I noticed it first from the air, as we landed in Seattle—
Washington is a state of trees.
Towering evergreens densely packed into the mountains of the Olympic Peninsula, such a spectacular greeting for one from the land of cornfields and soybeans. Western Hemlock and Sitka Spruce, Douglas Fir and Western Red Cedar. Covering every slope, extending to the ocean shore, dressed in the richness of thickly needled dark branches and wearing the aroma of the north woods.
And immediately I saw what I had known would be a part of it, though bigger and bolder than I had imagined.
The logging operations here are quite apparent.
Broad signs note the dates of cut, replanting and harvest. And family plantations which have evolved since the 1880s carefully and proudly manage the forest.
From the abrupt emptiness at harvest, wildflowers fill the open spaces, the pinkish-red fireweed moving in to fill the first sunny spots.
Within a year or 2, the huge piles of brush are removed and small seedlings planted near the fading stumps of the last felled trees.
In 60 years, the loggers will return--for this next generation of timber.
The largest old-growth forest in the Pacific Northwest is protected within Olympic National Park. It was set aside in 1938 as the declining numbers of the 200-1000 year old trees concerned the local citizens and U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt.
Here, the logging trucks are absent and the ancient trees stand over 200 feet tall. The woods are quiet and dark. And small black Douglas squirrels chatter overhead while scattering the remnants of nibbled cones onto the mossy carpet.
My brain understands the logging operations on the slopes of the mountains in the forest.
How a harvest of trees is not unlike a harvest of corn, in the field behind my home.
So, why do I gasp as I look upon the expanse, long rods stacked neatly for loading?
Or that I have walked beneath massive branches upon a mossy carpet.