YXCDVi3nSe+lUWyLhiaw4AThis stop was a very different kind of camping. It’s really traveling, without having to endure staying in a hotel. I had two primary goals here: see two lifelong friends, and see our favorite comedian. Both were located in Seattle and so we stayed in a KOA to the south. Coming straight off some forest service campgrounds and a national park, it ain’t much to look at as campgrounds go, and it’s probably the most sardine-packed KOA I’ve ever seen, but it also provides full hookups, laundry, and a safe place to leave Dory while we do city mice things. So it’s perfect.

Gu4h0CJbQxGD3%LLv+RG+wOn our way, we stopped at a very special place. My friend, Anne, happens to be the granddaughter of the people who donated 500 acres of land back in the 70s in order to create a wildlife refuge. Its name is Northwest Trek, and remains one of my all time favorite places to visit. It operates as a refuge and rescue facility for a variety of animals who do, or did, call the northwest their home. There are enclosed habitats for the predators and smaller animals, as well as a huge open roaming territory for the herbivores. The habitats are created in such a way that the animals have the ability to hide from humans when they wish. Because of this, it is entirely possible you won’t see anyone, especially around midday. I happen to love this, but be aware you may need to come back and try later in the day to catch some views when they’re out of hiding.

zikzpm7MSCWKYIvpu%JypgThis is what happened when we arrived, which was probably around 2pm. As we headed toward the trams, having seen zero critters in their enclosures, we were muttering, “Now eventually you do plan to have wild animals? In your wild animal park?” The tram tour corrected the trend and we saw enough free roaming wildlife to make the driver visibly giddy. We apparently spotted 5 out of 6 of their moose (hooray!), plus herds of bison, elk, mountain goats, longhorn sheep, and plenty of deer, all up close and personal. That was fun.

kHSXHstcSHiA1%Wv8oisLwReturning to the habitats, we saw everybody, being all happy and active, and seeming not to care much whether there were humans staring at them. I could spend hours watching otters, and may have. We also witnessed some impressive bear play between two young males. Both were orphaned and not able to be released into the wild. The habitats don’t appear to have much of a barrier between the animals and spectators, causing one to really question whether one of them could clear the trench if they ever wanted to. My friend reminded me later that they are very well fed. However, she tells stories of being in the park essentially alone (a super nice perk for having cool grandparents) and coming across a pack of wolves staring her down hard. Doesn’t matter how much people explain it’s safe at that point. I highly recommend a visit to this place if you’re anywhere close to Seattle. It’s only about an hour drive away and very cool.

V0ZjpHCcSr+aAx2CvYbiFQThe next day was devoted to being tourists with my pals. They played tour guide in a spectacular way and we had a blast. Included in the day’s itinerary was a lovely lunch at Toulouse Petit, followed by a fully hipster coffee experience at La Marzocco. It doesn’t get any more Seattle than this, I figure. Richard got an espresso that met his expectations, and that’s not so easy. They give classes on making the perfect espresso drinks, ranging from novice to expert, including steamed milk latte art. Fully caffeinated we followed with a trip up the Space Needle (actually just one bud went up with me), and a spin through the Chihuly Gardens. That one was a thrill for me because a) I’m a sucker for color, and b) I had just missed the exhibit when I first went to Montreal four years ago to pick up Dory. Pictures don’t do it justice. Put all of that into a city center with a Polish heritage festival going on, and you’ve got yourself a big day.

vtNY7dEASp6a3ArxsVWAegBut wait, there’s more. That evening we had tickets to see Eddie Izzard. As a comedian, he’s hard to describe. If you know him, you get how hysterical he is and his latest show does not disappoint. In addition to being brilliant, and worldly wise, and hysterically funny, he is also a transvestite (an “executive transvestite” to be specific). Appropriately enough, the man sitting next to us was dressed very tastefully, wearing classy women’s clothes, makeup, and sporting a hair cut I could never pull off. He was beautiful and we struck up a fascinating conversation about his journey. People around us joined in and the experience gave me an uplifting feeling about people. And then of course, there’s Eddie, who can transition from a riff on what would happen if there were animals besides humans who became bat-like superheroes (“I am Bat Giraffe.” “I am Bat Crocodile.” “I am Bat Bat.”), to how to push off the destructive power of evil by doubling (not ‘re-doubling’ as he points out because that makes no sense) our own efforts to do good in the world. I so love that man.

