Monday, November 08, 2010

Solitude and Serenity flow from the Kettles

In a state bursting with so much spectacular alpine scenery, it would seem hard to pinpoint my absolute favorite area. And it is. I have hiked Washington State quite thoroughly in the past two decades. From the soggy saturated Olympic Coast to the sun-kissed canyon country of the Blue Mountains—and everything in between. I love the teeming with wildlife Olympic Mountains; the icy cloud piercing jagged crags of the North Cascades; the sprawling flower carpeted alpine meadows of the Central Cascades; the glittering lakes of the Snoqualmie Region; the in your face superlative nature of Mount Rainer; the volcanic country of the South Cascades; the waterfalls and basalt walls of the Columbia River Gorge; the swaying grasses and basalt canyons of the Columbia Plateau; the emerald ridges harboring grizzlies and caribou of the Selkirks; and the lonely sun baked Blue Mountains.

And then there are the Kettles—which may very well be my favorite place in the state. Why? They are not the highest, most rugged mountains in the state. And they’re certainly not the subject of countless calendars and placemats either. What is it then about the Kettles that lure me to them over and over again? There is simply nothing else like them anywhere. When I hike these old rounded gentle giants, I feel like I am hiking in the Appalachians—but without the crowded eastern seaboard nearby. And when I look out at the golden rangelands and rolling empty hills below I feel like I am in the foothills of the northern Rockies, not the Pacific Northwest. And when I walk along the Kettles’ empty trails, I feel like I am in northeastern British Columbia—far removed from the burgeoning urban centers of the West Coast.

I share these mountains with wolves, lynx, the occasional grizzly and the spirits of hardscrabble miners, prospectors, trappers, and First Peoples. I feel the hand of Providence here as only a divine being could be responsible for making this place so perfect. And I fear the power of man here, for only man can denigrate this place—if he chooses to—or preserve it and cherish it and seek it for rejuvenation and celebration if wisdom and stewardship prevail. I love the Kettles and have devoted a good part of my life as a writer to help protect this vestige of the past.

I invite you to walk among these mountains leaving your preconceptions behind. Here, you won’t have a two mile high glacial clad peak bringing you to your knees. But you will have a soft breeze whisk through you touching your heart and alerting your senses to an incredible natural world that remarkably still exists despite the advancement of civilization on practically every other corner of the world. These mountains are gentle and inviting but among the wildest places left in America. In the Kettles I seek rejuvenation and reflection, guidance and redemption. If you have never stepped foot in this wild and enchanting area, I urge you to do so. And if the Kettles touch your heart and tug at your soul, I invite you to join me and many others working to make sure this place remains wild and special forever. For more on the movement to protect the Kettles visit Columbia For more information on exploring the Kettles check out my book on the Columbia Highlands. And at anytime you want to talk about the Kettles, I’m always interested in what you have to say.

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