Cutting inland along Hwy 401 in Washington, reconnecting with Hwy 101 20+ miles later, I was pleasantly surprised with the roads. Wide and flat for the most part, a very nice drive.
How the environment knows it's a different state I may never know, but I do know it looks quite different in this one. There is significantly more undergrowth, at least in this part of southwest Washington, and much of it is dry. Yellow grasses, low rivers, muddy creek beds. It's like the drought skipped over Oregon impacting her neighbors much more severely.
We were warned of the devastation of the forests in Washington, and it wasn't long before large gaps came into view. There were logging trucks along most of our route, and acres of cleared land.
By cleared I don't mean smoothed over. More like large broken stumps, ripped open earth, broken branches in large piles. It was a shock after the untouched beauty of Oregon and most of northern California.
|A small corner of an area just being cleared, horrible to watch|
|Thick new growth forest|
In some places you could still see the old stumps, gray and cracked among the new growth, watching a new generation take their place. It will still take many, many years to restore.
|Very small trees, flowers and bees surround old stumps|
We are 90 miles inside Washington and signs of the logging wars are prevalent. Handmade signs equating logging with jobs and saving families. Handmade signs advocating for the Wild Olympics to save the forest. Corporate signs reminding everyone of the acres of timber blown down by Mt St Helens, and the clean-up job the lumber companies continue to do. Environmental impact meeting notices, billboards calling for protection of the forests. Logging is saving you, logging is killing you.
There are also signs of an economy in serious decline in the towns of Aberdeen and Hoaquim. Boarded up buildings, homes falling off their foundations, everything needing a coat of paint and a lawn mower. Whether logging is causing it or the only thing holding it at bay, the small towns we visited in Grays Harbor County are fighting for their lives.
|Once grand hotels have little left but brick facades and large signs in Aberdeen|
|Stately architecture deteriorates while Timber Bank keeps time|
For a tree-hugging hippy from California it hurts my heart to see the devastation. For an advocate for working families it hurts to see entire communities struggling to make it.
I have no answers, I know almost none of the facts. My opinions are based on emotions and gut feelings and what little I can see on the surface. I want the trees to remain. I want the people to survive.
I do know that seeing those new growth areas thick with trees gives me hope. The expanded habitat for bees and other small critters gives me hope. The Seahawks flags give me hope. The flower baskets give me hope. Even the passion of the fight gives me hope.
On a brighter note, the small, rural roads reveal nice farms with huge barns - old and new - and pretty little houses. The small town of Montesano has a nice downtown and streets of well-maintained Victorian homes. The City Hall is an amazing century-old stone building complete with clock tower.
We're staying in a lovely, small state park 10 miles off Hwy 12 until Thursday. Quiet among the trees with the Satsop river a few yards away, Schafer State Park is a sweet spot for our first stop in a new state. One that has already given me something besides beauty to see, and think about, on this journey.