Rainforests, Beaches and Capes

I headed out from my friend’s house in Idaho shortly after work thursday afternoon. I ended up taking a long weekend for this particular trip, because I really wanted to immerse myself in my exploration of the forest as much as possible. Idaho has it’s beauty, but I was really eager to get out to the Washington State coast. It was about five hours from Post Falls, ID to Snoqualmie Falls, WA, my intended stopping point for the night.

Columbia Gorge, WA

On the way I pulled over to get some pictures at the Columbia Gorge, and would also have driven out to a petrified forest park near the gorge if I hadn’t been on a timetable. The park in Snoqualmie was nice enough to take me in late at night, and I got a good night’s sleep after the loud teenagers next to me finally packed it in for the night. Ah, privately owned camping/RV facilities. Sometimes it’s a bit of a hit or miss situation. It’s still better than hearing traffic all night at a rest stop or trucks going down rumble strips at Truck Stops.

I think I’m now a full convert to staying over at state parks during my travels. Most of them are anywhere from $12 to $14 a night to stay, and you get to sleep, hang out and walk around in so many quiet, beautiful places. People tend to obey quiet time (usually from 10pm to 7am) more stringently at state parks as opposed to RV parks, which I HUGELY appreciate. Those can be hit and miss as well, but not to the extent of the privately owned locations. I’m relegated to staying in places with power/WiFi during the week so that I can continue working my full-time job, but on the weekends I have the freedom to stay in some truly gorgeous places.

Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe artwork

After a good rest, I rose and got back on the road early Friday morning. Once in downtown Seattle, I immediately headed for the Bainbridge ferry, an altogether confusing experience. I’d never taken a ferry before, so had no idea how the entire parking/lining up for the ferry worked. Once a dockworker set me straight, I got in line with everybody else, then drove onto an enormous floating parking lot. For this ride, I had no idea how long the crossing would take, so I stayed in the van. I watched other people getting out of their cars and heading to mysterious doors that seemed to lead to other magical places than the rows of cars. It was actually exciting to be in a vehicle, with LOTS of other vehicles, on a floating slab heading across the way to another island. Still, I was too hyped up to finally get to the rainforest. It’s all I could think about, really.


Crescent Lake

Oh, and I finally remembered to pick up a National Park passport at the Port Angeles ranger station. Since then, I’ve been avidly collecting as many stamps as I can. I’m kicking myself for not doing this sooner, so I could’ve had all the stamps from all the other places I’ve been so far, but hey – sometimes it shakes out like that.

The first park stop was the Storm King ranger station, where the trailhead for the Marymere Falls begins. I’d seen pictures of the falls and wanted to check it out for myself. The walk is about a mile along a well established trail around enormous cedar trees with intricate above ground root structures and ferns as well as hemlock and alder trees.
Once at the falls, stairs lead up to a viewpoint that skirt the edges of these large tree trunks, the roots of the trees forming some of the steps themselves. The falls itself is lovely, with water splashing over and around moss covered rocks down into a small pool at the bottom. There were many holes in the surrounding tree trunks along the path, which I imagine provided very comfortable homes for lots of happy woodland critters.

Marymere Falls

I should mention that my hikes take ten times longer than usual, because I’m always stopping to snap pictures of the beauty I see. After hiking to the falls and back, I started the drive out to Forks. Route 101 takes you along the shorline of Lake Crescent, the second deepest lake in Washington. (Full run of Marymere Falls pics)
It’s a gorgeous and blue hued body of water, with crystal clear water in the shallows, I’d wanted to take a swim in the lake, but it was a mite too chilly to take a dip. At least for my tastes. The cooler temperatures were just right for hiking, though. While I couldn’t really find any state parks along the lake at which to stay, there are a couple of pricey private parks and lodges; none I could really afford.

