Bright and early Tuesday morning, we drove back along the river towards Portland, then up north further into Washington.
We had 2 options to see Mt St Helens, first was to drive directly north to the south end of it. We were told that this was probably a prettier drive, but depending on the weather we may not even see the mountain at all. Plus the fact that it blew the other direction, so we probably wouldn’t see the crater. Our other option was to drive 2 hours out of our way and circle around the west side of the mountain and approach it from the west. This was the most touristy part and probably the best view of the mountain, but it was also the area that was destroyed by the blast.
We were short on time, so we wanted to guarantee ourselves a view of the mountain, so we took the long way.
The drive up was uneventful, and stopping at an information center, we found information on the closest campground to the mountain.
On approach to the mountain, we stopped at every single information center there was, where we witnessed glass blowing and filled our brains with a plethora of information reforestation of the area and the blast itself.
Here are a few tidbits that I learned…what I can remember of it.
-Mt St Helens blew laterally instead of the classic vertical that we are used to seeing.
-The area’s peaks, including Mt Hood, Mt Adams, and Mt Rainier are all volcanoes.
-There was a controversy on how to let the area recover. The loggers wanted to replant, scientists wanted to let it re-grow naturally. Well when you visit you can tell which is which. The area that was replanted looks awkwardly fake and the natural re-growth is beautifully diversified.
-Some lakes were created after the blast.
-It is expected that in about 90-100 years, the mountain will completely rebuild its cone.
-Harry Truman, ex-president, lived very near the mountain and when they called for an evacuation, he refused to leave. He ultimately died in the blast, alongside his faithful…cats.
Anyways, we found our campground, a very nice place that ran helicopter tours up into the rim of the crater. The manager told us about the nicest campground of the lot, underneath a HUGE maple tree.
As we headed down, we saw 2 horses in the road, un-tethered, and I witnessed one of the funnier moments of the trip. I can’t explain why, but when I saw those horses scamper away from us, I couldn’t help but bust out laughing. For some reason they looked so awkward running. I wish I had video. It was hilarious.
Our tent all set up, we headed up towards the mountain for breathtaking views. We had been blessed with a crystal clear blue sky. We got to the top, called “Johnson Observatory,” and took a hiking tour with a Ranger. He shared tons of interesting facts about the mountain, the wildlife, the regeneration of the vegetation, and even pointed out a herd of elk in the valley.
After the tour, I went on a short hike to get closer to the mountain and Dearing went back to do her reflecting or whatever it is she does. On the hike I really noticed the “ashyness” of the area, and it was bizarre to realize that I was hiking on volcanic ash spewed out by the mountain 26 years ago.
We met back up at about 7 and headed down the mountain to find some food. We weren’t in the mood for peanut butter sandwiches and trail mix. Heading back into town, we ran across this quaint little restaurant that had a sign “Homemade Cobblers” outside, and instantly decided that’s where we wanted to eat. Unfortunately, there was another sign outside. One that said “closed.” For the love, it was 7pm!!! Who closes at 7? We pulled up, and since Dearing was convinced at this point that I was a charmer and I could charm pretty much anybody (her words not mine), she pushed me out of the car to go charm them into letting us eat.
So I walked in, found the nearest employee I could find (there were still patrons in there eating), and said the cleverest thing I could think of.
“Excuse me, by any chance did your sign outside accidentally get blown around to say ‘closed’ instead of open?’
Lame, right? Well it worked. She checked with the cook, said the grill was still on, and asked how many. I walked outside, looked at Dearing in the car, and waved her in.
We went around back to eat outside on the porch, and realized it overlooked the river during sunset. We decided that the place was family run, since the waitresses were about 16 and 11. We had a couple burgers and an OUTSTANDING wild berry cobbler. I kid you not, I almost cried. On the way out, the nice owners of the joint gave us ideas for Rainier for the next day, and we thanked them and headed out.
Back at the campsite, we got settled in, met a guy and his son from Portland (who said we had taken his favorite campsite), and he offered us some hot tea for the evening since it was getting cool. Most notably about this guy was the fact that he’d never seen The Goonies before. Weird.
Back in the tent, we went into some R&R with a Men’s Journal, People Magazine, and what was left over from the wine that we broke open the night before. We had to finish it off since driving around with an open bottle is something we didn’t feel too good about.
At about 9:30 or 10, we slipped out of the tent to go brush our teeth. I was the first out, and emerging out from the cover of the tree, I looked up and was mesmerized. I called Dearing to come out and have a look, and we both stood there looking up into the vast expanse of stars. It was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen. You could see the Milky Way streaking across the middle of the sky surrounded by what seemed like billions of stars. We stood there for perhaps 30 minutes, just staring, with seldom a word being spoken.
Tearing ourselves away from the spectacle, we brushed our teeth and crawled back into our tent underneath the cover of the maple tree. I’ll be honest, I was slightly disappointed that we hadn’t moved the tent back under open sky so I could lie there and stare at the stars. But all was well. As we lay there, I joked to Dearing about the eyes of a bear or some other crazy wild animal staring at our tent, then after getting kicked in the face by Dearing (we slept head to toe) we slowly drifted to sleep.
Next: The fog of Rainier and Candyland