Puget Sound summer: America’s sweetest season

The News Tribune The News Tribune The News TribuneAugust 21, 2013 

Keaton James, 9, of Bainbridge Island looks for the choice blackberries in Manette earlier this month.

LARRY STEAGALL/THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Thank goodness Wikileaks hasn’t posted the secrets of the Puget Sound summer. If the world knew how good we have it, there’d be standing room only from the flanks of the Cascades to our muddy shores and rocky beaches.

Some people know. This is the time of year you run into refugees – tourists, technically – from places where August can feel like it’s hissing from the vents of hell. Just about any state in the Southwest, Deep South, Middle West, Great Plains.

Their sun is a psychopath out to induce heat stroke. Our is a genial god out to make amends for lying low in the winter and spring. It lingers, at this latitude, ever so long into the evening.

The thermometer is our friend. Our August is an open-air wedding in the Point Defiance Rose Garden. It’s the faint breath of cool marine air in an afternoon that tops out at 78 degrees. It’s Mount Rainier looming over cities and valleys like a cosmic snow cone. It’s an occasional warm rain in a silken, tropics-like breeze.

The mercury here has been known to break 90. When torrid weather settles on the inhospitable parts of the nation, there’s no choice but to hunker down and pay the air-conditioning bills. They’ve got nowhere to run. We’ve got options. Here, it’s a fast dash to sea or mountains.

You can only pity people who don’t live within sight of the jagged Cascades. The mountain-deprived may go to the grave without hearing elk bugling, walking along snow-melt streams or seeing wildflowers – monkshood, paintbrush, lupine, glacier lilies, fairy slippers, asters, shootingstars, etc. – scattered across alpine meadows.

Our summer is a fleeting season – the clouds usually don’t scram until July. There’s nothing to do but make each day count.

August here is a black Labrador in a pink tutu at the pet parade in Olympia. It’s a country drive past ditches of cattails and duckweed-covered ponds.

It’s a posse of grey pony-tailers on Harleys. It’s kayaks on the Nisqually Delta. Red corvettes with their tops down. Children hunting for sand dollars on mud flats. Toddlers squealing in sprinklers and wading pools.

It’s a band of boomers playing ’60s tunes at Summer Sounds in Gig Harbor. A mutton-busting kindergartner thrown from an ewe at a Puyallup rodeo. A prize-winning goat at the Pierce County Fair in Graham.

It’s a rolling backyard menagerie: deer leading fawns, hummingbirds, goldfinches, possums, tree frogs, raccoons, garden spiders and butterflies. But never a rattlesnake, a scorpion, a chigger or a tarantula.

Outsiders may have the impression that the Pacific Northwest is all about cold drizzle and skies full of nimbus clouds. OK, there’s a kernel of truth in that. Come summer, though, there’s no better place in all the world.

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