Hoh Rainforest

I kept on to Forks and was not really surprised to find a town so small that I blinked and almost missed it. The Twilight furor seems to have abated a bit, but I still ran into people that were asking rangers and locals questions about locations in the books. It’s a nice enough little town, but not really my speed. Wanting to get to the Hoh Rainforest campground in time enough to get a camping spot, I kept following 101 until the turnoff towards the park. There’s a lovely progression through the forest along the drive as the tree trunks and ground become gradually thicker with fluffy carpets of moss that crawl up trunks and drape lazily from branches and vines. It makes for very shaggy, green trees. According to a ranger at the Hoh station, there really hadn’t been that much rain in the last month, and the moss was starting to look a touch yellow as it started going into hibernation. It still made for some gorgeous pictures, and wonderful landscape to walk through.


Hoh Rainforest

I made it to the campground in plenty of time and found a fantastic spot, pulled in, then walked over to the registration board. In state parks, they usually want you to leave something in the numbered rental area to let other campers know that the spot is already spoken for. I signed up for two nights, at $12 a pop (a BARGAIN, if you ask me) and left a citronella candle and a camping chair, then drove off to the parking lot to check out the various trails. The Hoh Rainforest is apparently one of the biggest temperate rainforests in the United States. Although there are large patches of the forest that have been harvested, within the Olympic National Park, the land is protected. The Hall of Mosses, the Spruce Nature Trail and the Hoh River trail wind through enormous Sitka Spruces and Hemlocks.


Hall of Mosses – Hoh Rainforest

The ground is thick with mosses, lichens and ferns that seem to grow on every available surface. Enormous trees with spidery roots almost appear to be slowly crawling their way through the forest along trees fallen long ago. The tops of tall round root balls from these trees are covered in tiers of flowing green, looking almost like Faerie mounds. The entire place fairly buzzes with life, quite literally in the case of all the flies and mosquitoes. I was getting landed on and bitten whenever I stopped to take a picture. I’m grateful that, for whatever reason, I wasn’t covered with itchy bumps afterwards. The presence of the forest itself is so large, so strong, that it’s really very heady. I can only imagine how clean and earthy it smells after a nice, long rain. As it was, there was dust on most of the leaves. The patches of bright sunlight that were able to make it through the forest canopy illuminated the mosses, turning them a fibrant yellowish green. I was able to get some spectacular shots, which made me really happy.


Hoh Rainforest

I believe I wandered around for about three to four hours, just marveling at the beauty surrounding me, before coming to the realization that my feet and legs were pretty much done walking. It was past time to head back to the campsite and get some sleep for the night. Because I’m stubborn, and wanted to rest my feet in a river before heading back, I headed down the Hoh River trail – which really did seem to take a great deal longer than it should have. As I stepped into the cloudy, rushing glacial stream, I swear my feet sighed in relief. the ice cold water was a balm on my poor, overly tired feet. As I do with every river I encounter, I sang to it, sending my love out into the water and just being grateful for the experience. (Full run of Hoh Rainforest pics)


Hoh Rainforest

The walk back to the van was painful, but once I found myself sitting in the passenger seat, sucking down water in large gulps, I felt a great deal better. I’m very thankful that camp setup is almost minimal when one sleeps in a van.  It’s just a matter of shifting things out of the way so that I can lay down on the mattress in the back. The guy in the campsite next to me seemed to look wistfully at my setup as he and his wife worked at setting up their own tent and cooking equipment. For some reason, my mind was too active to sleep, so I ended up staying up until about midnight, listening to music while sitting in my camping chair and looking up at the stars in the patches of sky that peeked out around the treetops. Magical, truly.


La Push – First Beach

The next morning, it was off to the La Push Quileute reservation on the coast. I’d spoken briefly to one of the locals when getting ice that morning, and they’d recommended Second beach at the reservation, and Rialto Beach, as well as a spot way up north called Cape Flattery. It was a cloudy day, and as I reached the border of the Quileute reservation, I spotted a large sign that said, “NO VAMPIRES BEYOND THIS POINT”. Apparently Twilight is alive and well in La Push, even as the glamor of it is fading in Forks.