IMG_6192Saturday exhausted the country mice. Sunday was a glorious recouping day filled with: laundry, internet and blogging catch up, shopping, and route planning for the next leg of the journey.

Perfection. What a great stay. But the best part for me was, of course, hanging with the Paly peeps. Let’s do it again, shall we?

Total miles from Windy Point: 85.4, 17.6 mpg, 3 hours 1 min. It’s a KOA, though I must point out it’s incredibly tightly packed and right next to a busy street (and an Amazon Fulfillment Center) so there’s road noise. There’s also 5G, a win. And, they serve all-you-can-eat pancakes in the morning. They also showed outdoor family movies at night.

Mt. Rainier NP

  1. fullsizeoutput_135aOk, I recognize there are a lot of pictures here. And trust me, that was after deleting most. There is just a ton to see in this national park and it is all gorgeous. I think, in fact, this may be one of my all time favorite parks, despite the fact that it was rainy and overcast the whole time. The upside of coming during the week, and being willing to hike in the rain, was that it felt like we had the place to ourselves. It wasn’t until we left on Friday that we saw how different it could be with all the people flooding in. We both agreed that it was worth the weather to get the peaceful moments.

WbvUV3YkQZa1bV91tagAs we drove in, we were treated with what ended up being the best views of Mt. Rainier the whole time. This is an aptly named mountain for sure, but we didn’t know that at the view point on Highway 12. Once in the park, the clouds started moving in and we didn’t see the peak again until just before we rolled out.

%piTIaeiRYCJd2vFAgDmbwOur first stop in any national park is usually the visitor center for their informational movies and topo map models. We are truly giddy for that. The Henry Jackson Visitor Center is definitely the place to go for all the info, plus wifi. There’s a cafe, and there’s also a restaurant at the Paradise Inn. The road up from the Cougar Rock campground was windy and and upward climb, but could have been doable for Dory. Parking is challenging though with a trailer, so we unhitched and set up in the campground first.

JheKoGcDSNWWymNqTkcqrQRichard went to the ranger talk in the campground at night and learned a great deal about the architecture in the park. Apparently, this was one of the first national parks to develop a comprehensive aesthetic plan before building all of the access points for visitors. A great deal of thought went into how to balance accessibility with maintaining the natural appearance. Bridges were specifically designed to incorporate the rocks found in the area so they’d blend in better. Facilities and roads were carefully placed so people could drive past the most beautiful features and experience the best views of the landscape. I must say, they did a really good job.

7xy+JJDOTP2zBbvT98xcQAOn our first full day in the park, we did several “little” hikes. I’ve decided that Richard’s specialty in life is to drag me to beautiful places and try to kill me. Individually, the hikes we did looked short, but after that day, we did somewhere between 8 and 9 miles of hiking with much of it being climbing. He is very good at his job and I was pretty fried, but we got to see some beautiful waterfalls so I must admit it was worth it. From the Cougar Rock campground, we first took the trail down to Longmire. From there, you can do an easy interpretive loop around a meadow called called “Trail of the Shadows.” Here you get to learn about how the cold springs were used to draw visitors in the early days, with the promise of a spa like, recuperative getaway. Many of the stone pools are still there and there are places where the water bubbles up out of the ground, creating a rusty colored patch of earth made of Travertine. When the springs are cold, the mineral deposits do not clump and crystalize, so it all spreads out.

pbygLf6tTF2TYTwSFsEUbgReturning to camp, we then took the trail up to Carter and Madcap Falls. This trail takes you first across the Nisqually River and then you climb upstream following the Paradise River until you come to the falls. By this time, we’d already done maybe 5 or 6 miles, so I was feeling it. Really, only the promise of a beautiful water feature can move my feet uphill like that. I didn’t say much and instead concentrated on putting one shoe in front of the other until we got to the lookout. “Yes, it’s beautiful. Fine. How far is the other ______ lookout?” The hike down was considerably easier.  On our way, we noticed a long pipeline that appeared to be made out of wire bound wood. Like a long extended wine barrel. We decided that’s what that was and that there must be a wine spigot at the bottom. That would be a fitting reward for such a long day. Tragically, that was not the purpose of the pipeline and Richard found out from a ranger that it had something to do with a hydraulic power project they tried to do in the 70s but was later abandoned.

