On its surface, a name does no more than allow for shared understanding of a noun, a person, or a place. Yet, names have ability to do so much more.
A place’s name can inspire. It can inform. It can poke fun. It can share history. Or, it can honor a memory. In the end, meaningfully named places help create a unique sense of place and character, deepening our connections to the land.
Case-in-point: Mount McCausland, just north of Steven’s Pass. In 1989, the Board of Natural Resources, which oversees transactions of and many policies for DNR-managed lands, performed its role as the arbiter of official geographic names, and designated a previously unnamed peak, elevation 5,747 feet, to honor the memory of Norm McCausland. McCausland spent his U.S. Forest Service career, 1925-69, working in the area. It was an era that allowed him to serve in fire lookouts, fight forest fires, stock lakes, check on miners, enforce sheep grazing permits, and construct trails including portions of the Pacific Crest Trail, which runs along the mountain’s wild blueberry-studded flank.
Those who make it to the peak’s registry learn a bit about McCausland and the contributions that his generation made to Washington’s wild areas. Last weekend, a troupe of McCauslands made a not-uncommon 3.5-mile trek to the top.
Other hikers on the trail who had time to visit with McCausland’s relations heard first-hand tales about the mountain’s namesake, enriching their own experience.
Washington’s landscapes are full of interesting places accompanied by names that compel you to learn more. Even now, DNR’s Committee on Geographic Names is seeking public input on three proposals from the public that will be heard next month. How do Copper Creek, Vancouver Notch, and Wildcat Pond sound to you? Whether for, or against, (even the naming of Mount McCausland didn’t go unopposed) people have until Oct. 13, 2015, to submit comments to the committee.
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