La Push – Second Beach

When I made it out to First Beach, patches of fog were coming in, obscuring the tops of the sea stacks just off shore. First beach is a crescent shaped beach littered with long, large pieces of driftwood bleached grey from exposure to the elements. Out of the three beaches, it’s the only one that you can drive right up to. Bright green moss covers the large rocks along the shoreline, as well as some of the old pieces of docking wood that remain jutting up out of the waves. You have to pick your way down stacks of driftwood and enormous rocks before you actually reach the sand that stretches out to the waves.


La Push – Second Beach

Second beach is a bit more strenuous to get to; its trailhead leading into thick forest that winds around and switchbacks down along manmade stairs to the beach itself. Throughout my various sojourns through the woods, I was entranced by the wonderfully creepy aboveground root structures throughout the surrounding forest. The combination of decay coupled with new life is very life affirming. The stairs get a little squishy the closer you get to the beachhead, so I had to watch my footing and walk on the wood planks around the earthen steps at certain points. The sea stacks here are larger, and you can see a natural arch in the rock wall out in the waves off to the right. I wondered briefly if it would be easy to get to during low tide. Being that AT&T signal is horrible throughout the entire area, I couldn’t check my tide table app to see where we were in the tide cycle. Alas.


La Push – Second Beach

I stayed down on the beach for awhile, resting my now shaking legs by sitting on one of the large driftwood piles laying around. They created these large, naturally formed bone colored art installations along the shore, and I saw many people camping around them and having lunch on the remains of flora sucked dry. I watched the waves roll in for awhile before the chill started creeping into my bones, telling me it was time to make the long walk back up to the van. The ascent went quicker than I thought it would, with the help of earphones and music. Music always makes strenuous tasks seem to go quicker for me, for which I’m very grateful.


Rialto Beach

I then pushed on to Rialto Beach, a shoreline thick with smooth, rounded rocks that clacked together loudly in the waves as they crashed against the beach, creating a wonderfully loud, riotous sounding surf. Dotting the edge of the shore were many still standing bleached trees with spidery branches that reach out in all directions, as if seeking desperately for something. Just beyond them begins the slope into the living forest itself. A mile from the parking lot is the hole-in-the-wall camping area. Sadly, my legs were already shot with all the hiking I’d already done, or I would’ve ventured out to see it. Also, I still wasn’t entirely sure if the tide was low enough to reach it. The seastacks from First Beach are easily visible from this vantage point, and the outlines of them looked wonderfully spooky in the fog.


La Push – the path to Second Beach

It was then time to head back to the Hoh Rainforest campsite. I was still pretty exhausted from yesterday, and was ready to fall over and get some sleep. I crashed out very early and slept for about 12 hours, then headed up to Cape Flattery, the northwestern most point of the US, short of Alaska. There’s a small parking area for Cape Flattery, so you’ll likely want to arrive early if you want to find a spot during your visit. Actually, this can be said for most of the points that I’ve visted throughout my journey. ARRIVE EARLY. This ensures that you get to walk around in a place with almost no other people around. It’s one of the best ways to explore a place to get the feel of it instead of being assaulted by voices from loud tourists. The lighting in early morning and at sunset also provide for some of the more spectacular views of a given location.


Cape Flattery

The majority of the hike down is along wonderful worn planked boardwalks that snake through the woods. Along the trails lay viewpoints with gorgeous vistas where you can see the enormous caves carved into the sides of the cliff walls by the pounding waves. The water is a wonderful blue color; clearing as the depths get shorter. The coloring almost matches that of the Florida Keys.