8KbZmFRzShq9oGDq6e7hIgOf special note on this day is the fact that Richard got to try out his new Rain Kilt while hiking for the first time. I’m not allowed to tease him about it anymore. He wants me to note that it was highly effective at keeping rain off his shorts and that it packs down very small. No, he does not wear pants. Ever. We got broad smiles from the few other hikers we saw, and laugh all you want, but I’ll bet you’re wondering right now if you also need a rain kilt.

The next day I suggested we drive places. We took the Stevens Canyon Road to explore the eastern side of the mountain, and sure enough, the weather was just a bit less wet. We passed by several beautiful lakes, which I’m sure are even more stunning when the clouds part and they are able to reflect the mountain. No such luck for us.

C1QBIdcwR3efSEtGnS8OqAWe did get out and do some short hikes along the way. One was to Box Canyon. This is a place where there is a deep gash in the rock, with water rushing through vigorously more than one hundred feet below. Part of that trail is closed, but we got a great view and were able to go on the bridge directly above.

Another trail we did was close to the Ohanapecosh Campground. We first checked out the campground and Visitor Center there and first ascertained there is no wifi and no dump. Until we learned that, we were thinking that would be the better place to stay since the eastern side tends to be less wet that over at Cougar Rock. They do have lots of RVs in the campground, but you’d have to find somewhere else to dump.

c4Vhbs76RNSc3GA2tvwThis is an interpretive loop called the Grove of the Patriarchs which is an easy walk about a mile long. It takes you through old growth forest and follows the emerald waters of the Ohanapecosh River before crossing over it on a suspension bridge. Here I got several more shots to add to my Richard crossing bridges photo collection. This was the one time in the park where we felt like there were lots of people. We figure this is because the trail is accessible and close to the park entrance. We do wonder if this is how the park would feel everywhere if it were a summer weekend.

w2BFceOtTOGOlJ2OHEvGQAThe last hike we did had the potential of being yet another attempt to kill me, but it was not bad. This was the hike out to Silver Falls Lookout. It was a little more than half a mile and ended at the most spectacular falls I’d seen. And that’s saying quite a lot given the watery nature of this park. This falls system cuts through the rock like a maze before shooting out at the bottom like an enormous faucet. The view from the bridge gives you a nice overlook of all the lower stepped terraces. There is a longer loop one can do right out of the Ohanapecosh campground, but I was quite content to do the half mile out-and-back and call it a day. Dinner that evening combined chili and a wifi check in at the visitor center up in Paradise.


With ambivalence, we packed up the next morning. On the one hand, we were both pretty done with feeling wet, plus we could see the park start to fill up with weekend throngs. On the other hand, this was an incredible park and we were sad to leave. In the morning, I walked to the bathroom at the end of our loop and noticed the clouds had cleared enough to see the mountain. I hadn’t brought my phone so I practically ran back to get it. I swear, it cannot have been five minutes before I returned to take a picture, and by that time there was a perfectly positioned “nope” cloud that had moved in, just to spite me. aXyrHm7QT5W6VpowPcGnpQThe park was only temporarily mischievous and deigned to show herself fully before we said farewell.

What a beautiful park. Definitely earns the name, but if that’s what it takes to produce so many wildflowers and water features, so be it.

Total miles from Windy Point: 118.4, 16.2 mpg, 3 hours 5 min. Site C8 Cougar Rock. Flush toilets, dump, not much solar, NO cell service for either. Wifi at Jackson Visitor Center, or Wilderness Center in Longmire. Otherwise, nearest cell service is in the town of Ashford.

