July 6 – After leaving Fossil (did we mention it was hot?), we drove to Pendleton where we planned to stay in the casino’s RV park. There was a pow-wow going on with people camped all around the casino, the RV park was too hot, and the sites were in the sun. Holiday Inn was looking better and better, but we did stay at the casino long enough to partake of the buffet and make our insignificant slot-machine donation. Oddly, one of the movies playing at the casino theater was “Harold and Maude”. A real oldie and one of Maggie’s favorites.
The next morning we drove downtown to check out Pendleton Woolen Mills which had cool stuff but was a bit too pricey – $25 for a pair of socks seemed exorbitant so we stopped at a downtown bakery for giant cinnamon rolls. After filling up with pastries, gas, and ice, we hit the road for La Grande, driving through some scenic and hilly territory. The PNW has such fascinating geology!
At the advice of friends, we detoured off I-84 before La Grande and found a camp site in the tall pines at Birdtracks Springs. We then drove on into La Grande and had a nice lunch with our friend Gary and his girlfriend, Crystal. Gary had been our roommate and friend in Santa Fe a few years ago and it was great to see him and catch up. After lunch, we were treated to iced coffees and headed to the air-conditioned library to do some blogging. We decided to stop at Safeway on our way back to the camp site, and when we pulled in, our friend Karl was just pulling out. It was one of those Syncro-nicity things (No, it’s not misspelled). So Karl and the dogs, Kenzie and Dillon, came to camp with us. Gary came out later in the evening and we had dinner and a campfire. It had been hot all day but things cooled off nicely by bedtime and it was good sleeping-in-the-bus weather.
Karl and the pups left after breakfast the next morning, after which we went for a walk along the Grand Ronde River. It was a very warm, sunny day and the river was shallow and cold. We had another great visit with Gary later in the day and he gifted Maggie with a Didgeridoo that he had made from an agave stalk. Gary is a creative individual whose talents fall into many diverse categories.
Because of the heat, we got up at 0630 and were on the road by 0730, breaking camp in record time. We headed back up the Columbia River Gorge, taking Historic Highway 30 when it was available. At one point it wound up a steep, curvy road until we came to an overlook with great views of the gorge. We stopped at The Dalles for lunch at a downtown bakery/cafe, Petite Provence – highly recommended. It got cooler as we made our way further west and Highway 30 passed some waterfalls. There were lots of people out and about, and a few splashing in the waterfall pools.
We again opted for a hotel, this time in Troutdale, so that we could shower and do laundry before camping the next several days. We headed up the I-5 into Washington the next morning, stopping in Kelso to get some supplies. An odd bus was in the parking lot, and left as we started taking pictures.
We found a camp site at Seaquest State Park in preparation for visiting Mount St. Helens the next day. We drove the short distance to Toutle for an ice cream, then went to the State Park’s visitors center to watch a video and look at the exhibits. We both still vividly remembered the 1980 eruption.
Next morning we drove up the highway to see the volcano. On the way, we found ourselves driving along the Toutle River, which is a milky grayish-beige in color, a result of its still cutting down through volcanic ash as it makes its way downstream 34 years after the eruption. We stopped for Bigfoot at the “Buried A-frame” which had an exhibit of photos showing some of the damage that had occurred after the eruption.
We stopped often for photographs as the scenery was surreal and the power of nature showed itself at every turn. We stopped at Coldwater Lake to make sandwiches and struck up a conversation with a photographer, Craig Markham, who showed us some examples of his excellent work. We drove on up to Johnston Ridge Observatory and watched another great video about the recovery of the ecosystem since 1980.
Mount St. Helens
On the road to and from the observatory, we passed several stands of trees that made us dizzy when we looked at them. This photo is not out of focus – that’s just the way the trees appear.
On the way back to camp, we stopped at 19-Mile Restaurant, perched above the Toutle River, for a sandwich and some cobbler. Back at camp, we discovered that a couple we had been talking with at one of the scenic overlooks was camped directly across from us. We shared a campfire and conversation before heading to the showers and then off to bed.
We got away early the next morning to resume our drive up the coast. We stopped in Longview for second coffee, then drove west along the Columbia River, stopping along the way to watch a large ship pass – the Freedom Ace, from Panama. When we googled her, she turned out to be a vehicle carrier. We continued on to Cathlamet where we took the bridge to Puget Island, then the ferry across to Westport. Mag was driving when we got off the ferry, but found it difficult to continue while Lar kept repeating the word “Pie” several times. A U-turn brought us to the restaurant with the big “PIE” sign, where Lar had Marionberry and Mag had coconut.
Instead of going directly to the coast and then south, since we would be coming back up that way later in the week, we went back east a bit and took a circuitous route through slow, twisty roads until we got down to Garibaldi. It took us 8 hours to drive approximately 150 miles. Oh yeah – the speed limit was 50 mph but there was a sharp curve every 1/4 to 1/2 mile, making the 50 mph signs a bit of a bad joke. We stopped on the way to check out Nehalem campground but it was full and the surrounding area consisted of steep gravel logging roads which were undesirable for camping. Along these backroads through logging country, we reflected on how logging operations appear to have changed very little over time. The ugliness of clear cut hillsides, with piles of detritus, left us sad.
We drove on to Garibaldi on the coast, where we looked forward to cool temps and nice beaches
For more photos of this part of the trip, click the link below;
Happy trails … Maggie & Larry