Adventures in the Pacific Northwest: Foraging for Blackberries and Memories


Michelle Togut

Michelle Togut resides in North Carolina with her husband and pets. She has worked as an adjunct professor of history, contributor and writer, and small-firm attorney, among other things. These days, she's trying to sell real estate. For fun, she reads political blogs of all persuasions, practices yoga, drinks wine, hikes, reads, and volunteers for a local animal rescue.

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36 Responses

  1. Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

    Really enjoyed this post Michelle. It’s such a different experience than my own. I’ve never lived outside the city of my birth, although I love to travel and have seen much of the U.S. There’s definitely something to be said for having deep roots, but I also recognize the greater opportunities that come with a willingness to move when the time is right.Report

  2. Avatar Damon says:

    I grew up in the west and we did similar things as a family.

    Picking huckleberries on the slopes of the mountains (around the lava tubes was best)
    Fishing for shad in the river to smoke afterwards and can.
    Picking fruit at the orchards (i expect they are all wine grape fields now)
    Picking wild blackberrries by the side of the road
    Fishing for trout in the mountain lakes.
    Claming for razor clams on the coast.

    God I miss it. But it’s all gone now…or most of it….Report

  3. Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

    Stop! Just stop! Stop telling everyone it’s so beautiful & everything! Peopl will want to move here! It’s too crowded as it is & the Transit Authority are to incompetent to fix the traffic problems.

    No, everyone, she’s wrong! The Pacific Northwest is horrible! HORRIBLE!!

    It rains, ALL THE TIME! I haven’t seen the sun but twice in 6 years! You can’t swim in any of the lakes or the sound because they are all so cold! And the earthquakes! Woah, I just felt one.

    There’s another!

    Did I mention the volcanoes! There are three of them within shouting distance. They are always rumbling & making noise & being a nuisance (it’s why we never see the sun, all that ash in the air!).

    No, stay away!Report

    • Avatar Cascadian in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

      MRS You bastard. Sure you warn about the lack of sun, the nagging molds that grow in between your toes as soon as you get out of the shower but not once did you mention the man eating slugs.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

      You could, without exaggerating, describe the traffic, say trying to get from Redmond to SeaTac on a Friday afternoon. One time I was there for a class, the instructor, without apparent irony, said we’d finish at noon because some people had 4:00 flightsReport

      • Yes. The traffic. When I lived in there, I had a 40 mile commute each way. Before my boss let me timeshift, it was a three-hour drive. Every. Day.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        Before I moved to Bellevue, I lived in Everett. 30 mile commute would easily take 90-120 minutes one way (this was a year ago). Having a stick shift just made it worse.

        I finally got my boss to let me time-shift for a few months until I was able to move to Bellevue. Now it’s 10 minutes to work. What I saved on gas, wear & tear on the car, my time, and insurance more than made up for the hit in housing costs.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        The thing is, the lack of all that aggravation will add years to your life, so you need to save up for that.Report

      • The good news is that I won major points with my boss for being willing to make that drive. My wife had a job at the hospital in downtown city-to-the-south. And being near to her job was far more important than any consideration for mine because she had call. So moving closer wasn’t an option, unfortunately.

        Eventually my boss let me timeshift, and moving an hour helped. Also, they put up signs letting drivers know how long it took to get to city-to-the-east either by going up the spur or going through The City. It turned out to be faster going through The City (and across the bridge) as often as not, if there had been any traffic backups. Seriously, the spur was hell, or as close to it as I ever want to experience.

        I had even looked into public transportation, it was so bad. Surprisingly, the public transportation options were minimal.

        But man, that was a great year for audiobooks.Report

      • Avatar Cascadian in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        MRS Everett traffic is evil. I used to travel between Seattle and Vancouver on Fridays. OMG that took years off my life. I haven’t been down in a couple of years (trying to get the necessary days for citizenship in Canuckistan) but I can’t imagine it has improved.Report

      • Some of my coworkers made that drive. It was what convinced me that there was no hope for my ever settling down in the area. Anywhere remotely affordable came with too high of other-cost.Report

      • Avatar Cascadian in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        I wonder if Portland is any better as far as cost of living vs. quality of life and availability of work. Vancouver would be worse.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        @cascadian @will-truman

        Why traffic in the Tri-Counties sucks!

        1) Losing lanes for no good reason. Well, there probably is a good reason, but every time it happens, traffic snarls.

        2) Let’s have 3 interchanges in the space of 2 miles! Everyone will have plenty of time to change lanes as required because no one would be stupid enough to hang out in the left lane until the last minute, and drivers are always super nice about letting traffic from the right merge.

        3) Do we really need more than 200 parking spaces at the new park & ride that was built because the old one was always overflowing (answer: if you didn’t build a 6 story garage, you did it wrong)?

        4) Oh, light rail is such a wonderful idea! We should totally do that! Now, let’s see, where can we run the tracks without having to displace anyone or modify the interstates & other highways? And let’s not worry about putting platforms where they’ll do the most good, if you build the platform, people will come to it, wherever it is.


      • Portland is surprisingly affordable. My best friend moved out there and I was skeptical, but it’s worked out for him as well as can be expected (socially, it’s been great for him). But I don’t think it comes close to having the same job opportunities in certain lines of work.