Windy Point

img_5695Sometimes you stumble upon something great because you notice beauty and ask, “Can we stay here?” That’s what happened when we headed up Highway 12 toward Mt. Rainier. This was our one transit night where we had no preset reservations. We thought about staying in a state park in Yakima, stopped to check it out even, but decided to roll the dice and keep moving. That turned out to have been a great call.

img_5689Yakima is a very big town in comparison to everything around it. We were surprised that the location of Yakima Sportsman State Park seemed to be right smack dab in the middle of everything. Really, it feels much more like a county park, with camping. Under that description, it is quite nice. It has little ponds and trails, and campsites with hookups, as well as some without. There are picnic areas, and it seems a little oasis for those who live in the town. For us, we felt we could do better, and it was early in the day, so we moved on.

img_5692Following Highway 12 west, we passed through some truly lovely countryside. Having left behind the golden hills of the eastern side of Washington, the flora and fauna began to come alive, following a peaceful little river right by the road. Coming off of a windy couple of days in the gorge, this area really spoke to me.

We were able to look up some info on the Forest Service campgrounds along the river, but there wasn’t a lot in terms of description. So, at the very next campground we came to, we pulled in to check it out. img_5708This was Windy Point, and it was blessedly calm. We found a perfect site, right by the river, and set up camp with hours to spare of daylight.

Sometimes traveling feels like work, and sometimes it feels like a vacation. This place satisfied the latter, and it was a divine respite. We both waded out in the clear, shallow river, which was not too cold. And we had time to spare to just sit by the water and listen. Bliss.

img_5716Dinner was Blue Apron pork tacos with a spicy slaw on the side. With a before dinner margarita and an after dinner glass of wine, I was pretty happy. Plus, we started binge watching “Outlander,” and that’s a fun show, with kilts (more on kilts to come later).

Perfect little stop along the way.

Total miles from Columbia Hills: 131.8, 15.6 mpg, 3 hours 28 min. Site 6. Enough cell service for texts, but not much else. No dump. Vault toilets. Water, but it tasted and smelled awful. Close to the road so you can hear cars, but they get drowned out if you’re right next to the river.

Columbia Hills

img_5658This destination was really for Richard. He had ridden the Columbia River Gorge a couple summers ago and it had been a highlight. The aim for this visit was for him to ride the Washington side, so we found a state park at the eastern end of the ride that we used as our base camp. Easier than packing up and moving every day.

img_5595A secondary goal for this weekend happened to time with another Bruce maintenance service on the road. We keep clocking so many miles during summer trips that it’s becoming a matter of course that we’ll have to find an Acura dealership somewhere along the way. For efficiency, we planned it such that I could drive the entire route from east to west (90+ miles) with Richard and his bike on board, drop them off at the far west end of the route, and go get an oil change (for the car, not me).

I must say, the logistics worked out pretty well and I even got to get caught up on the blog using the super fast Acura dealership wifi while the work got done. All told, that was about three hours of sitting in the surprisingly comfortable leatherette chairs before Bruce was returned, all filled with fluids and devoid of road grit and many layers of bug splats.

img_5579I followed Richard’s route and caught him about 60 miles down Highway 14. He’s a biking beast. He noted a couple things about doing the ride on that side. First off, he probably started too far west and too close to Vancouver. It was pretty much freeway riding for about five miles and he had to cross a terrifying narrow bridge just outside Washougal. He avoided some of the highway by following the Evergreen Road, but even that eventually dumps you onto 14 before it’s nice. If he had to do it over again, he would start at Steigerwald Lake. Anyway, he made it and I picked him up safe and alive, and drove back to our campground.

img_5612The Columbia Hills State Park campground at Horsethief Lake was really pretty nice. It had hookups and access to a protected little lake right by the river. A happy surprise for us was finding an Altoiste family there when we pulled in. I love that. I also really liked the family and they had lots of helpful information about the area. One thing they said was that, yes, it is always windy there. And when I say it was windy, apparently I mean 20 mph sustained winds because they had a little gadget that measures wind speed. The number 20 feels way too low to describe the constant buffeting, but I fully defer to the gadget. In fact, it’s tops on my list to purchase one of these (in blue). One supreme benefit of the wind was that it was at Richard’s back and acted as a tail wind the entire time.

