Category Archives: Washington State

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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From Ellensburg to Missoula – 369 miles

It doesn’t sound far when you say it quickly but by the time we had crossed state lines (Washington/Idaho/Montana) and lost an hour into the bargain by crossing into a new time zone, you appreciate the vastness of this country.

 

It was a brilliant morning and we appreciated the ‘big skies’ we encountered. As you take in the 360 degree vista, you quickly recognise that there can be numerous weather patterns as you turn in each direction.  Once again we saw that the warm days will not be here for much longer when fresh signs are being erected with ice warnings, stopping places for snow chains and miles of snow poles.  I don’t usually like the white stuff but a log cabin in the woods with lots of deep snow might be appealing, well it might for about five minutes!

 

So what did we see on the journey?  Mile after mile of agricultural land with names of crops on the fences so you at least know what you are looking at, lots of mountains, beautiful lakes with resort areas for campers, and some incredible roads that appear endless.  I was very excited to drive up and down some of the mountains at 80 mph – seriously, that was the speed limit.  I don’t think I have ever seen road signs in America with such a high speed limit before, so it would be rude to disobey.

We are actually heading for Yellowstone National Park but today have passed loads of national parks, and the great outdoors is very much on offer here.  Sadly, in a way, we didn’t have time to stop and explore and, fortunately, we had pushed ourselves to arrive at the hotel in good time. Less fortunate was the discovery there was no room at the Inn and Booking.com had mucked up.  It took some time and some persistence but we got a decent alternative and went to celebrate with a hot dog and a frozen custard.  That was after introducing Carolyn to Denny’s at lunch time. My goodness we know how to live!

Carolyn’s Curios & Curiosities

Today, as Kath indicated, we began the road part of our Road Trip in earnest. So,… my part of our blog today will be about the roads.

There is a scale about North American roads which impresses and disturbs. ‘Round the corner’ could be several miles and ‘down the road’ could be a hundred or so!

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Sally, our Sat Nav, gave us our first instructions and, as it was my turn to drive, I listened carefully. She told me, “Continue on the I90 for 174 miles”. Nothing else for over two hours! Obediently, on this occasion, I set cruise control at the speed limit of 70 mph and… 172 miles later had touched the brake once and accelerator twice. The road was long, straight, low traffic, relatively high speed and totally trouble free.

After stopping for lunch at Denny’s, Kath and I swapped seats and Sally’s instruction for her changed to “Continue on the I90 for 185 miles”. Simple so far but… within two miles we hit a traffic jam! This was followed by someone’s breakdown, bend after bend, hill after hill, numerous road works and a five lorry pile-up with one trailer on its side. (I tried not to smile when I saw the third truck involved had ‘Jesus saves’ on the cab and was plastered with Biblical quotes. Denny’s was next to Victory Church, a fundamentalist organisation who still believe that Creation took place in 4004 BC. I make no apology for saying they’re wrong… and dangerously so!)

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Kath’s bonus for the afternoon came when the speed limits changed and she could legally do 80 mph for the first time. ‘Legally’ do it, note! Needless to say, every road works we encountered after that increased her frustration (and verbal outbursts as she blamed the world for stopping her driving at 80!). She’s a frustrated F1 driver deep down!

 

And, on the road, we passed signs to the Grand Coulee Dam, which brought back memories for me of the Woody Guthrie song; in Idaho signs for the Purple Heart Trail; Road signs warning of Abrupt Lane Edges; the beautiful Lake Coeur d’Alene and its eponymous feeder river. Snow poles and ice warnings reminded us that a pleasant Fall day heralded a much harsher winter to come. Idaho’s Panhandle National Forest echoed days gone by and the little town of Kellogg was named after a prospector not a Cornflakes salesman. Cristal Gold Mine in Silver Valley also mentioned something of the area’s history.

 

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I had one of my CTMQ (Chuckle To Myself Quietly) moments when a sign said, “Two Mile Road 1 Mile” which was followed some junctions later by the more confusing, “Nine Mile Road 1 Mile”. Regrettably, we passed both original signs at speed but I snapped the junction sign itself. 

 

 

 

Similarly, the “C’mon Inn” was a clever name for a business but I didn’t smile at the “Wildlife Crossing” sign in Montana which had been “Game Crossing” in Washington State. 

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And, when we arrived in Missoula, there was no room at the Inn!