        I tried to talk my wife into western Oregon. Which would have had proximity to large cities, but actually offers jobs in her line of work. Unfortunately, she couldn’t get on board with the climate.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        My wife & I kick around the idea of Portland, OR a lot, but there just isn’t enough work there for us to feel comfortable. Luckily we have lots of friends & family down there, so we are down there a lot.Report

      • Avatar Cascadian in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        I can’t wait to get back to Portland. It’s my favorite Cascadian city. I love all the micro brews and the general vibe. Ever been to Edgefield? (My partner’s favorite place in the world.)

        I can’t live there because there aren’t enough mountains. Starting next year, I’ll get a few weeks at Mt. Hood in the summer for my daughter’s training.Report

    • Avatar Damon in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

      LOL Baby I lived through Mt. St. Helens. That being said, one good earthquade / eruption of Rainier and a lot of the “wet side” is going to be a mudslide.

      Don’t worry. I’m not moving back any time soon. The traffic was insane in Seattle in the 90’s. Can imagine it’s only gotten worse.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Damon says:

        Yeah, I like to look at the maps for the fault lines & the predicted lahar path for Rainer. Makes it easy to pick out areas and label them “Don’t live here!”Report

    • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

      All kidding aside, I love the PNW. Coastline, mountains, islands, etc. Every once in a while my wife will ask if I want to move back to Madison.

      Not just no, but awww hell no! (& I like Madison!)Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

      Jimminy Cricket, I hope I don’t sound like you in ten years.

      And yes, when the sun comes out, people really do leave the buildings to go out and stare. Even the post office employees…Report

  4. I loved this post. You feel about Chicago the way I feel about New York City, it seems.

    And we were just in Seattle on the last leg of our recent vacation. It… is… gorgeous. For all of San Francisco’s reputation as America’s Most Beautiful City, I have to give that title to Seattle.Report

  5. Avatar Chris says:

    Glad you found a place you can bond with.

    And enjoyed this, thank you.Report

  6. Avatar Will Truman says:

    I, too, greatly enjoyed this post. The PNW will always have a place in my heart. Culturally, I’m not sure that there is anywhere that I felt more at home. Except that I am, for the area, a right-wing nutbar. I would also have a really hard time getting used to the cost of living.

    Clancy and I felt unusually at home in “Arapaho.” Not where we lived in the state exactly, but the state itself. I can’t even explain why. That’s despite the fact that our time there wasn’t remarkably pleasant. If felt like something we were a part of, which is a way that I hadn’t really felt since leaving home.Report

    • Avatar Cascadian in reply to Will Truman says:

      Will, I’m a bit confused. Where is Arapahoe in Washington? Are you talking about Colorado? Where did you live when you were out here?

      In what way did you feel at home if you were made to feel like a nutbar?Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to Cascadian says:

        Will is a cypher….he hides where he lived because he thinks we are trying to track him down.

        Not that we wouldn’t try to track him down if it was really easy and there was an app for it.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Cascadian says:

        Sorry, I am confusing on these things as I do not refer to bigraphical places by their name. Arapaho is a Trumanverse state. Think along the lines of Idaho, Montana, or Wyoming.

        I refer to where I lived in the PNW as… erm… Cascadia, actually. I lived in the blue collar city to the south of the main city and commuted to the Company Town to the east of it (I worked at That Software Company).Report

      • Avatar Cascadian in reply to Cascadian says:

        OK. The link helps make sense. I like your map though I’m not sure I would put L.A. and San Francisco in the same state. SoCal seems like a different planet from anywhere else in the world.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Cascadian says:

        More than anyone ever wanted to know about Trumanverse:

        City locations in Trumanverse tend to be fluid. For instance, “Colosse” (the southern city where I am from) is located on the map where Mobile, Alabama is. Colosse isn’t Mobile, but Mobile has the characteristics that I need to provide for the most important parts of the city.

        If I were to move to San Fransisco and needed to establish “pseudonymity” for it (the quotes are because it would be a transparent veil, as it was when I was in PNW and everyone knew what “Zaulem Sound” was). Well, I sure wouldn’t put myself in the same state as Los Angeles or southern California because a pertinent thing about SF is that it is very much Northern California, which is a separate beast. So I would make Northern California Shasta more generally. I’d probably put SF where Oakland is, and shift Oakland to the north and move San Jose into Shasta, coming up with different names for each.

        (The rationalization for all of this is that if state lines were drawn differently – in Trumanverse they are drawn mostly by natural boundaries like rivers and mountains – then settlement patterns would differ. So “Silicon Valley” would have settled in a state with laws, regulations, and culture most amenable to it. In this case, it would be the proxy for Northern California rather than the proxy for Southern California.)

        (At this point, I mostly fictionalize out of tradition. Early on, it was mostly because I used to be a blogger that some people had heard of. When I went pseudononymous, I needed something to distance Will Truman from my actual self. I lived in a very identifiable place at the time. I didn’t want to lie about where I was, so I started fictionalizing it. And thus, Trumanverse was born. These days, though, anyone who knows me will see through a lot of it. I’ve shown my face on this site. I may even go public with my identity at some point.)Report

      • Avatar Cascadian in reply to Cascadian says:

        If you turn out to be Joe Carter, I’m going to slit my wrists.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Cascadian says:

        I almost spit my coffee out when I read that.

        Also, I was going to guess Vox Day.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Cascadian says:

        Oh, y’all of little faith. I was vetted before I was invited to contribute here. By no less than the vetting organization of John McCain’s vice presidential selection committee (which was, shockingly, looking for work, when the time came).Report

  7. Avatar Kim says:

    Blackberries are native around here too.Report