img_5659The park apparently has been aware of wind for quite some time and there was a nice perimeter of tall, mature trees whose primary function must be to create a block. I noticed it best when I tried to go boating the next day. There was a very distinct boundary in the water, beyond which the wind was just brutal. Staying within the invisible semi circle closest to shore, it was almost like a normal calm day. Cross the line and you’re gonna get a face full of spray and wonder if you could actually be carried out to sea from within a lake.

img_5621Richard’s second riding day began with me dropping him off at Drano Lake. For this stretch, he had to pass through several tunnels. There are buttons you can push to let cars know there’s a bike in the tunnel, and he said almost all drivers were courteous to him. All it takes is one asshole though. He did have someone beep at him in the tunnel, which you can imagine would not be calming. Mostly people were nice, but he did opt to get off the highway and take Old Highway 8, which he says was much nicer and provided spectacular views of the gorge from high above.

img_5632He then arrived back in the campground about the time I was deciding to call the boating quits for the day. We got to do a little walking around the park to look at their collection of petroglyphs. There are apparently more impressive ones, but you have to book a tour with the park ranger because they are in a protected area to prevent (further) vandalism. People suck. If we ever go back, we might want to give that a try. In fact, there were all kinds of historic museums and scenic hikes we did not do. There’s a lot to keep one entertained on the gorge. However, I don’t think I’ll ever be one of the hundreds out there with parasails or sailboards, or whatever you call things you attach to yourself when it’s windy and hold on for dear life. One sad thing I noted was that the damage from last summer’s fires is very apparent. There are entire mountainsides, once densely forested, that are now bare, save the charred remains of thousands of trees. That was a massive fire and the scars will be visible for a very long time. Otherwise, the gorge does not disappoint if you’re looking for a hundred-mile stretch of spectacular river canyon scenery.

Total miles from Barview Jetty: 173.1, 16.2mpg, 4 hours 6 min. Site 3. The sites are slotted next to each other with no privacy. But hookups, nice bathrooms, great cell service for both.

Barview Jetty

hydmr5sdRC2f0duaLU6wCAWhere is the most happening place to be on the Oregon coast for the 4th of July? Well, apparently it is here, right by Rockaway Beach. Did any of us know that? Like, especially the person who chose the place? Also the person traveling with three dogs? Nope.

This is a big county campground, with a few sites nicely private and shaded, many slotted together in a gravel parking lot, and some, like ours, weirdly located in the parking area by the beach. 85HJPpkHSG6z12DJfR8z4QWe all had the same thought when we pulled in, and that thought sounded something like Ricky Ricardo telling Leenda she had some splaining to do. However, there was sun. And cell service. And it was right by the beach. So we ended up actually liking it. Dogs likely had a different opinion once the fireworks started.

Before the festivities got underway, Richard got in a bike ride along the “Three Capes” route, while Linda and I planned to meet up for boating down in Pacific City. Eur06p5ySWeESlgffKIxkQOur aim was the Bob Straub State Park and nearby boat launch. We eventually found it, even though it was confusing and seemed to span both sides of an estuary, but it was pretty windy. It’s nice traveling with someone you feel comfortable enough with to go, “Meh, I’m not feelin’ it,” and have them be relieved cause they weren’t either. So instead of getting the boats out, we just messed around the beach for a while.

UlhF53C2QPS4vgf7WDLc+wWe all did a bit of regrouping and decided to meet up at the Tillamook Creamery. It turned out to be a zoo when Linda got there, so she bailed, but Richard and I braved the crazy. That place is like a huge Visitor Center, complete with cheese tasting, a factory observation deck, a movie, and little explanatory displays. Plus, it had ice cream. We brought some back for Linda and that was probably all she really needed from that experience.58397507664__A9BFEFD1-2AE1-482F-90DE-A0D05FE94CEE

Then it was back to the campground to watch things begin to ramp up for the 4th. As more and more cars pulled in to the parking area, we could already hear the fireworks start to go off. Poor doggies started to shiver and shake and Linda ended up getting outta dodge and drove down the road until it wasn’t so intense. There they parked, music blaring, until the aerial battle recreations were mostly over. We were curious and headed to the beach to witness all the glory.

