The sun has looked down on the Pacific Northwest and signalled the start of tourist season. Lately, my agenda has also been filled with touring. Too often we forget there are nifty fun places close to where we live and this spring I committed to visiting at least one local tourist destination each week. It’s fun. You should try it in your neighborhood.
Load up the offspring and venture outside!
Every journey reminds me that I live inside a beautiful landscape. People cash in their hard-earned vacation hours just down the road from where I keep house year round. That’s a potent reminder to spend more time away from my desk. Work can wait for a while.
Thousands of visitors rumble by my house every season, trekking up the highway in search of memories. Campgrounds fill with hunters and fisherman, searching out prey for both subsistence and sport. Hikers swarm the trails. Bikers line the winding road as the ribbon of asphalt creeps up to the summit. A new kind of eco-conscious tourist carries knowledge of the history and botany of a region, striding shoulder-to-shoulder next to the thrill-seekers searching out new destinations to parasail, hang-glide, or rappel.
RVs, SUVs, and carloads of college kids pull over on the shoulder for a glimpse of the volcano. They park at haphazard angles and erupt from interiors, smiling and tumbling like eager puppies. Young parents wheel strollers along the Mt. St. Helen’s Visitor Center boardwalk where wooden planks stretch out into the lake estuary. Along the shore, adolescent games of dip and dare result in the occasional splash of a body jettisoning off the bank into water frigid from snowmelt. Screams of laughter and shouts of alarm coincide.
The elevation climbs. Elk meander out from the tree line and cross the road. Traffic slows as startled city folk stare. Beaver drag fresh timber down into feeder streams and restabilize lodges damaged from heavy winter weather. Canadian geese take wing in droves, continuing endless patterns of migration. Spring flowers are just beginning to bloom. Waterfalls cascade at full roaring velocity.
Then there’s the fringe element, the young guys in their recycled army-issue cast-offs and the girls in tattered jeans and perfectly styled hair, all of them armed with digital cameras and reams of paper printed from questionable internet sites. They stop to talk to the locals, to ask questions, to buy fresh eggs and admire local art. Every one of them seethes with hope, anxious to ferret out a clue in their search for the elusive Sasquatch.
Good luck catching Bigfoot with his trousers down.
When was the last time you looked out your front door and saw the neighborhood like a tourist? Can you count how many times you’ve driven past that place and thought about visiting? Go now. Don’t forget to send a postcard.