Last night Charlie and I were sitting outside while the kids were going to sleep. I looked up at the sky and said, “Really?” There were a couple stars out shining very brightly. After another day of cloudy weather obscuring the view of Mt. St. Helens, the stars were going to come out the night before we leave. So of course we woke up to bright blue skies this morning. We talked about driving back up to Mt. St. Helens so that we could finally see the mountain from the overlook, but we decided that it would just use way too much time and we didn’t want to have to drag the camper back up there with us since we had to be out of the campground this morning. We compromised by driving across the street to the Visitors’ Center and looking at the famous volcano on the computer monitor. Although the picture was much clearer, it still wasn’t a perfectly clear view, so we were glad that we had decided against making the drive back up there.
So, we pulled out and began our journey back east. We drove east on US 12, which went between Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Rainier. I was hoping that we may be able to catch a view of Mt. St. Helens on that highway, but no such luck. According to a woman I spoke with, we were pretty close to the base of each mountain, so we weren’t going to be able to get any great views without driving closer. There were too many other mountains blocking what we wanted to see. Oh well. I knew we would be coming close to Mt. Rainier National Park, so we kept driving. We decided to drive into Mt. Rainier National Park, have lunch, and do some hiking.
I was trying to use my AAA book for information on Mt. Rainier to decide where we would be able to drive with a camper in tow. We didn’t want to get into a situation where the roads were really too curvy for us. Unfortunately, don’t rely on AAA for that kind of information. I thought we might be able to stop at the entrance to the park where we would show our National Parks pass and ask a ranger questions, but you actually had to drive into the park for several miles before encountering the fee station with a ranger. There was a Visitors’ Center that I thought we would be able to get to, but the signs indicated that the road wasn’t suitable for our length. No mention of that in the AAA book (I think I need to find some RVing books). We did finally get to a fee station where the ranger indicated that we would be fine on the road ahead. We drove for a little while until we found a beautiful view of Mt. Rainier where we pulled over and had lunch. After lunch we drove to a hiking trailhead called the Grove of the Patriarchs. We took a beautiful riverside trail into an old growth stand of trees consisting mostly of Douglas Fir, Western Red Cedar, and some kind of hemlock. We had a wonderful time on the trail playing in the river, jumping on the suspension bridge, reading the informative tree signs, and seeing the beautiful trees. Of course, like on any good hiking trip, the heavens opened up and poured down rain while we were looking at the trees (the farthest spot on the trail from the van). Thankfully, Charlie had brought along our supplies backpack despite the fact that this was a short, easy hike. In the backpack were ponchos for each of us, so after we decked ourselves out in our ponchos we finished our hike in relative dryness. Note to self: buy a couple child-size ponchos because Dominic and Damien’s were too long for them to walk. We used my belt to hold Dominic’s up, and I carried Damien the whole way out (talk about a good workout for my arms – that is one heavy little boy!). We came out laughing and having had a great time.
After our hike, we needed to move on so we continued to drive east. When we reached the eastern side of the Cascades we saw some beautiful buttes. Next we noticed that we must have entered some of the Washington apple country. There were apple farms everywhere despite the fact that this was a very dry area. It looked like much of this area was irrigated to be able to grow anything. Still driving east, we realized that we were back in the desert. Much of this area looked just as it had in New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, and eastern California. I have definitely decided that living in the desert would not be high on my priority list. I enjoy trees and gardening too much.
One of the things that I am hoping to do over the next couple days is to find a place to go pick huckleberries (first I need to find out whether or not they are in season – I don’t even know what a huckleberry is). I also want to find a local farmers’ market on Saturday and see what local food is available for us to try. I really wanted to try an elk burger at Mt. St. Helens, but when I drove up there to get one, they had already closed. I’m hoping some moose will be in my future!
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