4SMEmdylSqedvW6Bo9g5cQFirst off, it was packed. This is a three mile beach and there were partiers with campfires going full blast in the sand, as far as one could see. Everyone had their own arsenal, ranging from little stuff, to seriously professional looking explosives. Things really got going around 10pm, since the sun didn’t set until 9ish. Early on, the smoke became really intense, so we kept edging our way closer to the ocean waves. Once it was dark, there were nonstop fireworks all around us. Huge bursts went off overhead, raining little charred bits of paper on top of us. As we looked down the beach, it was hard to tell the difference between the professionally organized displays and those of just regular beach goers who’d spent a ton of money. F8DVn1KZQSajWwS32a1b7QIt was reminiscent of a blockbuster movie beachy war scene, but way more colorful and with slightly less screaming. By 11, it was beginning to die down and we retreated back to Dory. That was an experience. No way can you do anything close to that in California. We usually go to city parks with presentable, though not awe inspiring, displays. This was like a hundred times the fire power and none of the organization.

R9hZkecMRUGxQmqQz2OwGQFriday, we had to say goodbye to our Alto buddies. We’ll be sad not to see them at every campground, and the doggies will be confused and wonder where we are. They are fun and we miss them already.

We head over to the Columbia River Gorge now in what we are calling the Summer of Inefficient Route Planning.

Total miles from Kalaloch: 203.6, 16.0 mpg, 5 hours 12 min. Site Y3. Vault toilets out in the beach area. NO electric hookups in our sites, but excellent solar. Great LTE for both (man, we like that!). Dump on site, water filling station in separate location. Lots of big rigs with lots of generators. Fog horn, train. I’m making it sound worse than it was.


img_5290So, our whole rationale for coming to the Pacific Northwest for summer was to avoid the heat. And we have checked that box in a serious way, to be sure. We kind of forgot that the thing most associated with this area is rain. Even when we set our sights on seeing things like rain forests, for some reason, it comes as a surprise to us that it could be raining while we’re there. What I’m saying is we’d already gotten a sufficient level of cold and overcast days by the time we arrived at the coast. And of course, it was cold and overcast. And we were surprised when we should not have been.

img_5392Still, the upside to a rainy area is obviously the abundance of green. Lush hillsides, dense and varied forests, wildflowers all along the sides of the roads as though someone planted them. We can’t and don’t deny that Oregon and Washington can boast some of the most lovely natural landscapes anywhere in the world. We just feel that they’d look nicer if the sun came out more, that’s all.

img_5284From Seaquest, we slowly made our way up highway 101 until we found a Walmart. That’s always a fun way to get in some urban hiking and restock groceries. We then headed toward the coast, taking a Google recommended short cut along a rural road until we rejoined 101 at the coast.

img_5312Arriving at Kalaloch, we saw Linda’s Alto set up in the site across from ours, but she was out. We went down to the beach after a nice Blue Apron recreated dinner, looking hopefully at a tiny break in the clouds. I remained optimistic that it would be just enough for a sneaky sunset. I waited patiently until I could just barely seen the hint of something round slowly emerging from the clouds. It could have been the moon, but was in fact the sun getting in one last shot before disappearing for the day. I got some cool shots as the concentration of light made it look like the horizon was on fire.img_5335 As it turns out, while we were snapping photos on the beach, Linda was up above in the campground, shaking her fist at the couple of jerks who wouldn’t get out of the way of her sunset pictures. Then she realized it was us and took some really nice photos. She even thought to get a reflection picture of Dory. She’s awesome that way.

img_5352The next day, Richard wanted to ride the road that went to the Hoh Rain Forest. I got to drive it and take pictures, which is always a treat. At the end, we hiked a couple of nature trail loops to see what they dub the “Hall of Mosses.” That’s a truly beautiful hike and very easy at less than a mile. The other loop is just over one mile and provides a nice little meet up with the Hoh River about half way through. We didn’t see much wildlife but we sure did see lots of pretty plants and flowers. Nice way to spend a day.

img_5395In the morning, we got a surprise. Thank god Richard thought to look at the reservation tag on our site. He noticed it said that our departure date was listed as that day. Somehow, I messed up and only reserved two nights when I thought I had reserved three. Had he not seen that, I really would never have known until someone kicked us out of our site, and by then we’d be out of luck. As it was, we were able to jump on a newly open site and just move over one loop. Kind of a close call and now we’re double checking all remaining reservations well ahead of time. Sheesh.

