In 1879, John Muir wrote the following about the “Inside Passage”, a mostly sheltered waterway between Olympia, Washington and Skagway, Alaska:
“Never before this had I been embosomed in scenery so hopelessly beyond description, tracing shining through fjord and sound, past forests and waterfalls, islands and mountains and far azure headlands, it seems as if surely we must at length reach the very paradise of the poets, the abode of the blessed.”
From the earliest histories of the indigenous peoples who inhabited the Northwest environs when oral history was the norm, and the early Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, British, French and American explorers, fur trappers, fishermen, loggers and settlers that followed, the Pacific Northwest has been a vibrant landscape. Western Hemlock, Sitka Spruce, Douglas Fir, Red Cedar, red alder, maple, oak, madrone, dogwood and flowering shrubs of many species adorn the valleys, hills and mountains. Animal life thrives in every niche. Aquatic animals and fish ply the sea, estuaries, rivers and lakes and streams.
Even today. Well sort of. Kinda. At least on the surface, it appears so… Trees for the most part, especially those targeted by the lumber industry are 2nd and 3rd growth children, in terms of their age. Old growth forest, the elders, considered to be the teachers in the room, have been systemically eradicated, alongside their human counterparts that lived amongst them, balancing their needs with the needs of the forest for many millennia. Even so, the forest children are magnificent and resilient. Through their struggles, they persist, and make a valiant effort to maintain the environment within which they survive. And a cautionary note: the First Nations people are rebounding and thriving as well…
Aquarian species are diminished, but are for the most part, still with us.
Yes, a lot has changed in the Northwest and Northern lands since Muir, a farmer, inventor, sheepherder, naturalist, explorer, conservationist… and writer cast his eyes upon the Pacific Northwest and described the visual palate that he observed with his earthly style.
Humankind has altered the landscape in many ways over the past 20,000 years. Yet… in many places and in particular, the further North one travels, the more it seems possible to visualize the world through the lens that John Muir peered and once so eloquently described.
I offer up some visuals to that end: