Bears and orcas! Rutting deer and poisonous clams!
I may have come to Vashon a newspaper man, but this place is turning me into a forest ranger.
Having reached the journeyman stage of my career, I’ve been privileged to practice journalism in many different communities; lively Seattle, river and industry-fed Longview; pastoral and relaxed Enumclaw, burgeoning and urbanizing Federal Way; and now isolated and wooded Vashon.
Living in different places is good for the soul. It shows you which problems are provincial and unique to a community, and which ones strain people all over the state, country and world.
It also shows you how much is shared by places that, on paper, should be very different.
The Enumclaw plateau and Vashon island have a lot in common, despite their residents often voting at the most extreme percentages of Democrat or Republican support in this county.
They sit on the fringes of King County, so far away that many forget they’re within county limits at all. Broad swaths of the Enumclaw plateau (and all of Vashon) are unincorporated, lending a sense of self-reliance and a “do it yourself” attitude to the people who live there.
They are both rural, relatively undeveloped areas which house environmentalists, farmers, hunters, and others who feel a close connection to the land. Both have historically been home to Indigenous Coast Salish people and local Tribes; especially the Muckleshoot and the Puyallup, who retain important rights to use their ancestral lands. The Plateau and Vashon’s natural assets attract tourists and hold the keys to the local survival of many threatened animal species.
In both places, a typical day of work might involve lacing up my hiking shoes and traipsing through the brush around an old gravel mine, a drying creek that may one day bear salmon, or a ravine filled with the aftermath of a fierce windstorm.
In both places, I am prone to writing about passionate environmentalists who care deeply about their home, Indigenous people winning victories to revive salmon and curtail the poisoning of the earth; thoughtful hunters who care about taking game humanely; and fiery organizers who successfully defy the will of government plans that go against the community’s wishes.
Selfishly speaking, in both places I find a lot of fascinating and worthy things to write about that journalists in Seattle haven’t yet been clued into. Those stories have always interested me the most.
So I have a vacation recommendation to the residents of two of King County’s biggest unincorporated enclaves: Visit each other.
Vashon islanders: Take a hike at Flaming Geyser State Park and climb to the new Mt. Peak fire lookout tower. Live it up at the Buckley Log Show and Wilkeson Handcar Races. Skate at Wilkeson’s new bacon-and-egg themed skate park. Enjoy one of the best outdoor recreation gateways in the state.
Plateau residents: Grab a ferry and explore Island Center Forest. Visit the troll and the lighthouse at Pt. Robinson. Come for Strawberry Festival and the First Fridays. Skate at the new Burton Adventure Recreation Center Skate Park. Drink in one of the best arts and music scenes in the state.
While you’re there, stop by the coffee shops and watering holes. Talk to local residents. Read the other town’s paper. Reflect on what matters to the people there.
I think you’ll learn a bit about each other — and yourself.