Olympic Peninsula, pt. 1

I like to think I am part of a growing class of men and women, people looking at the land they loved and seeing it trampled under the facade of progress. As Ed Abbey said so poignantly in 1968, Growth for the sake of growth is a cancerous madness. We see this every day as Wal*Mart build a new super store a quarter mile from the old less than super store, leaving the old one to moulder and poison the land around it.

On a recent occasion I was able to go for a long drive. I started out on the north side of Seattle and ended somewhere deep in the olympic peninsula. Seattle is like any other town, big and sprawly and ugly. Nothing romantic is to be found in a place where no deer or bear walk.

I-5 is the freeway that runs from between Seattle and Tacoma to Olympia. The two hours I spent on that ribbon of impenetrable blacktop was one of complete urban sprawl. Each exit ramp was a series of the same signs trying to sell me inedible food, electronic equipment and gasoline. If I want to go to Best Buy in Washington or Florida, it’s the same damned store. Probably the same floor plan too. How many Taco Times and KFCs do you people need? Greasy tasteless food for greasy tasteless people.

Finally after exiting Olympia I found some peace. Trees surrounded the gently twisting road as it shot west, the direction of promise. For a few hundred years the call of west was one of promise and hope, and it seemed that way for a glimpse of our trip. My companion Paul was sitting shotgun in the dilapidated jeep, drinking juice and making vulgar jokes. As we moved towards what is often called the wildest place in america we found a farce. The wall of jack pine and douglas fir broke and we saw mile after mile of stumps.

Dozer tracks covered the land, pushing the scrap into slash piles, ready to be burned. A few lone trees stood in the middle of the cut, their slender bodies towering above the mechanics of man. They stood nearly two hundred feet tall, massive totems to the longevity of nature. I know we need to cut trees for paper, that the desk I type on is made from somebody's beloved tree, that each time I build a fire it adds to the deforestation of my backyard. The brutal face of timber companies isn’t foreign, so I simply press the accelerator and move on. I don’t want to see it.

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