Day 24: Mt. St. Helens
Eugene, Oregon—Mount Saint Helens, Washington
I woke up today around 9:30 and everyone else had gone to a meeting. They all got back around 11 A.M. and Catherine and Mike decided to come with us to Mount Saint Helens. We needed to eat somewhere and they chose the perfect place; something that characterizes the city of Eugene. The place is called the Rainy Day Café and in addition to the name, the menu also characterizes this place. It was extremely crunchy, examples: Granola... $2.75, several types of water including diet water, this baffled all of us but we didn't ask. I had the Homemade Garden Burger which was a paddy of fused vegetables served on a 7 grain bun and, of course, alfalfa sprouts. It wasn't too bad, but you had to laugh. Picked up two free papers here. I realize these free papers are usually the outlet where the outrageousness of the city presents itself. So, when I saw advertisements for 100% Hemp clothing and Sundance Natural Foods telling me how to homeopathicly cure my dog or cat and displaying the founder of this type of healing, Dr. Hahnemann, reincarnated as a black labrador retriever, I concluded that this place takes the cake.
We were on our way up I-5 by 1 P.M. We drove through Salem (haven't been through a Salem in quite some time), through Portland, and over the Columbia River into Washington State; although we almost didn't get there because some idiot decided to stop in the middle of the bridge for some inexplicable reason nearly causing an accident. All the Washington state road signs have Washington's profile on the sign with the route number stamped on the side of his head. We stopped the convoy at a rest stop where they serve free coffee, imagine them doing this in Pennsylvania. Actually, I may as well mention here that this entire region is coffee and espresso crazy. There were signs for espresso bars everywhere, from McDonalds to Subway hoagie restaurants. Out in the middle of nowhere too, very weird.
It was not long before we were at the exit for the Mount Saint Helens Visitor Center. This place was far from the volcano. It was just a few miles in from the interstate on WA 504 in Castle Rock, WA. The Mount Saint Helens National Volcanic Monument was established in 1982, two years after the eruption. It was a cloudy day and pretty cold. Everything about this park is brand new. The buildings are modern and the roads have just been completed within the last couple years. The visitor center has a lot of interesting stuff, a film about the eruption in May of 1980 was the most interesting though. Several exhibits were about the geologic past of this region and how the recent eruption affected the people and animals surrounding the volcano.
We continued toward the volcano on WA 504. This entire area has been logged. It is a mountainous region still and the trees are taken in patches. Often there are signs with the year of the harvest and when the next harvest will occur. Now the logging companies have to replant so they take out a section of trees, replant, then harvest them in 100 years. It's odd, driving along you would see fully-grown trees for a bit and then no trees, then small trees, and it just goes on and on. The worst is seeing these entire mountains stripped of trees and all that's left are a bunch of stumps and the miles and miles of twisted dirt logging roads covering the mountain. Not a pretty sight.
It was wet out and there was a bit of mist in the air. We went out to the Coldwater Ridge Visitor Center which is as close as one can get to this side of the volcano. This was a brand new center and there was a nice viewing area, even though the volcano was in the clouds. Mike and Catherine left after a while because it was going on 6 P.M. and they had a nice little drive home to Eugene. Little did Andy and I know we also had a nice little drive in front of us tonight.
We decided to try and get to the other side of the park tonight to camp. We had to go all the way back out WA 504, which was about three hours according to the Volcano Review, the paper given to us at the Visitor Center. These roads weren't made for speedin', especially when it's raining out and you're driving through clouds. Got on I-5, went north four exits, then off on US 12. The towns along this route look small and sleepy, not much action. Passed through Mossyrock, Morton, Glenoma, and in 48 miles the turnoff in Randle, WA. We stopped at the (only) store to get some food and in doing this we missed the turn. So we went ahead for a few minutes before realizing we missed WA 123 south going into the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. This is where we would be camping tonight, hopefully.
Once in the forest we were on National Forest Road 25. It was dark by now and I was having a hard time seeing the narrow, curvy road with all the water vapor in the air. We pulled in the Iron Creek Campground around 9 or 9:30 P.M. We couldn't see what we were doing and had to shine the car lights on everything if we wanted to see. We chose a site, paid the fee to the hosts, set the tent up, and hit the sack.