Saturday, July 30, 2011

Washington's North Olympic Peninsula

Summer sunshine finally found us and has been our friend for over a week!  The North Olympic Peninsula is the part of Washington that's sandwiched between Puget Sound and the Pacific Ocean. The Strait of Juan de Fuca separates Washington from Vancouver Island, BC.  We're staying in a campground just west of Port Angeles along Highway 101.
Our campsite.

Shadow Mountain Campground and General Store.
The campground is behind the store on the mountainside.

We have a nice view of the mountains and snow can be seen on one side of the mountaintop across from us. Seems we could throw a rock onto it, but I'm sure that's not true.  The campground is located at the westernmost edge of Lake Sutherland which is separated from Crescent Lake by a strip of land.

This is the area of the Olympic National Park with nearly one million acres designated as a wilderness protected area. Remember, there are over 390 National Parks and we're trying to see most of them!

One of the first noticeable things about this area is that everything seems to be in high-definition. I suppose it's the clear air coming in off the Pacific but the scenery, the sky, the forests, the waterways and even distant mountains have a "crisp" look. 

On our way into this area last week we saw a American Eagle soaring above a lake. There are also Elk warning signs along the roads, but we've not seen one.  Deer can be seen along the roadsides. This area has rain forests, hot springs, Indian reservations, bluffs, beaches, crystal clear lakes, massive trees and lush ground vegetation.

The next town over, Sequim (pronounced as Skwim) is sometimes referred to as the "blue hole" because it is situated in the rain shadow of the Olympic Peninsula and gets only about 17 inches of rain each year. This climate is perfect for growing lavender and Sequim has a huge lavender festival every July -- we missed it by a couple of weeks.  There are seventeen local farms on the lavender tour.
US 101 circles the Olympic National Park from Hood Canal on the east to the Pacific Ocean.  We took a day trip along the beautiful, deep, clear blue Crescent Lake yesterday.   Here are some pictures we took:

We call these "tourist" trees because they look sunburned!

Lexie and me along beautiful Crescent Lake
Crescent and Sutherland Lakes are Glacial Lakes. Their crystal clear water is a result of the lack of nitrogen which keeps algae from growing. It is thought that the two lakes were a single lake at one time, but a great landslide, a gazillion years ago, separated the two.
Huge trees draped in thick moss. Fern grows everywhere. The forests are deep and dark.

A 'pee-pee' walk along a Crescent Lake path.

The small town of Forks isn't far from here, right along US 101 within 60 miles.  We're not fans of "Twilight" and if our daughter-in-law hadn't dressed as a character for Halloween a few years ago, we wouldn't even know of it's existence.  Nevertheless, we read that Forks is the imaginary setting for Twilight.  We didn't make it there today, I'm sorry to say. I would have taken pictures of some of the sights -- even though the movie wasn't filmed there. It's all make-believe.  After all, I think it's about vampires and werewolves!

Photo taken from Ediz Hook at Port Angeles.
Ediz Hook is a long, narrow strip of land reaching out into the Strait of Juan de Fuca
A Coast Guard Group Air Station is at the tip of the hook.

Notice the snow remains on the mountains even at the end of July.

 On July 8, 1955, this fellow, Bert Thomas, swam across the waterway from here at Ediz Hook to Victoria, BC.
Now this water is super cold and I am, frankly, pretty impressed.  

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Leaving Oregon - Going North!

America's famous river explorers, Captains William Clark and Meriweather Lewis camped at the mouth of the Columbia River near Astoria from late December 1805 until late March 1806. They named their winter home Fort Clatsop after an Indian tribe. 

The journal kept by Capt Clark described just 12 days without rain during the winter they spent there. Yes, I know how they felt.
Our tour of Fort Clatsop was in the sun!  Hooray!
I'm appreciating Lewis and Clark's frustration. Our Oregon summer weather has brought sunny days I could count on two hands.

We spent a little more time in Astoria today too, most of it at the Columbia River Maritime Museum where we enjoyed being outside in the sunshine.
Careful not to call these "tugs" -- they're "pilots" 

Harrison Ford... er... I mean "Wayne" strolling the pier

Lexie isn't afraid of walking along the pier.

The museum
The regular Astoria Summer Sunday Market was being held in Downtown Astoria so we stopped in for a few minutes.
Saw Harrison Ford again. 

These past four sunny day will wrap up our Oregon visit for now. Tomorrow, we'll move on into Washington.  The bridge into Washington is even more beautiful in the sunshine.

