Friday, June 27, 2008

Well, look at that

The mountains were out today.

In Seattle, depending upon where you live, that means the Cascades to the east, the Olympics to the west and, presiding over it all, Mount Ranier, the slumbering behemoth to the south.

For us, it’s the Olympics, rearing up along the horizon, across Puget Sound, hanging over the green lushness of the islands and lowlands to the west of us. On a clear day, like today, the Olympics look close enough for me to reach out and cut my finger on their snow-dusted, snaggle-toothed peaks.

I am told that the Olympics are not particularly tall, as mountains go; Mount Olympus, the highest, tops out at just under eight thousand feet. Even so, five minutes of mountain watching from our upstairs window leaves me feeling as if we live within a picture post card.

One interesting note that doesn’t affect us at all. The western slopes of the Olympics act as a barrier for all manner of moisture coming off the Pacific Ocean, and so is the wettest area in the lower forty-eight states. The Hoh Ranger Station records an average rainfall every year of one hundred and forty-two inches (almost twelve feet).

Rachael and I don’t see much of the Cascade Mountains, to the east of Seattle, but on days like today, if we head up over the hill, we are treated to a view of Mount Rainier. It’s an active volcano, part of the Pacific’s Ring of Fire, and is almost three miles high.

Its most recent recorded spew was in 1854, and the experts say there is no immediate risk of eruption but – and here is the fun part – geologists expect that the volcano will erupt again.

If it does, and it is a major eruption, it would destroy Tacoma, Enumclaw, Kent, Auburn and most or all of Renton. The resulting mudflow could also reach down the Duwamish River estuary and destroy parts of downtown Seattle. No lava or boiling mud for us, here in West Seattle, but our days would certainly be filled with ash. But, hey, we lived with the threat of hurricanes for four years in the Florida Keys.

The view of Ranier is best from the West Seattle Bridge of the floating bridge over Lake Washington. I can’t imagine why folks don’t just stop in the middle of either bridge and stand in gap-jawed wonder, staring at Ranier, which looks as if it’s just floating there in the sky.

It’s like living in a – oh, wait. I said that already, didn’t I?