Cape Flattery

As I walked through the woods down to the viewpoints, I could hear sea lions arguing in that loud burping fashion they have of communicating, but I never did see any of them. From the westernmost viewpoint, from where you can go no further, you can see the Cape Flattery Lighthouse on Tatoosh Island. At one of the previous viewpoints, it was mentioned that the sea was slowly eating away at the cliffs below, and that if you sat for a few moments and closed your eyes when the surf was high, you could actually feel the cape shake a little. It was put forth that in another 700 years, the Cape would eventually collapse into the sea, no longer having the support it needed to stay stable. (Full run of Cape Flattery pics)


the road to Cape Flattery

On the journey back up to the van, I met this wonderful older couple from Louisiana. They’d been running around the area, enjoying their vacation, and I told them about my journey and the book I was writing. We spoke a little about Swamp People, and they told me about a couple of the adventures they’d had and the people they’d met as well. I then headed out and began the drive back towards Port Angeles. I wanted to spend monday in Seattle.

On the way back, I ran across Sol Duc Falls, a waterfall that cascades out into a chasm below, it’s walls covered with moss. I got up as close to the rushing water as I felt I could safely navigate, and took a whole pile of pictures. On my journey back to the car, I looked back to see a faint rainbow flickering in the mist from the falls. I did my best to capture the image. (full run of pics from Sol Duc Falls)

 I ended up spending the night at Elwha State Park, then headed off to Seattle in the morning.

Seattle itself is like many other major cities, irritating and full of distractions. I’ve lost my enjoyment of driving in the city due to the amount of activity going on around me that I don’t usually have to keep track of in more rural settings.


the Archie McPhee store in Seattle

I did, however, really enjoy my trip to Archie McPhee, a gag gift store that I’ve been quite fond of for years. I also stopped by the Science Fiction Museum to check out the Avatar exhibit. It was nicely laid out, and they also had a decent Horror exhibit as well as one called Icons of Science Fiction, but it was $20 to get in, and – being from D.C., I’m used to museums that are MUCH larger, with a LOT more exhibits, and they’re FREE, so I gotta say I was disappointed. (Archie Mc Phee pics and Seattle Science Fiction Museum pics)

Down on the boardwalk is an odd little store called Ye Olde Curiosity Shop. It’s full of tourist crap, but the real treasures are above in the rafters and in behind glass casing – mummies, shrunken heads, two headed calves – they have it all. Great place to visit. I picked up my first shrunken head there. 🙂 (Pics from Ye Olde Curiosity Shop)
I’ve been staying at a KoA in Burlington, WA this week, and this afternoon will be heading out to the San Juan Islands. I’ll be trying to hit the following locations, specifically, as well as running around the islands in general checking them out:
Moran State Park, Olga, WA
Deception Pass State Park, Oak Harbor, WA
Ebey’s Landing, Coupeville, WA
Thanks for reading!

I don’t know when I became a wanderer. At a young age I left the home I grew up in early to live with my mother. I’ve been moving at least every other year, it seems, for most of my life – never really finding a place to settle down. I have a fair amount of friends that would love to be able to do what I’m doing, but I’ve also met many who would rather have their eyeteeth pulled out than throw caution to the wind and live the life I’m currently engaged with.

Throughout the course of this trip, I’m finding that it’s difficult to stay for more than two weeks in any one place. I think I’m allergic to routine. There’s something in my psyche that keeps pushing me to go out and experience new places, and I find myself wondering if I’m going to end up scraping together the money for a full-on RV at the end of the trip, or whether I’m going to actually find a house or apartment in a location that I would love to wake up in every morning. In the end it doesn’t matter – it’s the trip, not the destination.

I’ve been told that I’m inspiring people, and I’m really happy that others are getting as much out of the experience that I am.

This continues to be a tremendous learning experience, and I’m delighted at the changes in myself; in the way I see and interact with the world the more I travel. I’m finding that I’m a great deal more self confident than I used to be, which is HUGE. I’m not second guessing myself as much. Sure, there’s still self doubt at times, but it’s nowhere near as overwhelming as when I was back in Virginia, just surviving and not really doing much of anything. I wonder if this trip will inspire me to write more at some point. I think it’s still new, big and shiny, and that’s keeping me from hunkering down and beginning a large project. I wonder if I’ll get back to writing music at some point, or actually get the stones to audition to sing for a jazz/blues band in the future, which is one of my big dreams. I’m getting closer to being able to do it, though. I can feel it.

