Irony is the gaiety of reflection and the joy of wisdom.
– Anatole France (novelist and poet; Nobel laureate 1921)
I promise it wasn’t all unicorns.
– Jennifer (Nomads in a Little Red Trailer)
Being nomads on the road is indeed the stuff of dreams. But lest our readers begin to wonder if our journey was all fluffy clouds, rainbows, and unicorns, I present to you a few ironic elements we encountered along the way.
In all honesty, these could have happened anywhere, but poor Washington didn’t stand a chance. After all, it had to follow Oregon, and if you’ve been following this blog, you’ll know how we feel about that joys-stacked-upon-joys, golden-glory, where-have-you-been-all-our-lives, state.
So please forgive us, forgive Washington, and enjoy.
Irony #1: Mount St. Helens – Choose Your Own Recovery
Until mid-March of 1980, it was a peaceful, unexciting forested mountain in western Washington farmed by a local logging company. Then on May 18, the mountain blew its top and captured the attention of the world.
For two months prior, earthquakes, craters, blue flames, and ash cloud-generated lightning bolts had signaled to locals and scientists alike that the mountain had awakened. Mount St. Helens burst to life on that fateful day with pyroclastic flows, sulphur dioxide emissions, superheated steam, and lateral blasts that caused devastation 20 miles away, killing 57 people and dropping ash as far away as Denver.
Following the eruption, nature (backed by the National Park Service and National Forest Service) and industry (backed by the lumber company) aspired to return the area to health and growth. They each employed a very different model.
NPS and the National Forest Service, turned their areas over to research, patiently noting how flora and fauna rose from the ashes, recovering in their own slow time and biologically diverse way. The logging company collected the blasted wood, restored the erosion areas, replanted the forests with 18 million seedlings, brought in native wildlife, and celebrated a quick regeneration and return to “normal.”
And herein lies the sorrowful irony: while the NPS/Forest Service/Washington State Park visitor areas are fee-based, tricky to access, and (Johnston Ridge Observatory at least) peppered with negative signage, the logging company has posted bronze plaques on viewing platforms with convenient parking lots, and warmly welcomes visitors for free to their Forest Learning Center for tourists and school kids to learn, through interactive, immerse exhibits, about fast forest regeneration and the joys of logging.
What did you learn, oh travelers, oh children, babes-like-sponges, ye leaders of tomorrow?
Irony #2: Ginko Petrified Forest State Park – Sacred Petroglyphs Reinstalled (Behind the Bathrooms)
Following a lovely visit through Ginko Petrified Forest State Park, we stopped at the eponymous visitor center. It was early morning and the visitor center was closed, but a nearby wooden sign recommended a short hike to some petroglyphs, an invite we gladly heeded. We followed a winding path downward and within a few minutes, found ourselves standing before a series of rectangular rocks, each bearing a petroglyph of ancient pedigree but rather altered location. They had originally been discovered a mile or so away along the Columbia River, but as they would have been drowned by the pending dam that would form the Wanapum Reservoir, they were cut from their original outcropping and brought here to be mounted in full glory against the back wall of the visitor center bathrooms.
No fear, though, for any possible disrespect: prominent signage warns that you will go to jail for disturbing such sacred stones.
Irony #3: Labyrinthine Camping in Washington State Park (Not for the Faint of Eyesight, Nor the Fearful of Matrices)
Trouble relearning how to decipher tax codes each April? No worries, beat the (adult version of) “summer slide” with a camping trip to Washington State Park Campgrounds.
There you can wind your way through the campgrounds and look for just the right spot, guided by the handy, convenient chart you saw way back on the road when you first entered. Need a P-triangle, but only FP-circles available? Will economy work for you – is it Sunday-Thursday or Friday-Saturday? No matter, you decided on utilities (part utilities, that is, not full – that’s different), so look for that PE square if you can. And don’t forget you’ll need an additional day pass for any of them.
And, since you most certainly have the sharp eyesight of a young whipper-snapper, it should be no problem that the category indicator for each campsite is three inches tall at best. Is it a triangle, square, or circle in blue, green, or golden-yellow? For best viewing as you peer from your vehicle window while driving through deeply forested tracks looking for the right spot, try to arrive before the cool Washington twilight settles in. We didn’t.
Now let’s put those ironies aside. The best of Washington awaits: we’re off to Olympia for a fabulous stay with Aunt Chicken…
Fan Photos from the Washington Official Signage Fan Club