Breaking Trail

Posted by Ken Campbell February 28, 2008 0 Comment 432 views
Over the past 20 years or so, I have been fortunate to spend many hours and days on the Olympic Peninsula, one of the most beautiful and engaging spots on Earth. I have thought to myself on more than one occasion that, if I could only go to one place, if all my future explorations and adventures had to be limited to one specific spot, that this would be it. It is no exaggeration to say that a person could spend a lifetime here and still not see it all; I’ve been at it for a long time now and I still feel as though I’ve barely scratched the surface of what the Olympic Peninsula really is all about. And I am getting older.

Despite its proximity to populated areas, the Olympic Peninsula remained terra incognita until well into the 20th century. There were villages and towns along the coast and local tribes had lived along the fringes of the land for centuries, but the interior of the peninsula was completely unknown until the late 1800’s, when the first white men crossed the high mountain passes. Even today, in the hustle and clamor of this modern world, the real Olympic Peninsula remains something of a mystery to most. Its wild rivers, snow-covered mountains and pristine shores are still lightly traveled and largely unknown, even to those who regularly spend time in the outdoors.

The name of this blog is taken from a book of the same name, written by historian Murray Morgan, first published in 1955. “The fist of land thrust north between Puget Sound and the Pacific Ocean,” he called it. “The first land in the Pacific Northwest to be reported by explorers, the last to be mapped – the last wilderness.” Morgan was a great writer; he knew what he was talking about. The wild wonder is still there, even after all the empty years that have come and gone since the Europeans made contact with the Makah, since the Press Party expedition of 1892 and since the blank spots on the map have all been filled in.

But just because you know where the river flows doesn’t mean you’ve tasted the water. Knowledge of the region, if it is confined to maps and excerpts from the yellowing pages of some forgotten explorer’s journal, is not worth much. It is one thing to know that the elevation of Mount Olympus is 7,965 feet and it is quite another to have stood on that summit, to have gazed into the sun-polished waters of the distant Pacific while the alpine wind whistled past your ears.
For me, I have decided to spend the next few years (for starters), chasing that Olympic wind. There are so many places I still need to see, must see, and it seems that time is running, always running. I don’t know how this site will grow and change… in my mind at this moment it is simply a scratch pad, a wall against which ideas are flung. The ones that stick, maybe they are good ideas. Maybe they will come to life somehow.
This is a travelogue, a journal. It is a collection of poems and snapshots, a faded scrapbook filled with odd-shaped cuttings and pressed posies. A random series of portraits, done in mercury ink, of people you’ve never seen before, yet who seem somehow familiar. It is a trip planning tool, like a set of dividers or an old National Geographic magazine. Sometimes, it is the bathroom wall in a small town working-man’s bar, sporting an idiom and vocabulary not recommended for mixed (or mixed-up), company. It is an attempt to know, to really know, a place, and the wild nature that still remains there.

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