I crave new sights, new terrains. I’m more excited than I can say about getting out to the Olympic Forest this weekend. I’m fairly jumpy about it. What I wouldn’t give to be able to live in a small cabin deep in the woods amongst enormous tree trunks and thick wooded areas covered in ferns and moss. The operative issue would be power and internet service, however, which are the things that keep me from moving too far away from ‘the grid’.

I love my life, and I love who I’m becoming through this experience. Thank you to all of you for your support; to all who keep reading and following my adventures. It means more than I can say. I only wish I could take you with me for some of it.

Mountain Lakes, Waterfalls and a bigbadaboom Volcano

This is it. One of the larger reasons I embarked on this journey; to see the Pacific Northwest in all its glory. Many forms of media have led me to my current deep and passionate appreciation for thick forests overgrown with moss and giant ferns. So many images exist, in both print and various movies – and none of them can hold a candle to experiencing the real thing live. The forests and coastline of Oregon were mindblowing and spectacular, but I really have a strong yearning to see primordeal forests, hearty and full of lush blankets of green that seem to cover almost everything.

Mount Hood through the trees at Mirror Lake

I left the residence of my gracious hosts in McMinneville Oregon on a friday afternoon and arrived at around 8pm at an RV park packed with loud, obnoxious tourists that was lacking in both facilities and areas of relaxation. It was also bothersome being charged for a power hook up that didn’t have a 110 volt plug, which most of the RV parks that I’ve been to offered. Eh, no matter – I was tired, and wanted to get some rest before getting up early saturday morning to head out to Mount Hood. It took awhile to get to sleep, mostly due to the human noise around me, but I finally dropped off.

One of the notched trees along the Mirror Lake Trailhead

When I woke the next morning, most people were still asleep, so I did my best to stay quiet as I prepped to head out. The first stop was Mirror Lake. I’d seen many pictures of Mount Hood reflected off the lake, and really wanted to go check it out for myself. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the forethought to have purchased a $5 US park pass for the day, so I had to make my way back to the ranger station in Zigzag, Oregon. The rangers were very cordial and helpful, and provided me with info sheets on the places that I wanted to visit, even directing me to go check out Timberline Lodge, which I handn’t even thought of visiting previously. I picked up my baby blue park pass, then made my way back to Mirror Lake.

Along the trail to Mirror Lake

The walk up to the lake itself from the trailhead is fairly strenuous. It’s mostly uphill, with lots of switchbacks. Being that I’m still not in the physical shape that I’d most like to be in, I found myself embarrassed at being passed by people ten to twenty years older than me that seemed to make the climb effortlessly. Yeah, time to hit a gym. Seriously. Also, BRAVO to all the older folks getting up and out there in nature, and staying in such great shape! Good on you!

view of Mt. Hood from Mirror Lake

The hike is very scenic, and it took me about an hour and a half to get up to the lake. At the top of the trail, it begins looping around the lake itself, opening up on small campsites under the trees and near the shoreline. The trail gets a little marshy in some places, so park services have placed long planks on the far side of the trail so that hikers don’t get stuck in the muck.

Mt. Hood in the distance

It was quite windy that day, so there wasn’t much of a reflective surface on the lake. It was mostly ripples, but at several points on the path around the lake, there are stunning views of Mount Hood. Mount Hood, also called Wy’east by the Multnomah tribe, is a composite volcano in the Cascade Arc. It’s the highest mountain in Oregon, as well as being one of the higher mountains in the US. It really is quite a sight, rising up out of the treetops. (full run of Mirror Lake pics)

along the trail to Mirror Lake

I walked around, snapping a few pics and resting a little before heading back down to the trailhead. Steep switchback descents are just as rough going down in places as they are heading up. The way up gets your muscles to shaking and on the way down, my body seemed to think that my knee cartilage was something to be ground up in a frothy mixture with the fine sheen of powder that my patellas surely became during my descent. Ouchie.

view of Mt. Hood from Timberline Lodge

Once back at the car, it was lunchtime. After eating some cheese, turkey breast and a banana, the muscle shakes died down a little as I drove out to the Timberline Lodge. Mount Hood looms high behind the lodge, surrounded by grey hills with high desert scrub plants here and there.