An old church just across the river into Washington, along Highway 101

Looking back into Astoria across the mouth of the Columbia River.

From the Washington side of the bridge again.

Leaving Oregon, I couldn't help but think how appropriate the names of two nearby places really are:  Dismal Nitch and Cape Disappointment.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The North Coast of Oregon

Leaving the Gorge behind, we headed back to the Oregon coast Saturday. Sunny weather is predicted for the coming three days so this might be our best chance to see the northwest coast.
More tunnels. They give me the creeps.
Lexie doesn't seem to mind them... unless some idiot hits the horn.
From I-5 we took US 26 through the mountains and Tillamook State Forest. The ride was nice and we expected to reach the coast mid-afternoon.
"Ride the Port of Tillamook Railroad" is the caption

We ate lunch below this sign on the roadside.
Lewis & Clark Golf and RV Resort is our destination in Astoria for two nights. We did manage to pull in by about 1:30 in the afternoon and found the campground to be pleasant but unfinished. Our site looks out onto the 9 hole golf course. 
Entry to our campground is Astoria

We're second in on the row.

Because it's early yet and our plan is to move along quickly, we took a short car ride to see some of the area sights.  First on the short drive is Fort Stevens State Park to see the North Jetty and it's Observation Tower.
The jetty was built in the late 1800's. 
Question:  How did they get those big rocks out there? 

The seashore from the jetty looking back down the Pacific Ocean.

We toured Fort Stevens State Park and walked out to see both sides of the peninsula.
Lexie "don't want to see no stinkin' wildlife". 

The Wayner always looks at the cargo ships. 
Unimpressed by what we've found at Fort Stevens, we came back down the peninsula and drove across the US 101 bridge to Astoria.
Looking into Astoria

Nice bridge. 

Astoria is the oldest town west of the Rockies and therefore established the US claim to the Pacific Northwest. Astoria is located at the mouth of the Columbia River and is sometimes referred to as "The Little San Francisco of the Pacific Northwest" because of the Victorian homes that cling to the hillsides.

We found ourselves along the route to The Astoria Column we'd been told about by the host at the campground. 
Astoria Column
The Astoria Column is the last in a series of 12 historical markers erected in the 1920's between St Paul, MN and Astoria, OR.  Ralph Budd, of the Great Northern Railroad and Vincent Astor, great grandson of John Jacob Astor, were instrumental in the project.

The Column reads from the base and goes like this:  "Before White People Arrive" and then a chronological accounting from 1792 to the 1880's is depicted in pictures and words. The column stands 125 feet atop 600 foot Coxcomb Hill.  The Seal of the State of Oregon is on top and the original cost of the column was $27,133.96.  A narrow, winding staircase allows visitors to climb to the top for a breathtaking view of the area.  We did not go into the tower.  Too narrow and steep for me.
Here are some views of the area from atop Coxcomb Hill though...
From The Astoria Column grounds looking out to the mouth of the Columbia River

Per Wayne via binoculars: "I can see our campground down there in that clearing between those two groups of trees.  I can't see Mona though"   What am I going to do about that man?

Saddle Mountain is seen in the distance.

We fed Lexie's dinner while we were at Coxcomb Hill at the Column and she took a short walk before we came home for the evening. 

Dental Check-up

Just because we're retired and living mobile doesn't mean we can forget those "all important" medical and dental check-ups.  Our really bad dental check-up experience in Eugene had to be forgotten and we still needed to have our teeth cleaned.  We made an appointment with a dentist in Gresham with Dr. Vicki Reichlien and were thrilled with the results.  Each of us had a single filling to be done so we had two visits to see Dr. Vicki.

Because we take Lexie everywhere we go, we took turns sitting with her in the car while the other was in the dental chair.  To our surprise, Christie, Dr. Vicki's office manager came to the car and invited Lexie into the office! 
Christie and Dr. Vicki Reichlien

The day of the fillings, Lexie took her rightful place in my lap and watched the goings on!  Seeing is believeing and we have the pictures. 
Yes, that's Lexie in the dentist's chair.

Whoa! What 'cha doin' to Mom?
What a great experience!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Spectacular Mount St Helens!

