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regarding winter in the pacific northwest

Begin partial rant?

 

I admit that I love winter here in the Pacific Northwest. And honestly, it boggles my mind when people constantly (or even occasionally) complain about it... at work, at the store, on Flickr. The haters are everywhere, grumbling about the lack of sun, the rain, the cold.

 

Really? I mean, I guess I have a different perspective on winter in the PNW, since I didn't grow up here. I grew up in Iowa, and our winters featured many days where the temperature dropped below zero. We had many snow storms, but even more often biting wind, wind that tore at your face like a shrieking beast. Weather could absolutely be an enemy at times. To top it off, there was no where to go hiking... not even any decent hills for skiing or outdoor activities. And because I lived on a farm, we spent our outdoor time working... shoveling snow over and over out of hog pens, swathed in Carhartt coveralls and face masks, warming our hands under heat lamps in the barn. It was one of the things that made me decide not to continue living in Iowa.

 

Then there were four years in Massachusetts, while I was in veterinary school. The snow there was so very grand... big, fluffy flakes, less wind than Iowa, and people who loved their outdoor activities in the winter. It was still wickedly cold though, and snow gets old after about two storms... at least, in town, where it turns brown and mushy and becomes a nuisance. Still, Massachusetts was an improvement over Iowa.

 

Now I'm in Oregon. These winters are not only easier than in other places, but they're downright invigorating at times. It's green here, year round, and we have the rain to thank for that. We Oregonians (those of us on this side of the state, anyway) don't have to deal with dead grass, brown forests, or a dormant landscape. Our landscapes are almost as alive and vibrant here in the winter as they are in the summer. Some places - Forest Park, the Olympic Peninsula, etc., - are definitely more alive in the winter. If you haven't been to those places in the heart of winter, then you seriously need to get out there and see what I'm talking about. The air is so fresh, the forests are so verdant, and it's so very peaceful, when compared to the summer. That's because half of Oregon's population is inside, lamenting the rainy season. Oh, and the waterfalls! Winter completely transforms them into loud, thundering versions of their former selves.

 

And don't get me started on the coast during this season... those winter storms are ferociously amazing, and will definitely leave you reeling (in a good way). The beach is another place that is best in winter, because it's practically vacant in places.

 

And camping, in the winter? Yeah, it's a little wet, but you can still do it. No one in their right mind would camp in Iowa in the winter (not that we have many places to camp there). On top of that, even if campsites are closed (and many are not), you can still pitch a tent just inside the gate and not be bothered. I talked to a Mt. Hood Ranger once who said they didn't really care if you park at the gate and camped in the winter, so long as you picked up after yourself. And if that's not appealing, Oregon's also got a number of camping sites with yurts. Who doesn't love a yurt?

 

It's not ideal, sure. The damp cold can work its way into your bones more easily than a dry cold. My own hands are shockingly cold from about October through April, and the lack of daylight can quickly zap my energy. But then I think about how green things are, and how much hiking I can still do, and the fact that flowers will start to bloom in late February at times (a full month or two earlier than Iowa)... and I'm fine.

 

Don't get me wrong... we do have a lot of tough, outdoorsy people here. Most of my friends won't hesitate to sling on a rain jacket, grab a camera and find a trail in the winter time. But if any of you find yourself with the winter "blahs" this season, try at least a few times to bundle yourself up and hit the trail, or the coast, with a camera. There are lush, magical worlds out there to be discovered and photographed.

 

Speaking of lush, magical worlds... this image was made along the trail to Neahkahnie Mountain. What an incredible forest that was.

 

(/end rant.)

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Taken on November 30, 2011