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.
On the morning of January 11, I woke to find Portland buried beneath more than a foot of snow. As skiers rejoiced, schools shuttered, and Portlanders collectively expressed their surprise, I pulled on my boots to mark this unusual occasion with a walk through Washington Park. The snow was knee-deep, the firs shrouded in winter white, and the creaking of heavy branches the only sound to be heard.
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.
In 1967, Governor Tom McCall signed the Oregon Beach Bill into law, guaranteeing Oregonians public access to every beach along the state’s 362-mile coastline. Fast forward a few decades to find a state that manages 69 state parks, recreation sites, natural areas, and scenic viewpoints on its coast—an average of one state park for every five miles of ocean shoreline.