Ryan Alexander-Tanner

I LIVE IN LOS ANGELES now, but when I lived in Portland, I took it for granted. It was one of the main things I did in Portland: I just sat there with wet hair, drinking churched-up Emperor's New Clothes coffee, frowning imperceptibly at my station in life, and certainly taking both the time and place for granted. Little did I know, as I languished in my endless gray summer that it wasn't the knowns I wasn't appreciating, it was the unknowns I wasn't appreciating, cousins. It wasn't until about a week ago (WEEK AGO) that I saw Crater Lake for the first time, while traveling south with my lovely girlfriend through those Oregon wildernesses that dwarf and humble you, even as you peep them from high in one of Aloysius A. Airplane's trademark flying machines.

As I took in the fucking impossible blue of the lake for the first time, I felt both awe and guilt, truly grateful (hippies aren't wrong about everything, cynicals) to see such a sight, and truly mad at myself that it had taken me this long to travel such a short distance to take it in. I think our capacity to be mesmerized by the natural world has diminished. This world has become safer and smaller, and at the same time, it has become so much more accessible—if only through facsimile.

When you hear about Machu Picchu or whale sharks or the Grand Canyon for the first time, at a young age, you get to see what they look like immediately. There's nobody saying, "I HEAR TELL OF A DEER THAT STANDS TALLER'N THREE DEER WITH A FACE LIKE A CHOCOLATE CAMEL AND ANTLERS SO BIG GOD ROUTINELY TRIES TO HIGH-FIVE THEM," when they want to describe a moose. They just show you a picture of a moose. It's desensitizing, in a way, or at least it builds your tolerance for natural wonder.

Or so you think, until you're standing at the rim of a collapsed volcano—fed by centuries of rainwater instead of sediment-heavy streams—that's so blue, you'll rub your eyes.

For goddamn real, everybody. This lake is blue as fuck. It's Marge's hair blue. It's blue raspberry Slurpee blue. The lake is so blue it keeps posting Dashboard Confessional lyrics on its DeadJournal. I mean to tell you, this lake is blue. I'm mad at myself for waiting so long, but I'm glad I finally went to see it.

As my girlfriend, her dog, and I pushed deeper south into the wilderness, she noted how close such wonders are to Portland, and lamented how infrequently she visited those geological treasure chests, and I agreed. It's summer, Portland, and I hope you live it up in your wonderful city—but also load up your car, eat some trail mix, and head out into nature—it's time to find out what you didn't even know you've been taking for granted.