A Two-Day Trip to Mt. Rainier and Mt. St. Helens with a Stay in Packwood
Part 1, July 18, 2013
Despite of the clean, spacious and uncluttered room we stayed in for two nights last week, I thought of the Bates Motel.
A aura of dark loneliness surrounded it.
Shadowy park-like trees bordered the north side of the castle-like Timberline Village Motel. Several cabins lurked among the shadows.
Occasional vehicles, including roaring 18-wheelers, roared past on Highway 12 about 30 yards south of of the motel.
A thin, slow-moving woman in loose, faded jeans approached the desk from the back. She wore a tired expression and no makeup on her plain face. Stringy grey-streaked hair touched her shoulders. She spoke softly, took my driver's license to copy and handed me a receipt as darkness edged over the scene four miles east of Packwood.
All three of us, Darlene, Nora the Schnauzer and I, looked about with trepidation as I stopped the truck on the gravel in front of Room 12, directly below our Room 26 on the second floor.
The steep, stone stairs to the second level drew a sigh from Darlene.
And from me.
We had spent nearly 13 hours driving and from Walla Walla.
We aimed to see the famous field of glorious wild flowers that flourish around Mount Rainier National Park in late July and early August.
After crossing Chinook Pass, we visited Sunrise with many stops for photos on the way.
Abundant blossoms bordered the narrow roads, including foxglove, lupine, spirea, paintbrush, aster, monkyflower, pasqueflower seedhead, avalanche lily, mountain dandelion and penstemon.
I eventually processed many of the photos from this trip using HDR software, with interesting results.
Green grasses, however, dominated the slanted meadows below the mountain. We began to suspect that we had arrived a few day early (on July 18) to see the peak of the wildflower season.
We drove south from Sunrise toward Packwood. As we approached the Paradise turnoff at a few minutes past four, we considered another drive to the top. We asked about the distance at the gate. The ranger suggested that we visit that evening because we would encounter less traffic than during the day and, since road construction had ended for the day, we would face fewer traffic stops.
So we did.
Yet, I stopped at least a dozen times for photos during the twisting 21-mile drive. Nora and I walked along Louise Lake and Reflection Lake while I took photos of the mountain and its reflection and the blankets of avalanche lilies.
As we left, we passed the Grove of Patriarchs. The deepening shadows caused us to put off a visit.
That's when we drove on toward Packwood and the shadowy motel that had a "For Sale" sign out front.
And we had it all to ourselves that Thursday night.
Darlene declared our room to be "big and clean...and big."
"And clean," I added. "And big."
It also had no phone and no Internet connection.
And neither of our cell phones worked.
We felt a bit isolated at the Bates Motel.
Undaunted, however, we looked forward to a visit to Windy Ridge on Mount St. Helens on Friday.