Crosscut Escapes
The Meaning of a Mountain

The Meaning of a Mountain

October 5, 2021

Peter Rainier never set foot on this continent. Some tribal members suggest giving a more fitting name for Washington’s tallest peak.

For the very first episode of Crosscut Escapes, we told a story about a mountain. Not just any mountain — the mountain. You know the one. It’s the biggest in the state, the one you can see from Seattle, Tacoma, Yakima and sometimes even farther away.

You also know the name. It’s on beer cans, baseball stadiums, plumbing companies, street signs and beaches. But that name you know so well is not what everyone calls it. In fact, the mountain has many names, given to it by the many different peoples who were here before there was a Washington, and who are still here.

Peter Rainier, an 18th century admiral in the British Navy for whom the mountain would eventually be named, never even saw the peak. The Indigenous communities who have thrived here for millennia have connections that run far deeper.

For the final episode of Season 2 of Crosscut Escapes, we take a step back and listen to some of the people who have the most to say about this mountain — and what it would mean to change its name. 

Crosscut video producer Beatriz Costa Lima was the reporter for this episode. The video she produced on the topic was part of Crosscut’s Deeply Rooted series about environmental justice in Washington.

---

Credits

Host/Co-producer: Ted Alvarez

Co-producer: Sara Bernard

Music: The Explorist

Executive Producer: Mark Baumgarten

For the Love of Birds

For the Love of Birds

September 28, 2021

Ted Alvarez thinks birding is boring. But with so much interest in it now, he decides to investigate.

The Pacific Northwest is a haven for thousands of bird species, from sage grouse to bald eagles to common finches. Many impressive migrations take place every year. And the enthusiasts who love spotting all these birds can be very enthusiastic. 

Birding draws obsessives; there are bird societies, events and even competitions. But you know who really doesn’t care about all this? Crosscut Escapes host Ted  Alvarez. He’d rather spot any other kind of wildlife than a bird. A bird is a disappointment, in his book. 

Yet in the past year, birding has exploded as a pastime. A pandemic that forced us to interact with nature first in our homes, and then in the outdoors, meant we all started watching the birds in our backyards and then on the trail, very, very closely.

In this episode of Crosscut Escapes, Alvarez puts aside his skepticism to hear from conservationists and researchers who help open his eyes to the bustling avian world all around us.

---

Credits

Host/Co-producer: Ted Alvarez

Co-producer: Sara Bernard

Music: The Explorist

Executive Producer: Mark Baumgarten

Flower Power

Flower Power

September 21, 2021

Professor Steven Clark is on an ongoing quest to find a rare daisy that helps us understand the intricacies of evolution.

Professor Steven Clark spends his days bushwhacking brushy trails until they turn into rocky scrambles, then vertical cliffs. It’s arduous work in service of a unique goal. He’s searching for the Columbia Gorge daisy, a rare flower that only grows in the trickles of water and tiny pockets of dirt in the wet, cliffside crevices of the Columbia River Gorge.

You may or may not be the kind of person who goes to this kind of trouble to find a flower. And this flower is not even particularly beautiful or environmentally consequential, as far as modern science is concerned. But for Steven Clark, this flower is about as special as any in the world.

For this episode of Crosscut Escapes, Clark and Crosscut video producer Sarah Hoffman slog through the woods and scramble up to a ledge in the middle of a waterfall in order to count a few tiny, rare flowers as part of a larger research project documenting rare plants in the Pacific Northwest. 

Their journey provides a deeper sense of just how beautifully complex the natural world is — and the importance of each tiny piece of the evolutionary puzzle to make a thriving whole.

---

Credits

Host/Co-producer: Ted Alvarez

Co-producer: Sara Bernard

Music: The Explorist

Executive Producer: Mark Baumgarten

The Science of Sasquatch

The Science of Sasquatch

September 14, 2021

To find the mythical beast, members of the Olympic Project first analyze the evidence.

