The Nisqually’s vast tongue of devastation.
The Pacific Northwest—being renowned for the regularity of its deluges during the rainy season—provides ample opportunity for the great bulwark of Rainier to turn rain into snow, and in so doing accumulate an ice-cap of daunting proportions. The spring melts are correspondingly massive.
For proof, one need not look further than the serpentine path of destruction carved by the Nisqually. I had passed over the bridge south of Paradise the previous morning in a fog so thick I could barely see beyond my headlamps. The passage between tree-lined banks being rather long, I had assumed that the bridge took me above the timber breifly so as to span a gorge. It wasn’t until the next morning that I realized I was only fifty feet or so above ground and the span was so long simply because the “riverbed” (if a massive rubble-field can so be called) was the width of a city block.
The next morning broke cold and clear and I headed for that devastation, camera in tow.
It was quite cold and very lonely on the shoulder of Tahoma. A quick scramble down the road and over felled trees found me in a scene more reminiscent of a disaster movie than a national park.
A crescent moon and Venus rose above the opposing ridge-line. The temperature plummeted as I approached the slender, ice-like finger of the Nisqually. The river forked and split and rejoined as it navigated the ruination of its spring footprint. Shallow and narrow enough to cross and keep one foot dry and babbling here and there like a country stream—surely this creek could not be responsible for the wasteland of volcanic stone several hundred feet wide and untold miles long.
Yet there I stood amongst the evidence—alone but for the tumbling banks of fog and here and there a patch of Pearly Everlasting (Anaphalis margaritacea) sprouting from the stony devastation like dandelions from cracks in the pavement of an abandoned neighborhood—flowering alone and undaunted even in the face of the inescapable doom building above.