Checking Out the Local Tourist Scene

That’s Mt. St. Helens there in the background.

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.

The Silver Lake Visitor Center

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.

The boardwalk at the visitor center.

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. 

Elk people-watching.

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.


  1. #1 by Cathie Dunn on May 14, 2012 - 6:35 am

    What a wonderful post! You’ve painted a wonderful picture. I particularly like the people-watching elk. 😉

    My ‘home office’ overlooks horse stables and a range of hills behind. I love getting out there to explore. It’s also relaxing to watch the horses. Such lovely animals.

    Thanks for sharing.

    • #2 by Leslie on May 15, 2012 - 9:33 am

      Thanks for reading, Cathie! The elk are very entertaining. I think they spend almost as much time watching people, as we do eyeing them. Your home office sounds like it has a lovely view. It’s hard to beat the sight of horses in a rich landscape, they’re such lovely animals to watch. I’ve driven past a ranch in AZ several times that borders the highway and there’s a gorgeous huge herd of horses that gallop along with the traffic. Just wonderful to see. 😉

  2. #3 by Debra Kristi on May 14, 2012 - 12:11 pm

    I love the way you look at life Lesann. We really should get out and explore our own backyards much more often. I keep saying I am going to do that and then I fall off that wagon. Thanks for the reminder. I needed it, yet again. 🙂 I went to the Mt. St. Helen’s Visitor Center many years ago. Unfortunately it was a foggy day. I didn’t see as much as I would have liked.

    • #4 by Leslie on May 15, 2012 - 9:36 am

      Hi Debra! There’s so much good stuff right in the backyard but it’s so easy to push it off on the backburner. I do it too, thus the determination to visit new places. We’re good at doing that when someone comes to visit, entertaining and all, but when it’s just the regular crew we forget. I hope you find some gems hidden in your neighborhood. The fog and clouds often obscure the mountain. It’s a pretty sight on a clear day, especially when there’s snow on top. You should visit again, we’ll do the whole tour!

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