Friday, April 3, 2015

The Changing Pacific Northwest: Staying Off the Beaten Path

For those of us who grew up and have lived most (or all) of our lives here in the Pacific Northwest, the tremendous influx of people moving to the region has changed how we live and travel. 

That strenuous hike with spectacular views within an hour of Portland or Seattle? Forget about going on a weekend if you treasure a quiet time in nature, especially during the warmer, drier months. Or go well before sunrise with your headlamp. 

Or that cozy little neighborhood bakery in Portland/Seattle that serves the most buttery, melt-in-your-mouth scones you've ever tasted? Don't consider stopping there on a weekend morning, and be prepared to stand in line before they open, sometimes even on a week day. (We restless Northwesterners generally loathe waiting in line for more than a couple minutes.)

The annual tulip festival in the Skagit Delta or the Sequim Lavender Festival on the Olympic Peninsula are jammed on weekends.  I sat for almost 30 minutes last year at a dead stop next to a tulip field as the two-lane local roads were clogged like hardened arteries. (Bicycling is the best way to go here, but so many cars make it trickier.)

It's a double-edged sword, the mushrooming growth of the region's population.  We have better restaurants and a more vibrant food scene, transplants have brought fresh vitality to the arts, and more.  But those crowds on the trail!  The lines at favorite eateries, coffee shops, bakeries, and such!

So we adjust.

Blessed with a relatively flexible schedule (sometimes), these days I tend to either go hiking on weekdays (still plenty of people on the popular trails), as early as possible, or on rainy days. There's a reason we all have good rain gear.

The best time to hit Seattle's Pike Place Market? Tuesday morning on a chilly wet mid or late January day (or some variation). Okay, I jest a bit, but it's not too far off.

But still.  Just this week we waited in line over 20 minutes on a Wednesday afternoon for one of those famous ice cream cones at a popular farm stand. (However, there was no line for their incredible fresh seafood counter.)

While I don't want to go all Ron Judd here because I value the infusion of energy that émigrés have brought to the region, sometimes it's better not to openly reveal favorite places.  

So because everyone enjoys nice pictures, I'm sharing a few of places I love around here but not dropping place names. Some, like the photo at the top of this post, are on private property; some can only be accessed via private property; and some are well-known and popular.

Do you recognize any of these locations or where the shots were taken? I've got Oregon, Washington, and east of the Cascades represented.

On the plus side, I'd like to think that more people out enjoying our precious outdoors here in the Northwest will be moved to donate time and/or money to help protect the land. Some worthy Northwest organizations include the San Juan Preservation Trust, Washington's National Parks Fund, Conservation Northwest, and Friends of the Columbia Gorge.

So how do you negotiate getting outside, around town, to your favorite museum, hike, or such? Have you changed the way your get out and about?
Jump in with a comment below.

Happy trails and thanks for visiting Pacific Northwest Seasons!


Dave Wenning said...

Here, here! This weekend brings the conjunction of Easter, the Tulip Festival and a Canadian holiday. Expect total gridlock in Skagit County. It's the "sassenachs" who believe they can behave/drive/park any way and anywhere they wish in someone else's neighborhood who ruin it for everyone else. (Am I sounding too much like that Judd guy?) Anyway, I'll be staying close to home this weekend.

jill said...

Hey Dave! I feel for you this weekend. Loved your blog post about spring early arrivals. I must confess I am not familiar with the terms sassenachs, although my smartphone spellchecker knows it, so I have to look it up. I do.feel like Mr. Judd sometimes too!

Rabbits' Guy said...

Thanks for nuthin. Why did ya haf to go and mention the Snow Goose? Tell them it burned down or something.

We live north of SR 20 between Mt Vernon and Anacortes. We STAY north of SR 20 this month!

I did not see pines or trees from the east side of the mountains.

jill said...

Hey Rabbits' Guy, sorry but the word is out on S.G. (and you mentioned it yourself :). Too late to keep people away. And when I groused about the long lines and crowds to the owner, he said he didn't mind because, well, he makes a lot of money off those ice cream cones! So I figure it's a lost cause and I'm perhaps sending more people his way. Or maybe people will stay away because of the long line I mention.

Anyhow, the second photo down does have pine trees, etc. and is a shot from the eastern side of the Cascade Crest.

JoJo said...

Pretty sure I recognized the view from Mt. Erie in Anacortes? I lived up there for 12 years and I never went to the Skagit Tulip Fest or Sequim Lavendar fest b/c I just did not want to deal w/ the traffic. I am kicking myself now for never going to see so much up there but honestly the traffic and crowds was a huge turn off.

jill said...

Hey JoJo, not far off with the Mt. Erie guess; it's in the San Juans but from Orcas. Yes, in some ways popular festivals and such are becoming victims of their own success. Actually this happens all over the world, really.

Anonymous said...

Yes, this is really concerning me too. Read an article about the the extended drought in Cal and how people are moving northward.

Anonymous said...

I hear you on this and I've lived here only since '96. It used to be that you could go just beyond the 1-hr drive distance for a quiet hike - as in 1 hr 5 or 10 min - and have peace and quiet. Now I'm not sure that driving :90 to a trailhead would get peace and quiet.

I also see very different people on the trails who are utterly unprepared. Newcomers are often out hiking on snow with street shoes on (ladies, lose the pumps!), no water, no snacks, no rain gear, of course no map, multiple very young kids dressed completely inappropriately, no hats in the sun, no first aid kit, I could go on.

I feel like it makes the trails more dangerous in a way because these folks are more likely to have a problem of some sort that I"m going to help out with. I've always stopped to help fellow hikers and skiers in need but there are... just... so...many....more....unprepared...people!

Great post.

Anonymous said...

Not sour grapes; an accurate reflection of our reality. It's been years since I hiked Mt. Si, for example, and I was horrified when my father-in-law, who lives close to the trailhead, told us about the composting toilets that were installed at the summit, at huge expense, only to be so heavily vandalized a short while later, that they had to be removed, all at considerable cost, of course. He now refers to Mt. Si as the Eastside's Green Lake - and rarely visits. He's also concerned that better access to the trail head is going to do the same thing for Mailbox Peak, one of his local favorites, but it used to be difficult to get to - not anymore.

We share your sentiment, and also try to plan accordingly to avoid crowds and find the solace and solitude that for us are part of what restores our spirits!

jill said...

Excellent and thoughtful points above! Yea, think Mailbox Peak is on its way to being the next Mt. Si, see it all over Instagram and such.

Anonymous said...

Good read, I think about the same stuff myself sometimes! It’s a real catch -22 in my eyes.

Anonymous said...

Wow, yes its not so fun any more. When I was hiking with my grandparents we would go to mountain lakes, be the only people there. Catch cold-water trout, fry them in cornmeal over a wood fire in a cast-iron skillet - an hour from being pulled from the lake for dinner. That's gone, as is picking a big basket of morel mushrooms on a afternoon hike in the woods near the farm. Last seen at the Ballard market at $50.00 a pound. Yup, more of us, few free eats. Mary Lou