Bigfoot, Sasquatch or whatever your favorite nickname; this giant, apelike cryptid is cemented in the minds of many Americans — and nowhere is that more true than in the Pacific Northwest, where reports of strange things afoot in the woods are relatively common.

The beloved legend has given rise to enthusiasts galore, but it has also helped create a different kind of Bigfoot buff: one that takes a more scientific approach. 

For this episode of Crosscut Escapes, we suspend disbelief to join The OIympic Project, a local group of scientists and seekers who collect, vet and analyze the mysterious physical evidence they find, from stray hairs to large footprints to unexplained sounds. 

With a particular focus on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, the group aims to amass the data that just might, eventually, either prove or disprove Bigfoot’s existence once and for all.

---

Credits

Host/Co-producer: Ted Alvarez

Co-producer: Sara Bernard

Music: The Explorist

Executive Producer: Mark Baumgarten

The Fungus Among Us

The Fungus Among Us

September 7, 2021

Wild mushroom foraging can be deadly. But in a region crammed with thousands of edible species, it’s fiercely beloved.

With its plentiful moisture and forest cover, the Pacific Northwest is home to some of the greatest proliferations of wild mushrooms in North America. Many people are inspired to hunt for them, but there’s a fine line between delicious and deadly.

In Northwest forests, for instance, you can stumble upon beloved gourmet varieties, like morels and chanterelles, but also scarier ones, such as the aptly named “death cap” and the “destroying angel,” which can attack your liver and kidneys, killing you within hours of consumption.

Needless to say, learning how to forage on your own can be an intimidating prospect. That’s where the Puget Sound Mycological Society comes in. It’s one of the largest organizations of its kind in the country, and education is its main focus.

In this episode of Crosscut Escapes, we tag along with Marian Maxwell, a mycologist and former president of the Puget Sound Mycological Society, to learn a thing or two about mushroom hunting strategies, obsessions and pitfalls and the weird and wonderful world of one of the planet’s strangest organisms.

---

Credits

Host/Co-producer: Ted Alvarez

Co-producer: Sara Bernard

Music: The Explorist

Executive Producer: Mark Baumgarten

To the Rescue!

To the Rescue!

August 31, 2021

For outdoor adventurers, search and rescue teams provide a critical service, often for free — and it all started in Seattle.

For outdoor adventurers in Washington state, potential trouble can be just a few steps away. The combination of topography, weather, glaciers, avalanches and technical ascents in the state's craggy peaks mean that even the most careful hikers can find themselves in danger.

Most of them are lucky enough to never need outside help. But for those who do, mountain rescue teams are prepared to swoop in on foot or from the air. And Seattle Mountain Rescue is indisputably one of the best wilderness rescue networks in the country because it works in one of the hardest places to do it.

Seattle Mountain Rescue and other teams of trained mountaineers are on call for alpine wilderness rescues in western Washington 365 days a year. But there's something even more remarkable about them: They're made up entirely of volunteers.  

The whole idea of rescuing people from dangerous situations in the mountains completely free of charge was born right here in Seattle. For this episode of Crosscut Escapes, we explore the origins of mountain rescue and see what it takes for someone to go from being rescued to becoming a rescuer themselves.

For more information on how to have a safe journey on your next adventure, check out Seattle Mountain Rescue’s handy preparedness guide.

---

Credits

Host/Co-producer: Ted Alvarez

Co-producer: Sara Bernard

Music: The Explorist

Executive Producer: Mark Baumgarten

Climate Change and the Future of Outdoor Adventuring

Climate Change and the Future of Outdoor Adventuring

August 26, 2021

In this special episode, we speak with the director of the UW Climate Impacts Group about the ways that outdoor recreation is changing and what can still be saved.

For a long time, climate change was more of a theoretical threat for many people. While certain events would underline the threat the scientists were warning the world about, they were rare enough that it was possible to ignore or quickly forget about the dangers ahead.

