10 Things the Northwest Should Be Happy About

©istockphoto/kanonskyTime march­es on, they say.  It’s easy to com­plain about more crowd­ed trails and longer lift lines. But at the heart of it, things aren’t so bad. Here are some things out­doors-lovers in the Pacif­ic North­west can be hap­py about.

It’s back. After the hottest and dri­est sum­mer and worst fire sea­son on record, rain is back. Rivers have water in them. There’s snow in the moun­tains. Skiers and pad­dlers are hap­py. After two years of drought, it feels like the North­west again.

A New Kind of Bridge
In late 2015, Port­land opened the Tilikum Cross­ing Bridge, span­ning the Willamette Riv­er in down­town Port­land. It’s the first major bridge built in a US city that car­ries light rail, street­car, pedes­tri­ans and cyclists…and no cars. Things still look dif­fer­ent here.

The Low Car­bon Movement
Oil com­pa­nies have been look­ing for ways to export tar sands oil from the upper Mid­west and Cana­da. They’ve looked to the Pacif­ic Coast: Port­land, Van­cou­ver WA, Belling­ham, Van­cou­ver BC and the Great Bear Rain­for­est. Pro­posed pipelines and oil trains would bisect the Cas­cades and tankers would ply the seas, mak­ing places like the Colum­bia Riv­er Gorge, the San Juans and the Cen­tral Coast of British Colum­bia exposed to the poten­tial for an Exxon Valdez-size oil spill. But thou­sands of cit­i­zens have tak­en a stand—and con­vinced their local gov­ern­ments, includ­ing the City of Port­land, to oppose ter­mi­nals and dan­ger­ous shipping.

Back­pack­ing is Back
For years, peo­ple have pro­nounced back­pack­ing as the most doomed of out­door sports. Par­tic­i­pa­tion had been declin­ing, with plen­ty of rea­sons thrown around: com­pressed sched­ules, an aging pop­u­la­tion, inter­net addic­tion and urban­iza­tion. But rumors of its death were great­ly exag­ger­at­ed: back­pack­ing grew by 11 per­cent in the lat­est out­door par­tic­i­pa­tion sur­vey . Explor­ing the wilder­ness by that most basic of ways—with one’s own two feet—is with us again.

©istockphoto/RyanJLaneThe Wolf at the Door
After being near­ly exter­mi­nat­ed in the west, wolves are back in Ore­gon and Wash­ing­ton. While humans debate whether they belong, the wolves have vot­ed with their paws. They’ve re-inte­grat­ed them­selves into north­west wilder­ness­es in east­ern Ore­gon and Wash­ing­ton, south­ern Ore­gon and the north Cas­cades. The famous jour­ney of OR‑7, who wan­dered from Wal­lowa Coun­ty to near Susanville, CA in search of a mate, has a hap­py end­ing. He found love in south­ern Ore­gon, shacked up and start­ed a fam­i­ly. And Red Rid­ing Hood is doing just fine.

Bend’s New River
A few years ago Bend vot­ers fund­ed a new white­wa­ter park where the dan­ger­ous Col­orado Avenue Dam had stood. The new white­wa­ter park is now open: the first on the west coast, thanks to the com­bined efforts of pad­dlers, con­ser­va­tion­ists and city staff. It sports a float­ing chan­nel for sum­mer tubers and play waves for white­wa­ter boaters, con­trolled via high-tech inflat­able blad­ders to adapt to dif­fer­ent water lev­els. Suc­cess with the Col­orado Avenue Dam has built momen­tum for remov­ing the aging and unsafe New­port Avenue Dam on the north end of town. A free-flow­ing riv­er through Bend may not be very far away.

Whales Get­ting It On
Orca are some of the most pho­to­genic crit­ters around. So what could be cuter than a baby orca? Try six baby orca. The endan­gered Puget Sound Orca pop­u­la­tion had six kids born since the end of 2014, four to J pod, which has the most suc­cess in rear­ing kids. It’s a need­ed boost to the breed­ing pop­u­la­tion of Puget Sound. Drone pho­tos of the pod indi­cate that oth­er whales may also be pregnant.

The Return of Big Adventure
Two adven­tur­ous women chal­lenged the idea that epic adven­tures are a thing of the past. Last win­ter Sarah Out­en (since knight­ed as Sarah Out­en, Mem­ber of the Most Excel­lent Order of the British Empire for her efforts) pad­dled under London’s Tow­er Bridge and com­plet­ed a 4‑year “London2London: Via the World” jour­ney by kayak, bike and row­boat that the words “big adven­ture” couldn’t pos­si­bly sum up. And Ger­man Freya Hoffmeis­ter com­plet­ed a 3‑year cir­cum­nav­i­ga­tion of South America.

©istockphoto/deebrowningThe UGB
The what? The UGB—Urban Growth Boundary—is an invis­i­ble line sur­round­ing every town in Ore­gon. It keeps sprawl from gob­bling up forests and farm­land. Portland’s UGB has been fought over ever since it was estab­lished in 1979. Now the Metro Coun­cil has vot­ed to keep it intact: we’re able to incor­po­rate walk­a­ble, bike­able neigh­bor­hoods, eco­nom­ic growth and nature with­in the city with­out raz­ing forests and farms just out­side. It’s a win for both play­ing out­doors close to home and head­ing out to the hills.

A Reborn Riv­er Revives a Strait
In 2011, the Elwha Riv­er was set free. Two dams were removed from the steep riv­er on the Olympic Penin­su­la, once home to famous salmon runs. Nobody knew what would hap­pen. Kevin Cost­ner has it most­ly right: if you un-build it, they will come. The salmon returned almost imme­di­ate­ly, and recent stud­ies showed that the riv­er wasn’t just healthy—it was improv­ing the health of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. With the sed­i­ment from the Elwha no longer trapped behind dams, beach­es and riv­er deltas rebuilt them­selves in the Strait. After 100 years, the riv­er is doing its work.