Timberline Lodge

Apparently the hotel was used in some of the exterior shots in the movie The Shining. It was a gorgeous location, and there were quite a few people treking back and forth from the hills with heavy ski gear. The area offers year round skiing, as well as being very popular with tourists in general. Gotta say, though – skiing isn’t high on my list of participatory sports. I don’t slide downhilll at all well.

Horsetail Falls

Next stop on the list was the Multnomah Falls area on the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge. There are several areas of falls along the Historic Columbia River Highway. Unfortunately, I had chosen poorly as to the timing of my visit, and the area was clogged with noisy, personally unaware tourists that seemed bound and determined to stand directly in the way of anybody that actually wanted to go anywhere.

Multnomah Falls

The first falls I was able to get to was Horsetail Falls. The parking area for this falls is right near the highway, and there were lots of kids and parents gathered around the edges of the large pool collecting at the bottom of the falls. A few girls were brave enough to venture into the water, but began complaining rather loudly that the water was ridiculously cold. Honestly, I was in up to my knees, and after a few minutes, my feet went numb. I don’t know how they stayed in. Yow.

Multnomah Falls

I stayed and soaked my feet for a few, walking around and getting pictures of the falls from different angles before heading over to Multnomah Falls. Packed to the gills, this seems to be the most popular of the falls on the route. Multnomah falls is the tallest waterfall in Oregon, and it’s been debated as to whether it’s the tallest waterfall in US. Throughout the park there were these little information stands with park rangers that were handing out leaflets to kids and teaching them about local wildlife and plants, which was pretty cool, but also added to the crowds. The view from the lower level of the park, the first viewpoint, is pretty impressive, but the bridge above offers a spectactular view that seems to cover more ground. The second bridge above was almost impassable, and I could only deal with being there for about five to ten minutes before I had to quickly make my way back to the car. (full run of falls pics)

Did I mention that I’m not good with crowds?

Guler Ice Cave

Once back in the car, I found that there was no possible way to park safely to get to any of the other waterfalls along the road. Being completely over being around people at this point, I just got back on 84 and backtracked up to get to the Guler Ice Caves located in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest in Skamania, WA. As I pulled up, I heard accordion polka music and found myself wondering if there was a group of people camping closeby. They certainly sounded as if they were having a good time. As I reached the stairway itself, I saw an animated guy with wild, long grey hair and a bright yellow coat playing a white and gold accordion vigorously while two of his companions danced along to the music, singing with him. It was the most wonderful and surreal thing I’ve encountered on my journey so far. Turns out, he was a Vegas performer named Botielus that was on holiday with his friends. He was taking requests, so I threw out a few and enjoyed his polka versions of Cold as Ice, Godzilla and Stairway to Freebird, among others.

Botielus in the Ice Cave

They were a joyful group, and I happily joined in with them, singing and having a grand old time in the cave. A family was hiking back in the depths of the cave while he played, and everybody seemed to be having a great time. Earlier in the day, I’d been kicking myself for not visiting the Ice Caves sooner in the morning, and now that I was here, I was glad that I’d made it to the cave at exactly the right time. Ah, Serendipity. Gotta love it.

inside the Ice Cave

Being that it was in the middle of summer, I couldn’t really see all the way back to where the ice stalagtites and stalagmites grow, but I did spot large patches of snow and ice around the large rocks and patches of green moss on the cave floor. I didn’t bother venturing into the cave itself, as I kept watching people slipping on really slick patches of ice, and I didn’t have an effective light to see where the hell I’d be putting my feet and hands as I made my way further into the cave. At some point, I’m going to be picking up one of those ridiculously high powered flood flashlights so that I can take pictures in an unlit cave and actually have the images come out. (full run of ice cave pics)

Mount Saint Helens in the distance

After the Ice Caves, I made my way further north, staying at the Beaver US park campground in Washington. I pulled in late, crossed my fingers that they had spots left, and was very pleased when the camp host said that there was one left. I went ahead and took it and pulled in, ate a quick dinner, then relaxed and watched a couple of videos before dropping off to sleep. I slept in the next morning, getting up at about 9am.

