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Northwesterns have an infatuation with Hawai’i. This small but obvious observation has often left me mystified. After all, at first glance the Pacific Northwest, and specifically the State of Washington, doesn’t have anything in common with the State of Hawai’i. It’s a good reason to check it out for ourselves, right? We spent 2 weeks in the Aloha state this fall and found the two have more similarities than thought.
To begin with, let’s tackle the obvious dissimilarity - the weather. At first glance, it seems these two states are worlds apart, but in fact the weather is one of the greatest commonalities in my opinion. Washington State is notorious for rain, but more than that, for every windward side of a mountain there is a leeward side and therefore a rain shadow, think Sequim and Port Angeles, and Eastern Washington. And the opposite of that rain shadow is another phenomena...remember that on the windward side of the Olympics lies our temperate rainforest. The Hawaiian Islands are the same: the Islands are made up of mountains, which work with the trade winds that blow in cool air from the North, dropping rain on the windward side resulting in drier conditions on the leeward side. Also, the weather in Hawai’i is so localized that you can experience a rainstorm one minute and bright sun, rainbow included, the next. Sound familiar? In Hawai’i rain can happen at anytime! Hmmm, maybe not so different after all. Fun fact: Did you know that Hilo is the wettest City in the US? Yup!
There is no doubt that both States have breathtakingly beautiful landscapes. There is no denying that both have massive volcanoes and long stretches of coastline. Each is rich in plant and wildlife and abundant in natural treasures such as lush forests and waterfalls. Both States border the mighty Pacific Ocean teeming with marine life and they support healthy scuba diving communities. Washington is home to the tallest mountain in the Cascade Range, Mt Rainier (14,411 ft). The big island sports the tallest mountain in the Hawaiian range, Mauna Kea (13,800 ft), which is a great place to ski and snowboard as it often has snow at it’s summit. Whaaat?
Finally, the culture, which again, taken at face value appears distinctive rather than similar. But there are a couple of underlying threads worth mentioning. First is the importance of agriculture to the heritage and history. Hawai’i has an unmistakable plantation background with sugar cane, coffee beans, and pineapple. Crops such as apples, wheat and cherries largely influence the Pacific Northwest, think of the fertile Puyallup Valley, the rich soils in Eastern Washington, and the Palouse. Why even Maui is famous for onions as is Walla Walla. I think it safe to say that farming plays a big role in local cuisine and culture.
History and tradition are sources of pride for residents of both states. There is tremendous reverence for native peoples and their way of life in the Great Northwest; the tribes and their customs are celebrated. There is respect for the landscape and strong desire to preserve and maintain its beauty. The same is true of the Islands, with their dedication to the preservation of their local history and culture. This love and respect is largely conveyed through the philosophy of aloha.
So similar, yet worlds apart. The attraction is undeniable for people of Hawai’i and Washington States, an unspoken bond of mutual love and respect and an understanding of the common values of protecting both culture and tradition and preserving the environment and landscape.
I think I’m beginning to scratch the surface in understanding, but probably need another trip to do more research in the field.
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