That is becoming more and more difficult to do now as headlines about record-breaking heat waves, drought, wildfires and flooding become more frequent. 

It is also becoming more difficult to ignore for one particular segment of the population: outdoor adventurers who rely on snowy slopes, forest trails, waterways and clean air to get their kicks.

For this special episode of Crosscut Escapes we are sharing a conversation from our Crosscut Talks podcast where we speak with CIG director Amy Snover about the ways the changing climate is changing the nature of outdoor recreation.

Stay tuned for the first episode of Crosscut Escapes' second season on Tuesday, Aug. 31!

---

Credits

Host: Mark Baumgarten

Event producers: Jake Newman, Andrea O'Meara

Engineers: Seth Halleran, Resti Bagcal, Viktoria Ralph

Coming Soon! Crosscut Escapes, Season 2

Coming Soon! Crosscut Escapes, Season 2

August 19, 2021

The adventure begins August 31, 2021. Host Ted Alvarez returns with six new episodes that will take you to the wildest places in the Pacific Northwest with the people who know them best. 

The Beige Blur

The Beige Blur

February 8, 2021

The shrub-steppe ecosystem may seem boring, but it is essential to the survival of grouse, orcas and people.

When people think about Washington’s beautiful natural landscapes, most envision serrated mountain ranges, dense forests or perhaps the wild waves on the coast. 

But historically, the ecosystem that has taken up more of the state than any other is one many have experienced only as a beige blur from the window of a car or airplane. This collection of rolling yellow hills, gray and brown rocks, and dull green sage dominating the spaces between mountain ranges in the state’s middle is known as the shrub-steppe.

Before European settlers arrived, shrub-steppe covered over 200,000 square miles of the American West, 10 million acres of it in Washington. But as many as 80% has been lost to agriculture, development, habitat fragmentation and, increasingly, wildfire. Part of the reason the land disappeared so fast is because so few people realize it exists. 

Scientists, ranchers and outdoor enthusiasts are coming together to help preserve what remains of Washington’s shrub-steppe. Success will help protect endemic species like the sage grouse, as well iconic species downstream like the orca — and it will ensure a critical outdoor gateway remains for the diverse generations to come.

---

Credits

Host: Ted Alvarez

Engineering/Music: The Explorist

Links

Watch the "This Land Is Part of Us," a short film on the shrub-steppe ecosystem from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Conservation Northwest here.

The River Rewild

The River Rewild

February 1, 2021

Few rivers define a region like the Columbia, where tribal scientists are making headway in bringing back its most important species: salmon.

Since time immemorial, the Columbia River ha been a food source, a dividing line and a driver of culture and politics throughout the Pacific Northwest. And since humans have lived on it, we’ve sung about it — from Native hymns to Woody Guthrie’s “Roll On, Columbia.”

Ever since white settlers first came west, people have gone from relying on its seasonal bounty to attempting to tame it for their own purposes. Of those efforts, nothing has transformed the Columbia like the 18 dams that generate low-cost electricity and create reservoirs that support Washington’s year-round agricultural industry. Woody even wrote a song about the largest of those dams, the Grand Coulee — a 500-foot-tall, nearly milelong wall of concrete that is among the largest objects built by human hands.

But the dams also critically injured the river’s prolific salmon runs, eradicating the populations and flooding fishing grounds and villages that upstream salmon tribes relied on and lived in for millennia. Entire cultures were broken overnight, without even cursory consultation.

The memory of salmon has proved more powerful than concrete, however, as tribes and scientists have worked for decades to restore the presence of salmon in the upper Columbia. Now, the Colville Tribes are reporting that chinook salmon are spawning above the Grand Coulee dam for the first time in 80 years, offering hope that the river may yet return to its wild self again.

---

Credits

Host: Ted Alvarez

Engineering/Music: The Explorist

---

Links

Salmon spawn in the upper Columbia after an 80-year hiatus