Soggy Days are Here Again

While the other parts of the country are blasted with snow and freezing temperatures, Oregon is blasted with rain and wind, the Pacific Northwest Winter. I’m taking a class at PSU this term about the Pacific Northwest, taught by a tall red-headed Prof. with a fantastic dry sense of humor; too bad he doesn’t see that we laugh at the same things. Regardless, this has been an insight on PacNW history and culture. We learned about the early explorers, a base understanding of how Oregon was settled and current issues that plague our society. A breath of fresh air has been breathed into the insight on the pride Pacific Northwesterners hold for their beloved region. An understanding has been formed on why people west of the Cascades are so damned proud of their webbed feet.

One thing we learned is that many of the first explorers to the Oregon Coast, Spanish and English, dreaded it. They hated the un-land-able rocky coast, they hated the wind, they hated the rain, and they hated the soggy. So many of the things Oregon prides itself in where detested by the early explorers. Even Lewis & Clark, regional (and national) icons of adventure and exploring hated the weather. They hated walking in the water all the time, they hated, as stated previously, just being soggy.

In Today’s age, now that we “tamed” the Pacific Northwest, we brag that we have webbed feet, the rain isn’t so bad, and we tell the exact opposite to Californians, thank you Gov Tom McCall. In addition, this weekend should be a testament to those webbed feet of ours. If we love the rain so much, we should love this soggy weekend. It was so soggy, and still is, that our beloved Sitka Spruce, 700 years old, and although nearing the end of its lifespan, will be missed by all due to an unfortunate wind gust that knocked it down from half way up. Hurricane force winds of bogged down the coast, and so much soggy, windy weather that the Governor has called a State of Emergency. What happened to our webbed feet?

The question begs, what would the early explorers have thought about the Pacific Northwest if they had Gortex Rain Coats and weatherproofed hiking boots to help them? Imagine if Lewis & Clark had plastic coated tents and an unlimited supply of tarps to keep the ground warm. Imagine if any of the early explorers stepped foot on the Oregon Coast with a fancy pair of hikers that would keep feet dry for a week without taking them off. Imagine Lewis & Clark marching along the Columbia balancing a kayak and wearing a slick outer shell from Marmot. What would their opinion be of the PacNW then?

We can claim that we have webbed feet, but it’s only with the help of the technology that has grown up with living here. Many of the people who helped raise this area to the civilized society it is now did it with an ingenuity and desire to tame nature. Of that taming was born icons like Columbia Sportswear, Leatherman, and Nike. Without these technological tools to help us, many of us would be complaining worse than Lewis & Clark. We have technology to thank for our webbed feet.

The irony lies in the self-reliance that is the base of the Pacific Northwest pride. The “man can do anything” attitude boosts confidence and makes people feel like they can accomplish anything. No Goliath will stand in the way of someone who holds the PacNW attitude. The realization is bolstered by invention. Pacific Northwesterners would not have the confidence they do without the technology created to tame the environment in which they live. So, the next time someone brags about their webbed feet, remember that they would not have those webbed feet without their protective gear.

Perhaps that protective gear is the real accomplishment of the Pacific Northwest. It is gear that enabled people to appreciate the land in which they live and create laws to protect it.