Mount Saint Helens

Still tired and really achey from the hike up to Mirror Lake on saturday, I knocked back some aspirin and ibuprofin, had a brief chat with the Camp Hosts about the things to see in the area, then began making my way out to Mount Saint Helens. The forests continue to be gorgeous, but the roads are completely wretched on the way there. There were several times where it actually felt like Matilda became airborne. Because of the shadowed mottling of the trees along the pavement, it was really difficult to see where the larger holes were, and there were sizeable patches where you could see the pavement cracking becuase that part of the mountain beneath it was beginning to slide a little. It was fairly unsettling, but hey – ADVENTURE!, so onward I went.

Mount Saint Helens

I traveled through thick forests for hours before coming to the blast area, where they became really thin on the ground. At one pulloff, you can see Mount Saint Helens in the distance, and countless trees litter the hillsides like enormous toothpicks, all pointing away from the mountain; echoes of the damage from the large-scale pyroclasic flow that resulted from the eruption on March 20, 1980. The US park service has left large sections of the surrounding hills untouched so that the land recovers in its own time, but has also seeded sections of the area in order to provide a differential view of the two paradigms. The closer I got to the crater itself, the more overwhelmed I became at the devastation wrought.

One of the national monument pulloffs features a set of four images selected from the pictures taken by Gary Rosenquist on the date of the eruption. Gary was able to capture an amazing succession of images within the span of 40 seconds before finally fleeing the area. The photos are chilling and fantastic.
(http://pubs.usgs.gov/gip/msh/catastrophic.html) I made it out to the Windy Ridge viewpoint, and Mount Saint Helens loomed impossibly large beyond the parking lot. It’s apparently one of the best places to see the aftermath of the event. As I got out of the car, I thought to myself, “Man, if this f#%ker goes while I’m standing here, that’s it. Everyone in this area is dead, immediately. How completely mindblowing.”

that’s a lot of steps….

Just behind the restrooms is a trail of 361 steps that wind their way up to the top of a pumice covered ridge that offers a spectacular view of Mount Addams, Spirit Lake, Mount Rainier and Mount Saint Helens. As I walked my way up these steep steps, in what felt like 100 degree heat, I paused at a bench and sat to look back at the mountain. Steam wisped up in thin clouds from fumaroles in the crater itself, as well as the top of the crater ridgeline.

Mount Adams

A gentleman from Israel sat and talked with me for a few minutes and we commented on the steam before wishing each other well and extending blessings for the remainder of our respective trips. I then started heading up the next segment of steps, taking swallows of water and breathing heavily, in between stopping to take pictures to catch my breath.

the view from the top of the pumice hill

Once I reached the top, I almost fell over, already exhausted. Good grief, what the hell was I thinking? I don’t handle the heat well to begin with, and I’m climbing this enormous pumice hill in what feels like an oven – across from an active volcano, no less. Still, completely worth it for the view. Took as many pictures as I could, then with shaky legs began my way back down all those freakin’ steps. When I made it to the car, I was muttering incoherent curses under my breath. I’d pushed past my physical limit, and now it was time to get in the car, find a shady spot to eat lunch, then find a place to stay for the night that was closer to Seattle. I was done adventuring for the day. My body couldn’t handle any more. (full run of Mount Saint Helens pics)

Spirit Lake from the top of the pumice hill

Once I got back into the shade of the treeline, I pulled over and ate, thankful for the protection from the hateful sun that was clearly still trying to set me on fire. As I sat and ate, a park ranger drove up, asking if I’d seen a motorcycle accident. Apparently someone had called one in. I explained that I hadn’t, and expressed my wish that hopefully, everybody was ok. I never did find out, though. Once finished with food time, I got back on the road for another couple of hours before running across the Iron Creek campground in Gifford Pinchot National Forest. I was completely floored by how lush and verdant the entire campsite was. I’m still kicking myself for not taking a few hours off and pulling in to take a nap in the shade of those mossy, giant trees.

