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  Field Notes From
Olympic National Park

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From Author

John G. Mitchell

Olympic National Park On Assignment

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From Photographer

Melissa Farlow

In most cases these accounts are edited versions of a spoken interview. They have not been researched and may differ from the printed article.

Photographs by Brian Strauss (top) and Mark Thiessen


Olympic National Park On Assignment Olympic National Park On Assignment
Olympic National Park

Field Notes From Author
John G. Mitchell

Best Worst Quirkiest
    There are some people in this world who can do without trees, and some who cannot. Count me among the latter, for I am an unabashed tree hugger. In fact, I once worked in an office where some mischievous colleague hung a sign on my door that read: "Mitchell loves trees more than people." Now that's a stretch, though not entirely. In any event, if it's trees you fancy, you can't go wrong at Olympic National Park. Just don't expect to get your hugging arms around the best of them. Once I saw a family of four—two adults, two small kids—trying to encircle a venerable western red cedar hand-in-hand. I sneaked a peek and saw that they were at least a yard short of making the connection. But there is a certain downside to all this arboreal girth and vigor—as you shall discover in my account of the "Worst," next column over.

    No doubt about it, nothing about Olympic National Park gets any worse than the weather. Talk about bad hair days! Talk about rain! No, I'm not going to drench you with meteorological statistics. You can read all about that in the magazine article. And yes, I realize that you can't have a lot of big trees without a lot of precipitation. But during my time on the Olympic Peninsula, why did it have to rain every day except the day of my departure? Cool, drizzling, sometimes mizzling, sometimes pouring (oh, how boring), the precipitation was relentless. Each morning I was tempted to look for mushrooms sprouting, overnight, in the cuffs of my trousers. Several weeks later, from a sunnier clime on the other side of the country, I telephoned park headquarters and learned I had missed out on the real rains. That drenching pour, including runoff from mountain snowfields, had swamped campgrounds and destroyed a number of bridges and trails, handing the National Park Service a huge and unwanted bill for repairs and maintenance.

Over the years, I have obliged the editor of this website by providing, however reluctantly, a few words about my "Quirkiest" experiences in the field. But here I must draw a line in the sand—or rather, the cyberspace. I had no quirky experience in Olympic National Park and I'll be darned if I'm going to fabricate one. I mean, the craft of journalism has a red-enough face as it is. To explain my position, I quote from the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary: "quirky adjective (a) subtle, tricky; (b) characterized by twists, turns, or flourishes; (c) characterized by unexpected or peculiar traits; idiosyncratic; eccentric." There was nothing subtle or tricky about my Olympic experience, except for the rain, and you've already heard about that. No twists, turns, or flourishes, except a trail or two. Nothing truly unexpected. But what about "peculiar, idiosyncratic, eccentric"? All right. You've got me there. I'm guilty—on all three counts.

Editor's note: Congratulations to Mitchell for filing a column that ranks among the most quirky of the "Quirkiest."


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