Monday, June 30, 2008

The Mountains Are Out

Today is one of those drop dead gorgeous summer days for which everyone in Seattle lives: it is bright and sunny and the temperature is in the low 70’s, and the mountains are out. This requires explaining a little local topography and vernacular.

Seattle is surrounded by mountains and water. We have two magnificent mountain ranges that flank us: the Olympic Mountains to our west and the Cascade Mountains to the east. Most of you will be able to note the slate blue/white veined Cascades as you fly into Seattle – it is one of the reasons to request a window seat. The Cascades extend from southern British Columbia through Washington State and Oregon into northern California. The Olympics are situated west, across the Sound, on the Peninsula. The Olympics are the site for the Olympic National Park, site of a large, temperate rain forest (the wettest area in the continental US).

I am blessed that when I drive to work I initially head west and get to view the Olympics; coming home I head east and have a panoramic view of the Cascades. All that is provided that the mountains are out -- the local term for those clear days when you can see the mountains and they are so prominent and beautiful that they look as if you can just reach out and touch them.

The most prominent mountains in the Cascade range are Mount Hood, Mount Baker, Mount Adams and, Mount St.Helens (largely because it blew up and traumatized Portland and Seattle in May 1980.) However, Mt. Rainier is The Mountain (not to be confused with Seattle’s KMTT FM, 103.7 The Mountain – world class rock.) It is the uber mountain in the region and when you see it on a clear day you feel compelled to take an moment from whatever you are doing to enjoy its majesty.

Of course, we are also surrounded by water. The section of the Sound (aka Puget Sound) in Seattle is referred to as Elliott Bay (technically it stretches from Alki Point in West Seattle, a great part of Seattle with a nice beach, to West Point in the lovely Magnolia neighborhood of Seattle.) Across town is Lake Washington, a huge fresh water lake (Washington State’s second largest lake). Lake Washington is crossed by three floating bridges, and since Seattle has so many “ests” note that the Evergreen Point, Lacey V. Murrow, and third Lake Washington bridges are the longest, second longest, and fifth longest floating bridges in the world, respectively. Also in town are Lake Union, and Green Lake. When we have a sun break (periods during a mercurial day when the clouds break and the sun peeks out) sometimes you will hear about sunshine slow downs on the freeways crossing Lake Union or Lake Washington, as drivers are initially blinded by the reflection of the sun on the water. Remember we have the nation’s highest per capita consumption of sunglasses in Seattle.

So, remember to request a window seat when flying out, and hopefully we will all be fortunate during NACAC and the mountains will be out. You’ll feel blessed to see them.

Michael K. McKeon
Dean of Admissions
Seattle University