I’ve been thinking more about the differences between East and West Coast living, in an attempt to determine which I like more. When I first started, there were aspects of the west that I truly loved, the laid back lifestyle, the vastness of it, but I was afraid I was too deeply rooted in East Coast lifestyle. East Coast, to me, is fast-paced. You drive 90 on the freeways to get to work, to go to a ball game, to pick up milk. You don’t drive slowly and take it in, you just get there. And there have been times in my life where I’ve been outside of the Northeast, and I was fed up with the “let’s just drive slowly and look around” mentality. And I’m afraid that’s what waiting for me on the West Coast. It’s not that driving slow, or the larger aspect, living slow, is wrong. I’m just too damn impatient.
Regardless, I decided to start writing a little bit about my perceived differences between the East and the West. And I decided to start with the beauty of each place. Reason? If I become more patient and decide to drive slow and smell the flowers, will it be worth it?
Beauty on the East Coast requires work. The interstates and highways on the East Coast don’t pass by many spectacular vistas; many just go through the industrial wasteland of the megalopolis. Take I-95 through Jersey and you would think the entire state is a wastewater treatment plant and refinery. Take 287 and you’ll think everything is under construction. But if you take a rural road, you’ll wind over rolling hills, alongside small streams in a, well, un-Jersey-like fashion.
Drive around on the West Coast and everything is big sky and mountains.
Snow-capped peaks of the Olympic and Sierra Nevada ranges dot the horizon, and the powder-blue sky stretches all the way back to Utah. Towering 6,000-foot peaks, higher than nearly every mountain back east, are just “hills” to the locals. Sometimes it is hard to focus on the road when you are surrounded by the spectacular.
The East, however, has its places. The Adirondacks are still stunning, and there are plenty of “scenic overlooks” on the highways that provide an ample view. The rolling farmlands of Western New York, punctuated by the occasional tree line or twisty trout brook, are beautiful to me. But most of the beauty in the East, I have found, is not large-scale. It is something you must get right up and see.
On the West Coast, you have those spectacular vistas, those beautiful mountain ranges, canyons, rivers, etc. But when you get right up to the land, the simple dirt that makes up those vistas, often you find that at close range, the view does not hold up. The scraggly brush and powdery dirt paint a beautiful picture from afar, but up close the brush strokes are too jagged, too barren to be great.
The East Coast, on the other hand, is much more suited for close inspection. Countless times in my travels out here, I have found something small, unique, and breathtaking. The interlocking trees on Fish Pond, the crystal-clear water of the Deerfield River come to mind. And then there is the Bog River. That has scenic vistas, some of the best in the East. But you have to work; it’s a five mile paddle and a three mile hike. But there is also a small scale that I love. There is a marshy bog with a twisting path to a granite erratics. And there is a sandy hill, where rain and the elements have washed away the vegetation. When I first saw it, I thought it was rather ugly, but when I looked closely, I noticed that the pebbles in the sand withstood the erosion of the water. The pebbles kept the sand underneath it from washing away, leaving small pyramids of sand standing like the spines of a porcupine. It took hard work getting there and a careful eye to see, but there is beauty on the East Coast.
And that is what I see now. I think the West has a lock on “spectacular”. It’s hard to find any other place where you can see the mountains, the snow, the rivers, the prairies all in one view. But the East, despite the built-up, industrialized nature of it, still has its beauty; you just have to look.