The rest of the day was forecast as genuinely rainy, so we made it an errand day. We drove out, with Linda, to the town of Forks, a little over thirty miles from the campground. Apparently the town is famous for being the setting for the “Twilight” books, but we’ve never read any of those and were more impressed with their laundromat. We also got propane refilled and did grocery shopping. When you’ve been on the road a while, you’d be surprised how fun errand days can actually be.

img_5383On the way back, we stopped at Ruby Beach and caught a glimpse of some tide pool creatures. Linda saw more at Beach 4, but she got up at 7am, so she earned it. We got the lazy person’s view and it was still pretty cool. After dinner, we took a drizzly walk to the Kalaloch Lodge for soft serve ice cream. Perfect day.

We can see why this place is a favorite among Washingtonians. We’d probably be frequent visitors if we lived close enough. The real score would be one of the ocean front sites with a primo view. We did not get those, alas, and there was enough greenery around that there are only a few places where you can see the beach without walking down to it. But it’s a nice getaway close to a nice beach.

Total miles from Seaquest: 161.2, 15.2 mpg, 3 hours 39 min. Site E3, then F9. Lots of shade, though we got good solar in the E loop. No cell service unless you walk down to the beach (where Richard mostly got work done) or go a few miles south. No hookups. Dump and water. Bathrooms fine with flush toilets.

Seaquest – Mt. St. Helens

img_5206Our departure from Elk Lake found us in the middle of a massive bike race. It was actually no small feat to navigate without simply driving into oncoming traffic. Everyone seemed to be on the same page though and drivers were courteous and slow, at least from what we saw. Before leaving the Cascade Lakes region, I got in a few nice shots of Dory in her element, and then it was an easy descent into Bend. What a lovely place that seems.img_5226

We took a little lunch side trip to Cove Palisades State Park. From the map, and signs, it looked like just a little riverside detour off the highway, but it turned out to be so much more.  We found a viewpoint that looked down into a huge canyon, towering high above a lake with all kinds of boats and water based activities. It was an unexpectedly scenic place to have a bite, though a bit more of a side trip than we’d thought. Somewhere in the back of our minds, we thought we might get to Seaquest before the Visitor Center closed at 5. Our little lunch stop caused us to readjust expectations for a morning visit.

img_5267We tracked north along highway 97, and then 26, through the eastern side of the Cascades, until we eventually hit I-5 past Portland, and took it north. Seaquest is a state park, but sits right across the street from an impressive visitor center all about Mt. St. Helens National Monument. We did get to experience it in the morning after we’d packed up. There’s a nice big parking lot with RV spaces, only a couple of which were taken by rude people with tiny cars.

People. This is rude.

img_5269We listened to a ranger talk and watched a movie about the 1980 eruption. I guess I must have been in high school at the time and I do remember it, sort of. But really only as a, “Oh yeah, did you hear Mt. St. Helens is erupting?” conversation starter. I did not realize the full impact on the area, nor the extent of how far the ashes traveled. The visitor center had video and photographic depictions of the explosion and it was frankly terrifying. The theme for this summer seems to be volcanoes, and I will say I have developed an acute appreciation of the massive, destructive power contained just below the surface.

img_5258As this was our first one night stand of the summer, it felt rather out of step with our nice, slowed down groove. It was a long drive from Elk Lake though, so for sure I was happy to stop and do an overnight. We think we might want to go back there at some point because there was a lot to explore. As such, it was still a lovely place for a stopover on our way north.

Total miles from Elk Lake: 256.2, 5 hours 51 min, 16.7 mpg. Site 3. Dump, electric hookups, very shady, good bathrooms. Ok and sporadic cell service, but better down at the Visitor Center.