A media report this morning reminds locals that an earthquake along the Oregon Coast followed by a more-than-likely tsunami has a 40% chance of occurring in the next 50 years. There are many volcanic peaks, one of which erupted majorly in 1980, around here too, so a rain of ash and boulders is possible at any time. We experience 3 or 4 minor quakes every week. Why do people live here? The obvious answer–well, just look around.
Ruth & I have resided in Washington State for almost 10 years and, as a travel writer, I have covered the Cascade Range in many newspaper and travel articles. They are a large part of the reason why so many nod their heads in agreement when I say, “The Northwest is the most beautiful part of the USA.”
Ruth & I live practically in the center of the Cascade Range and have made a conscious effort to visit all of the major peaks, most recently Mount Baker. South of us, the Cascades end in northern California with 2 major peaks, Mount Shasta & Lassen Peak. How far north they stretch is disputed. A ranger at Crater Lake last summer told me that the most northerly Cascade is Mount Garibaldi in British Columbia. But some experts name 6,722 foot Mount Lytton near the confluence of the Fraser and Thomson Rivers as The Cascades northern extent.
Apparently another point of dispute is potential volcanic eruption. The same ranger told me that all Cascade peaks are future volcanoes because The Range is part of the Ring of Fire. Others say only the peaks in the High Cascades might erupt. What’s indisputable is that 2 erupted in the 20th century–Mount St. Helens, which Ruth and I can see from our neighborhood even though it’s about 60 miles away, and Lassen, which blew in 1914 and 1921.
What is not a matter of dispute is that these mountains are incredibly beautiful and the perfect vacation destination. Even sheared off Mount St. Helens still makes viewers oh and ah when they see it. My personal just-to-see favorite is lesser known Mount Index, a taste of the Alps in the NW US.
Ruth & I tried to visit Mount Baker in March, 2012, and gave up quickly. The weather was a formidable challenge. In fact, Baker holds the world’s record for biggest single winter snowfall. The year was 1998-99 when 1,140 inches piled up. We tried again on June 28th and made it to the top, or at least as far as we could go up Baker on a road. The view up there was second-to-none (see picture above), and, for an added bonus, we were the only humans enjoying it except for 3 bikers. The road up was both short and easy to drive–in high summer. But near the top we found only a small, closed ski area and a few maintenance buildings. This definitely isn’t Vail.
At least 10 Cascade peaks might erupt in the 21st century. When I asked a park ranger if any were being monitored because they’re showing signs of activity, he said, “Yes, Mount Rainier.”