Kt, Max, and I recently moved from Tacoma to the city of Longview, Washington.
By population, Longview is significantly smaller. The city is home to somewhere around 40,000 residents compared to Tacoma which is somewhere around 200,000 residents. On a map, Longview is closer to Portland than it is to Seattle, sitting on the southwest edge of Washington state. Longview is about an hour inland by car from the Pacific Ocean. It is at the intersection of two highways to the coast, one on either side of the Columbia River. On the eastern side of the city, the freeway known as I-5 sweeps by, on it’s way north to Canada and south to Mexico.
Longview is also closer to Mount Saint Helens than it is to Mount Rainier. It is smaller and closer to the coast and the mountains, making it a perfect fit as a home base for our adventuring.
It’s a summer afternoon in July. The lake divides the city center from the residential suburbs to the west. Young families are out riding bikes or using one of a few playgrounds around the city’s main park at Lake Sacajawea. Runners jog around the lake’s three mile track, sometimes with a dog leading them. Cars rumble over the lake’s three bridges. Large trees line the streets around the lake, creating a natural arch over the road with their thick branches and dense canopy. The setting sun beams through the leaves. Occasionally a miniature bridge appears high up over the road, designed for the local population of squirrels to move between trees.
Along the Columbia River side of Longview, there is a small port for shipping, and a number of lumber and paper mills. The city was built by Robert A Long to support his company’s investment the lumber and paper industry. One of the local high schools is named after him. A rivalry exists between the R.A. Long Lumberjacks on the western edge of Lake Sacajawea, and the Mark Morris Monarchs, on the northeast boundary of Longview and it’s neighboring city of Kelso. There is a local community college known as Lower Columbia College, known as LCC for short, and a city library.
Across the Lewis and Clark bridge to the south lies the Columbia River Highway. A sign welcomes drivers to Oregon. A right turn steep climb provides a lookout over the entire city of Longview. It’s even better at night, when the lights of the mills and the city illuminate the night sky and otherwise dark landscape.
People often wondered why I moved to Tacoma. Sometimes with a note of disdain for the city. They wonder why I would leave the paradise of Australia for a gritty small city life. I can’t argue with them if their perception of Australia is an idyllic postcard of white sandy beaches and sunshine. In Longview, I feel a romantic appreciation for the swathes of fresh cut grass, the smell of summer rain, the sun shining through old and abundant trees, and the early morning fog. I feel more at home, and most importantly, free to adventure.