The Gifford Pinchot National Forest is featured in a few of the stories in Happiness Is a Chemical in the Brain. Several characters maintain trails and clear brush, and these serve as interesting metaphors for dealing with life's hurdles. But of course, a national park is more than just a metaphor.
Named for the first Chief Forester of the U.S. Forest Service, the Gifford Pinchot National Forest is located in the Cascade mountain range in Southwestern Washington State. It has gone through several name changes, but was first set aside in 1897 and is therefore one of the oldest national forests in the United States. It currently encompasses 1.3 million acres which now includes the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. In the USA, a National Monument is a protected area similar to a National Park except that the President of the United States can declare an area to be a National Monument without the approval of Congress.
Besides being a place of recreation, the Gifford Pinchot National Forest accommodates cattle grazing; timber, mushroom, Christmas tree and berry harvesting; archaeological digs and geological investigations. Several endangered and threatened species, including the spotted owl and coho salmon, make the forest their home. The national forest also provides essential habitat to the bald eagle, gray wolf and grizzly bear.
Points of interest include Ape Cave, the longest known lava tube in the continental United States and the Big Lava Bed, a 500-ft deep lava field that originated from a crater. Opportunities for hiking, camping, horseback riding, berry picking, fishing and wildlife viewing abound.
Top: Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
Bottom: Entrance to Ape Cave
This article was originally published in July 2012, and has been updated for the
May 2013 paperback release.
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