The Volcanic Eruption
Thirty-one years, two months and one day ago at 8:32 in the morning, on May 18, 1980, Mount St Helens blew 60,000 feet of ash into the sky when a 5.1 magnitude earthquake shifted the earth causing a build-up of pressure and steam.  The mountain had been spewing and belching ash plumes for several months before this day, but now there was no stopping the volcanic activity. Thirteen hundred feet of the mountain top blew outward and crumbled down the lush, beautiful, tree-filled Washington State hillside. Winds of 300 miles per hour, landslides of 155 miles per hour and temperatures in excess of 660 degrees Fahrenheit stripped the land of everything. The landscape was left so barren, in fact, that people who visited the area right after the volcanic eruption said they felt as though they were colorblind.

My New Favorite Landmark
On this day, July 20, 2011, we decided we had to make every effort to see the Mount St. Helens area -- some 56 miles from our Corbett, Oregon campsite as the crow flies.  Turned out we'd drive 127 road miles each way for a 252 mile day trip; but a trip most certainly worth the time and effort. Our route was Washington Highway 504 from the interstate so we would see the north facing side of Mount St Helens -- the side of the mountain that collapsed. We made a quick stop at the Mount St Helens Visitor Center at Silver Lake to get whatever maps and information we'd need to see everything we wanted to see.  We enjoyed a short lecture about the history of the mountain by a National Park Ranger. 

Hoffstadt Bluffs Visitors Center, the second of four Visitor Centers, was next.  At Fire Mountain Grill patio we had lunch outside looking out over the Toutle River and the wide pumice flow area made by the volcano. Helicopter rides were available, but we're not candidates for suicide.
This picture was taken from the outdoor dining area of the Hoffstadt Bluffs Visitor Center.
The helipad is at the bottom of the picture. The wide gray area is the pumice remnant of the volcano.
You cannot see Mount St Helens in this picture.
While we ate, Lexie remained in the car and was most unhappy about it. After lunch I took her for a nice long walk all around the parking lot and she calmed down.  We loaded ourselves into the car and continued along the 45 miles to the Johnston Ridge Observatory. The next stop would be the Forest Learning Center (the third Visitor Center) where we didn't take time to go in but got some great views of the mountain and surrounding valley.
Mount St Helens is near the left edge of the photo. Snow fingers can be seen.

Although the day is mostly sunny, clouds linger around the top of Mount St Helens (right side of the photo).


Mount St Helens and Castle Lake (to the right of the mountain)


Wildflowers of all colors are everywhere!

Tree stumps can be seen all over this area.  We're about 20-25 miles from the mountain itself here.
All the trees along this area are gone.

Another view point.  Clouds linger still.

So many trees were just blown away or burst from the intense heat.
Some large tree trunks stick out of the pumice soil that makes up the new landscape.

Another view of the newly created Toutle River Valley and trees left in place where they fell.

We're continuing to get closer to Mount St Helens and the landscape is getting even more intense.
This doesn't look like anything I've ever seen.
More of the Mountain, the valley created by the volcanic eruption.

We're within a half mile of Johnston Ridge Observatory - Elevation 4,200'



The clouds lifted just a bit more so we can almost see the ridge.... but not quite.



To give some perspective, that's Wayne in the black sweater.


Mount St Helens
Eruption Facts

  1. The eruption of Mount St Helens swept through the Toutle River Valley causing the largest landslide in recorded history.
  2. The lateral blast removed 1,306 feet from the top of the volcanic mountain.
  3. More than 1,000 commercial airline flights were canceled because of the ash and air debris following the blast of Mount St Helens
  4. Some of the north facing side of Mount St Helens slid into nearby Spirit Lake raising it by 200 feet.
  5. In the summer following the May 18 eruption, more than 800 truckloads of salvageable timer were retrieved every day.
  6. Weyerhaeuser planted 18,400,000 trees BY HAND after the eruption. It took four years to complete the project.
  7. Steam from the intense heat caused the bark to literally be BLOWN OFF the trees.
  8. From October 2004 to Jan 2008 ongoing minor eruptions have produced more than 125 million cubic meters of lava.  That's enough lava to pave a three-foot thick, seven-land highway from Portland Oregon to New York City.

Since 1980, plant and animal life have come back to Mount St Helens and the surrounding valley.

My camera batteries finally died.  If they hadn't.... I would have taken even more pictures.  Wayne sighed in great relief.
Unimpressed by any of this... Just looking to stretch her legs

Leaving Mount St Helens, we stopped at Coldwater Lake, one of the three major lakes in the area of Mount St Helens and I snapped a few more pictures -- extra batteries in the car!!

Coldwater Lake

Wildflowers around Coldwater Lake

More Coldwater Lake

Still more wildflowers and still more Coldwater Lake