Iron Creek Campground

The camp hosts were very friendly, and I spoke at length with them about what went into being a camp host, and they stated that the company that they worked for that ran most of the US campsites throughout Oregon and Washingon, were looking for hosts for next year. It’s an intriguing enough idea that I’m thinking of doing it, a couple of years down the line.

Iron Creek Campground

As I finally made my way back to a location with any kind of internet access, I checked my bank account and was stunned. I didn’t have enough money to rent a space at an RV park or a hotel room for the next two weeks. After freaking out momentarily, I called a good friend in Post Falls, Idaho and asked him if it’d be ok if I came out to stay with him a little earlier than expected. Luckily, there was no issue there, for which I am supremely grateful. It helps to have good friends in various parts of the country when little unexpected emergencies like this crop up. Unfortunately, it was already fairly late, so I had to get a hotel room for at least one night. I stayed at a hotel in Cle Elum for the night, worked my shift the next day, then packed up and headed out for Idaho shortly after getting off shift. (full run of Iron Creek pics)

I’ll be out in Idaho until next thursday night, when I head out to the Olympic Peninsula.
Oh lordy, I can’t wait.

It’s not all Unicorns and Rainbows… the Down Times.

In between weekends of supreme joy and adventure, there have been times where I just needed to take a break to gain a little perspective. Many times up to this point, I’ve come very close to stopping entirely – but that would mean going back to the life I was living before I decided to gallivant around the country in a conversion van. In my mind, and my heart, that isn’t an option. I can’t go backwards. Self doubt and fears creep in, whether I want them to or not, and begin to eat away at everything I do; my motives for the journey, the work I’m doing along the way, all of it is questioned on a fairly regular basis. Being a nomad over a long period of time can be exhausting, and not always knowing where I’m going to end up staying for the night is extremely stressful. This being said, it’s also hugely rewarding – afterwards, when I can look back at what happened.
Adventures will never go exactly the way you want them to, but that’s the entire point, isn’t it? Within the experience and travel, I’ve find out more about myself than I ever expected. Not all of it has been pleasant, but it’s stuff that I’ve needed to be aware of and deal with. I’m finding that I’m adapting to and overcoming possible negative situations more quickly, which I’m hugely thankful for. It’s a very large bonus, in my eyes, and was one of the things that I was hoping to attain in myself on this trip. The only other choice is giving up and going home, to wherever that ends up being. I’m not ready for home to be static yet, so onward I press.
When it’s been a particularly overwhelming weekend of experiencing the sights, sounds and people that I’ve encountered, at a certain point, my emotional system seems to shut down and becomes no longer capable of processing joy and awe. It gets to be too much, and I end up just wanting to sleep, to let my system rest to restore it so that I can continue on the journey fresh the next time I head out. Several times throughout the journey, I’ve broken down in tears and complete exuastion by the end of a travel weekend. And sometimes, I just tear up looking at some of the amazing sights I’ve seen, because they were almost too beautiful to be true.
The ups far outweigh the downs, and the feedback that I’ve been getting about the trip reports and the pictures has been very much appreciated. There have been people that have invited me into their homes after just meeting me, and that just blows me away. I do my best to honor that trust as best I can, and to be an impeccable houseguest. The ritual of set up and tear down from place to place is becoming much more compressed and efficient as time goes on.
I’m working on uploading the pictures and doing the trip report for the adventure this past weekend, and should be able to post them soon.
I want to thank all of you for following this blog, and hope that you’re enjoying my adventures with me. I’m really happy that I’m able to share them.