Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A Two-Day Trip to Mt. Rainier and Mt. St. Helens with a Stay in Packwood

Part 2, July 19-20, 2013
(See Part 1, Below and More Photos at www.tripper.smugmug.com)

July 23, 2013

A chilly Friday-morning fog misted the evergreen trees around the motel's turret-anchored facade.
I followed along as Nora completed her early morning toilet, No. 1 first and then No. 2.
She spent fewer than 10 minutes at it.
Back in the room I informed the still covered Darlene, up to her nose, that we should have an overcast day on Mount St. Helens, which would be a good thing for photos.
By 8:32 a.m. we stopped at Cruisers on the highway in Packwood for breakfast, armed with a motel-provided ticket giving each of us $2.00 off a breakfast of two eggs, hash-browns, two slices of bacon, toast (either white or wheat) and coffee.
Or was it $2.00 off the total?
I forget, but I recall it as the former.
Then we drove 15 miles to Randle and began a wildflower-lined, 36-mile zig-zag-climb up the hill to Windy Ridge for an awesome close-up view of the volcano's caldera and the blowout across Spirit Lake, the result of the May 18, 1982 eruption.
And below the caldera, a thin, bright waterfall plummeted down what could be a very high cliff.

This would be my third or fourth visit since the 1982 eruption, including two with Sadie the Dalmatian.
Also, on the day the volcano blew, I attended an educator's conference in Portland, along with long-time colleagues Larry Vann and Brian Carter.
So, I have a slight history with the mountain.
So do Darlene and Nora. It would be their second trip to Windy Ridge.
As soon as the narrow, curvy road slanted upward like a tangled ribbon, we noticed a plethora of fox glove blossoms, pink ones and white ones, as well a yellow-mountain dandelions.
I stopped often for photos and eventually processed some images with High Definition Range software.

Then, before I could say there-lies-a-squashed-stinking-possum-on-the-asphalt, we rounded a curve above the mists and the ash-gray mass with a steam-seeping caldera blocked out much of the now blue sky.
I stopped more often for photos along paths around marked overlooks.

Nora and I strolled along a paved path to the edge of Meta Lake. Blown-down skeletons of once flourishing tall pine trees scattered across the rounded hillsides that hovered over the water.

After several other stops to gander at mounts Adams, Rainier and Hood, we parked at the Windy Ridge overlook.
I sucked in a breath at the scope of the view.

Then, with Nora on her leash, I took two cameras (fitted with a wide-angle short zoom and a medium-sized macro) and we headed for the steps up the hillside.
After a few steps, I let Nora go and she scampered ahead almost out of sight and waited only when I whistled.
As we reached the top of the steps, a man going down asked if I had counted the steps. I had not, but he said there were 439.
That sounded several hundred short.

Nora and I walked the trail above Spirit Lake to the top, pausing often for me to take photos of the timber-covered lake and the circumscribing ridges with the distant white Rainier bump to the north.

We spent almost two hours in the high-altitude sunlight.
So, on the way down the mountain, Darlene noted that I had sunburned my face and ears.
Ouch! And Drat. 
I shoulda slathered on the sunscreen, but forgot. Again. And my face felt really, really fried.
We stopped beside a sign announcing a waterfall at 500 feet below the road. Nora and I made the trek, and I plunged my head into the icy water. Mmmm. It felt good.

At 4:17 p.m., and unable to leave Nora in the steaming truck alone, we boosted sandwiches at a Randle store. We ate on the drive to Packwood.
Sunburned and tired, I lobbied to drive the 20 miles or so back to the Grove of the Patriarchs, which I had not visited in many years.
With no pets allowed, Darlene waited with a pouting Nora, and I walked the darkening trail alone. I snapped images of really, really big, really, really dead trees.
Without Darlene and Nora along to pose and show scale,  I had to make do with strangers.

I put lotion and cold wet towels on my face, then I tossed about most of the night. The bed sounded as if corn husks filled the mattress. Twice Darlene woke to demand, rather crossly, why I was making so much noise.
When I finally dozed, Nora growled as she stretch on back legs attempting to see from the open window.
It was dawn.
I got up to look, and a spike bull elk munched grass below the window. I called Darlene. She grumbled but got up to look.
I picked Nora up to see, and she yodeled at 11 decibels above ear-piercing and the Elk trotted off with 20-yard strides.
Darlene missed it.
Neither of us could sleep after that, so we readied for the trip home.
After loading the truck and driving four miles west to Packwood for our second breakfast -- a light one for me (one-egg, bacon, hashbrowns, toast) and a one-half-acre pancake with bacon for Darlene -- we headed home.
It would be 200 miles east via White Pass and Yakima or about 230 miles going north back through Rainier and Chinook Pass.
We chose the later.
As we neared the pass, a bank of misty fog clouds lay to the south above a wide timbered drainage where I presumed the Timberline Valley Motel awaited its next customers.

"It was a pleasant place," Darlene said. "All things considered."
Well, we had plenty of fresh towels but only one fresh washrag for the second night. We had no internet and no phone, although we had two cell phones that didn't work.
"It was big," I said. "And Clean. And big."  

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