation, Portlanders were left helpless as the Columbia River Gorge went up in flames and ash fell upon the city like a terrible, unwelcome snow.
One of the things I love most about living in Portland is the perpetual, snow-capped backdrop of Mt. Hood, the prominent 11,249-foot volcano that dominates the horizon to the east. Whether I’m crossing the Fremont Bridge or circling the top of Mt. Tabor, a glimpse of the lonely mountain always gives me a bit of a thrill—and not just because it signifies a temporary break in the rain.
From the rocky spires of the Grand Tetons to the craggy shores of Acadia, the United States’ 59 national parks are as diverse as the nation itself. Where Death Valley holds a world record for the highest air temperature ever recorded (134 degrees), the slopes of Mt. Rainier saw an astounding 93.5 feet of snow in the winter of 1971. So what makes Olympic National Park stand out among these millions of acres of natural wonder?
A few weeks ago, The New Yorker scared the living daylights out of those of us lucky enough to reside in the Pacific Northwest. In gripping fashion, writer Kathryn Schulz told of a devastating earthquake and tsunami that are doomed to destroy the coastal communities of Oregon and Washington while wreaking havoc in Portland and Seattle—possibly in the next 50 years.
As we approach one of the most desperately needed long weekends of the year, I’ve been thinking about where I would ideally like to spend Presidents’ Day. It turns out that the answer was right in front of me—or rather, just a few years behind me. After giving recent billing to my adopted home of Portland, Oregon, I turn this week’s focus to my first home, the natural wonderland of Marin County, California.