Category Archives: Oregon

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. 

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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.

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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

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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.)

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!

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Twin Falls to Cascade Locks – 527 miles

This was our longest journey of the trip, but certainly not the most arduous!  We picked up the I-84 a couple of miles down the road and just stayed on it, mile after mile until we turned off at Cascade Locks to find our hotel was less than a quarter of a mile away.  Let’s not confuse this journey with something similar in England; much of the time the traffic was light and our speed only varied when a change in the speed limit demanded we actually did something more than point the car in the right direction and adjust the steering occasionally.  Needless to say the scenery was spectacular and you just run out of superlatives. Forget the daft politics and politicians, the jaundiced opinions people utter about the American folks and all the negatives spoken from a basis of little knowledge…this is a spectacularly beautiful country!  Its vastness offers so many facets and today we experienced a few hours of genuine appreciation for the offerings we met. 

 

We began the day in Idaho and enjoyed a mixture of farming country with its pastures and arable lands and an odd Correction Centre in the middle of nowhere. We climbed the mountains into Oregon and two things happened; our watches shot back an hour and we were back on Pacific time and we crossed the 45th Parallel half way between the Equator and the North Pole.  We then watched in amazement as The Columbia River Gorge came into view and the road followed it for mile after mile. It was neither small nor meandering but bold and wide. There were dams at different points, so hydroelectricity, wind farms along the tops of the steep gorge and various industrial plants along the way.  But some spectacular camp sites and hiking trails were also much in evidence. Something for everyone!  Carolyn has the details of the size and distances of this beautiful State but for me it is all about the visuals. Watching the sides of the vast gorge change from volcanic basalt pillars to smooth contours and then to densely wooded hillsides was beautiful.

 

Our hotel is also lovely with views of Cascade Locks and the Bridge of the Gods. How do places get their names?  In this case Native American folklore!  We went out for dinner this evening to a riverside hostelry offering beer brewed on the premises, excellent food, tables offering views of the sunset over the Locks and a very good country singer who played a mean guitar. People at the next table, from Seattle, were intrigued by our accents and fascinated by our road trip exploits, not the distances covered but more our choice of routes. They recommended Victoria rather than Seattle, which was interesting. We had to walk a little distance to find a tunnel under the train track and caught one of these seemingly endless monsters crossing above our heads as we returned. Only 130 carriages counted tonight, so not too long!!

 

Another great day and more tomorrow. Just a few miles away are the Multnomah Falls and from there we will take a look at the volcano Mt St Helens before going on to our next destination, which is Seattle. 

Carolyn’s Curios & Curiosities

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We’re in Oregon. The drive from Idaho was beautiful. Varied, interesting and every bend had a new potential photograph. However, it was over 500 miles but completed by 3.00 pm aided by another Time Zone change. We are now setting our clocks to Pacific Time although our bodies aren’t sure what day of the week it is, let alone the Time Zone! 

Most of the journey was rural but I smiled at this industrial plant. Wonder what they make? The address may give a clue.

 

 The distance is challenging but it was always predicted to be. This one State, Oregon, has a bigger area than the whole of the UK! In fact, 11 of the 50 States have an area larger than the UK. Large size and good example…

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One of the interesting aspects of the journey today was to see the utilisation of renewable energy sources in Oregon. We drove past a hillside of solar panels, a skyline of wind turbines and three significant hydroelectric dams on the Columbia River. I was surprised to see three on the same river. However, look how many this monster of a river has. 

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It’s basin is the size of France and it is the greatest flow of water in North America which goes into the Pacific. It is 1243 miles long and our ‘friend’ from yesterday, Snake River, is its most significant tributary. The gorge it has carved is up to (down to?!) 4000 feet. In perspective, it would hide almost eight Blackpool Towers stacked one on top of the other! 

Another, for me, interesting aspect of the journey today was a sign telling us we were half way between the Equator and the North Pole, i.e. crossing the 45th Parallel.1F4FC28A-FC8D-4448-8C9D-CAA3D61BEBFB

Spelling! I’ve come to terms with American (mis)spelling (just!) of ‘color’, ‘center’, ‘flavor’, ‘traveler’ etc. but today… ‘snowplow’?! Why, for goodness sake? (The signage is to remind us that almost everywhere we’ve been has had warnings of snow to come. Hard to believe in the warmth we’ve experienced this month but mental images of the wild winters round here are prompted frequently with snow poles and signage insisting on snow chains being fixed.) 

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And, another thing… which you may already have known but I came across it courtesy of Dan Brown’s ‘Origin’ (airport and plane reading). The FedEx sign has a subliminal arrow to illustrate speed and accuracy. We’ve seen so many trucks with this logo on and can’t, now, help but see the arrow every time. Subliminal messages are in a number of logos, of course. The Amazon A to Z arrow with a smile and dimple is another. 

 

A brief exploration of a ‘back road’ reminded us of our first Road Trip two years ago on the Historic Route 66 – this time we were on Historic Route 30,

 

Final quirk, this evening was when we were reminded of the Native American heritage with the street sign where we’re staying.

Not quirky but serendipitous as we noted that some live music was going to be played down the road. Good food, decent beer and a tremendous writer, guitarist, vocalist called Matt Coughlin! He reminded me of a young Ralph McTell and I told him so. He appreciated the compliment. He was so honest and real. He’d brought his wife and two children with him – they played with toy dinosaurs. After the first two songs, his moccasins were removed and his bare feet stood on outdoor paving as, I suspect they often do. 

 

Another good day.

Seattle tomorrow.