Traveling across British Columbia, and now through Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, I’ve been thinking a lot about that old (1970?) Joni Mitchell song, Big Yellow Taxi. (You younger people can google it) The lines that keep popping into my mind:
They took all the trees
Put ’em in a tree museum
And they charged the people
A dollar and a half just to see ’em.
Logging today is a huge business. We have encountered more log-filled trucks than we could count. They barrel down the roads 24/7 dropping their loads and heading back into the hills for more. Logs are floated down the waterways, they are processed in innumerable mills and the processed lumber is loaded on the railcars that parallel the roads we travel. Behind them they leave gaping, treeless holes in the landscape. Brown scars stain the sides of the mountains. Grey stumps and piles of unwanted dead branches and limbs are all that remain of the forests that have been harvested.
I understand sustainable forestry. As long as we build houses, buy furniture or use paper products we need a continuous supply of lumber. At least now they replant what has been cut down, as these resources are better “managed.” Signage along the road keeps you informed of how well this is done. “First cut 1934, Second harvest 1984, Replanted 1986, Next scheduled harvest 2036.” I guess that means the life cycle of a forest is about 50 years. What this process gives you though is a sterile landscape of similar trees is different stages of growth. Some sections 40 years old, some 15 or 10, some just newly planted. You can tell the age by the color or the trees. The younger they are the lighter the color green, but they all look the same. Which brings me back to Joni Mitchell.
Thank goodness for our national parks and forests. Places like Olympic National Park are our “tree museums.” Here you can wander for hours in a true old growth environment and get a sense of what this whole country used to be like. (Of course, now, unless you have a senior pass, it costs $15 just to see ’em. Inflation, I guess.) Pines, Douglas firs, cedars, moss-covered and rich in their earthy scent, unchanged for centuries. I will gladly pay whatever tax dollars are necessary to preserve sites such as these for our future generations. Like Joni said, ” You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.”
Olympic National Park also extends to the coastline. This is one of the reasons we planned this trip. Having grown up in the east, we wanted to see the pacific coast and at first glance we have not been disappointed. Yes, it was overcast and cool, but what a treat to be back along the ocean shore. The salt air, the squawking gulls, the rhythmic sound of the surf. The pacific coast has the added bonus of the rock formations and haystacks and piles of driftwood and logs that you don’t see on the east coast. We can’t wait to see more.