Cascade Locks to Seattle (via Multnomah Falls and Mt St Helens) – 295 miles

We had tried to visit Multnomah Falls before checking-in to our hotel at Cascade Locks but had found the road closed. Some research suggested it may be one of two reasons; firstly, that the car park may have been full and they used this tactic to avoid queues on the main highway, but, secondly, last year’s major wildfire in the area caused huge swathes of hiking trails to be closed. This morning we discovered it was the latter reason, but were directed to another exit, which was right by the Falls.  What a great start to the day (well, only if you ignore breakfast of superb pancakes with maple syrup and crispy bacon).  So, to the Falls. According to Native American lore, Multnomah Falls was created to win the heart of a young princess who wanted a hidden place to bathe. It is said the falls are arguably ‘the granddaddy’ of the 77 waterfalls on the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge. At 620 feet, it is named in virtually every World Book and Almanac under the “tallest waterfalls of the world” and more than 2 million visitors stop by each year to take in the views. I know it is not Niagara but it really is beautiful and well worth the visit.

From there it was a mere 100 mile detour to visit the famous Mt St Helens volcano. I think this road trip has made us somewhat blasé about mileage and we have started thinking like Americans in terms of time rather than distance. On that basis it seemed a good idea, and so it was. I had read that it was better to ignore the Mt St Helens Visitors’ Centre and drive right up into the mountains to the Johnston Observatory with its clear view of the crater, left by the blast, and the valley which was obliterated by the lava flow. To me, the memory was clear of that fateful day in May 1980 when the conical shape of the mountain was blasted from the side and, in the space of 10 minutes, the area had been changed forever. But then I think that my own children would have been too young to remember so, in this case, age was an advantage…I think!!

Once I had glimpsed the mountain, the peak and the crater played a game of hide and seek, using clouds which tantalisingly moved to reveal key parts of the summit but not the entirety.  Just when one face was revealed, it disappeared as another face showed itself. We paid our $8 admission, which is really a contribution to the work which goes on into seismic research, post explosion flora, fauna and wildlife, etc, and went to see the film. Really fascinating and well worth 15 minutes. By the time we had toured the exhibitions, eaten a hot dog, espied a cheeky chipmunk trying to share visitors’ picnics, the sun was seeing off the clouds. Mt St Helens was on show! Snow featured and, in spite of the reasonably warm day at 4,000+ ft, you could appreciate that so much higher up might well be starting to look a bit wintery. I now have scores of photos at every stage of the ‘big reveal’. Truly fascinating. 

The ride back down the mountains and on to Seattle was smooth, albeit with rather more traffic than our travels over the last 10 days or so. Tomorrow is under discussion, but with a general plan to make a full day of sightseeing. Legs to be shortened by much walking, methinks!

Carolyn’s Curios & Curiosities

I try to do the research elements for my bits of the blog. It’s always ‘a challenge’ for me trying to predict what Kath is going to include in her section of the blog as we tend to write them concurrently. However, this evening, Kath has finished hers and I’ve just jotted down notes. I’ll try not to be repetitive. 

Finding things out is always interesting for me. Whatever it is. But, what happens when, with the legendary story of Multnomah Falls, you get conflicting stories. The Falls’ website talks of a “a young princess who wanted a hidden place to bathe.” whilst Wikipedia suggests, “the waterfall was formed after a young woman sacrificed herself to the Great Spirit to save Multnomah village from a plague by jumping from the cliff, and the Multnomah peoples were saved. After her death, water began to flow from above the cliff, creating the waterfall.” Now then. What to believe?! It really doesn’t matter, does it? Just looking at the Falls and marvelling at the geological reasons for its existence is enough. 


Now, onto ‘our’ volcano. Kath and I both remember the 1980 explosion being shown on television and the cloud of smoke and ash seemed to be around for a long time.

Mount St. Helens is most notorious for its major 1980 eruption, the deadliest and most economically destructive volcanic event in the history of the United States. Fifty-seven people were killed; 250 homes, 47 bridges, 15 miles (24 km) of railways, and 185 miles (298 km) of highway were destroyed. A massive debris avalanche triggered by an earthquake measuring 5.1 on the Richter scale caused an eruption that reduced the elevation of the mountain’s summit from 9,677 ft (2,950 m) to 8,363 ft (2,549 m), leaving a 1 mile (1.6 km) wide horseshoe-shaped crater. The debris avalanche was up to 0.7 cubic miles (2.9 km3) in volume. The Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument was created to preserve the volcano and allow for its aftermath to be scientifically studied.

Mount St. Helens takes its English name not from any religious icon but from the British diplomat Lord St Helens, a friend of explorer George Vancouver who made a survey of the area in the late 18th century and, of course, after whom, the city of Vancouver was named. 

It’s also called Louwala-Clough (also known as Lawetlat’la to the indigenous Cowlitz people, and Loowit to the Klickitat).  Klikitat is said to derive from a Chinookan word meaning “beyond,” in reference to the Rocky Mountains. The Klickitat, however, call themselves Qwû’lh-hwai-pûm or χwálχwaypam, meaning “prairie people” (X̣ʷáɬx̣ʷaypam)

Fascinating? Not especially but the mountain volcano certainly is! Kath talked about trying to find the correct shot of it with as few clouds as possible. We went up to about 4000 feet looking all the way up; spent an hour or so at the top but, despite waiting that time (albeit not idly!), we saw it most clearly on the way down.


The Johnston Ridge Observatory is sited where volcanologist David A. Johnstone was camping on the day (18 May 1980) the eruption took place. He radioed the news but, as he was doing it, the lateral explosion killed him and his body has never been found. The Observatory was opened in 1993.

Another ‘fascinating’ note (for me, anyway!!) is that Mt. St. Helens is the youngest volcano here being only 300000 years old! Fundamentalists read carefully!

Silly comment next… as we drove towards Seattle, we came to a town called Puyallup. Love its name! ‘Puyallup’ means “the generous people.” However, my mind worked on ‘Poo! Y’all up?!’ #sorry

Silly comment next… as we drove towards Seattle, we came to a town called Puyallup. Love its name! ‘Puyallup’ means “the generous people.” However, my mind worked on ‘Poo! Y’all up?!’ #sorry

Now a serious bit. As we walked from the hotel in Georgetown to find somewhere to eat, we walked past Georgetown Records which has a phenomenal stock of vinyl – LPs, EPs and the odd Single. Now, for those too young to know, LP means Long Play  and are now called ‘Albums’. They have about 30 minutes music on each side and are played on a turntable at 33 1/3 rpm (revolutions per minute). EPs (Extended Play) have about 10 minutes each side at 45 rpm. So many memories and it was surprising seeing some of the prices now being charged for these collectors’ items. (My own collection at home needs some research, I think.)

Georgetown Records: This poster on their door drew my eye and I had to say ‘Thank you’ to them. Needless to say, I didn’t need their reassurance and offer of safety but I know many who would welcome it.


But, that wasn’t the reason for the mention. This poster on their door drew my eye and I had to say ‘Thank you’ to them. Needless to say, I didn’t need their reassurance and offer of safety but I know many who would welcome it.


And the meal? We wandered into the quirky bar/restaurant ‘9lb Hammer’ and, being Brits, ordered Fish and Chips which came with an excellent coleslaw and a far from poor tartar sauce. All washed down with a Coors Light. Great bar with pinball machines and ‘interesting decor! Fun. We also noticed the beer mats for R-town! ‘Rainbow town’ or just ‘our town’? Again, fun!

We noticed the beer mats in the bar for R-town! ‘Rainbow town’ or just ‘our town’?


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