Guest Author - Denise Hoffman
Tourists and residents can benefit from a small, unobtrusive reference book describing the natural surroundings of the Pacific Northwest region. Discover a guide, which has been in my personal library for many years, the National Audubon Society Field Guide to the Pacific Northwest, published by Knopf. Although there are numerous guide books available, the paperback version is small enough to slip into your luggage or purse. Mine is a bit dog-eared from use, and water logged from kayaking trips, but still in valuable.
The book is separated into three sections, Overview, Flora & Fauna, and a Parks and Preserves section. The Overview section offers a historic glimpse of the geology of the land. The Cascade mountain range is the dividing line causing drastic differences between the rainy west side, and the high desert climate of the east. The Overview includes a discussion of the weather, topography, and constellation maps of the sky overhead during all times of the year.
The second section, Flora and Fauna, includes plants and animals that typically populate the region. What makes this guide really interesting is it includes every type of living creature you may find. I've identified a range of flowers, bugs, mushrooms, and butterflies.
One drawback of this book is the lack of flower or animal identification keys, especially birds. These are charts or questions that help to narrow your choices. The categories are grouped by families which may be useless to a novice. For example, you see pretty yellow flower along the trail, or the small bird that looks like a sparrow but which species. You have to thumb through the entire section hoping to match the pictures. Also, some pictures in the book are not perfect examples and only represent a small piece of the puzzle (e.g, the bark, or flower).
The final section, Parks and Preserves, is a good listing of all natural areas found in Oregon and Washington. The summaries for each area are concise, offer interesting insights, and contact information, including phone numbers.
Overall, I enjoy this small pocket book that fits in my jacket or dry bag and covers the entire nature network. If you are not familiar with plants and animals, check this book out before traveling.