Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Volcanoes and Trees

The thought of travelling by car was quite exciting; All that space and air conditioning. So with the car loaded we set off on Sunday through Salem onto the 22 to Detroit where we joined a scenic forestry road and onto the 224. We'd had a call from Murph and had spent about half an hour that morning talking plans. He suggested a route to us, and what a good route it was. Passing through Portland we joined the 14 along the Columbian River Gorge and the Bonneville Dam. We stopped at Tourist information in Stevenson to pick up a map of Washington State and asked again 'Who was John Day?' (You remember we mentioned him at Redmond). Well I know the suspense has been keeping you all awake at night so this is what we were told. He was a trapper on the 1760s in Oregon who was stripped naked by the Indians and tied to a post by the river that now bears his name. He went mad after that but resumed trapping before dying of syphilis. Strange person to name so many things after. God bless America!!
We turned off at Carson and headed north and found ourselves a camping spot in an old camp site that had been closed down due to flooding and contaminated water. It was peaceful if not a bit littered. And we were joined briefly by I think cat weezel, a wild looking, spindly grey haired and bearded elderly gentle man, and his equally leggy ragged dog, who told us the history of the site, and that he visits it twice a day to check up on any visitors (perhaps to see if they have been washed away or poisoned), and he told us that if we needed anything at all he was just across the road camping: he spends most of the summer right there every year. As he departed he pointed to a loo he had recently installed courtesy of a local hospital (beats digging a hole). He said we might like to clean it up a bit and use it. After he had gone, we decided to go for a walk, taking in the 'loo'. It was indeed a commode; neatly positioned beneath a tree. The following morning before we headed off, we looked around for our visitor but there was no sign. Jill reckoned he was a ghost-keeping a friendly eye on hapless wild campers.
We travelled on to Mt St Helens the next day. Mt St Helen's exploded on the 18th May 1980 and the power of that day is still very visible.
The water in Spirit lake rose 200 feet, and a drain had to be drilled 7800 ft long through the solid rock, as the outflow had been blocked by the lava flow, and flooding down the valley was feared if the lake was allowed to carry on rising to the point that it found it's own outlet. The Forestry Service cleared a lot of the fallen trees, enough to build 150,000 houses, and replanted some hill sides. The collapsed Northern side. We left Mt St Helens on the 26, a single track road with turnouts (passing places) that had some very deep concealed potholes, that made the ride interesting. We hit one and the car ricocheted around for a few seconds. Needless to say Jill wasn't that impressed with this adventure (especially in a hire car) but we found a great camping site and watched a magnificent sunset.
The following morning, Mt Rainier beckoned, and with Jill's new found zest for mornings, we were on the road by 0830 heading along the 12 and the 123 to Ohanapecosh where we set our tent in the camp site by a stream that in the light of day was very pleasant but at night sounded like we were camping by a motorway the roar was so loud. We travelled up to the Chinook Pass on the 410 which stands at 5432ft above sea level
having visited the Grove of the Patriarchs for a bit of tree hugging on our way there. Jill helped with some tree clearing or was it tossing the caber? Our next stop was Sunrise which at 6400ft made the climb up to the ridge quite a struggle in the thin air, (well that's our excuse for breathless panting, but gave great views of the mountains.
The size of the trees along side the road is impressive, reaching high into the sky. We learnt the difference between a Red Cedar, a Douglas Fir, and a Hemlock each of which grow to about 200ft if given enough time (about 1000 years)
Next day we set off down the Stevens Canyon Parkway to visit Silver Falls, Box Canyon a 180 ft deep rift only 20ft wide, Paradise which we couldn't stop at because the car park was so full, Narada Falls
and Christine Falls, before stopping at Longmire for light refreshments. We exited the Park at the Nisqually Entrance and joined the forestry road 52 where we found another great camping spot.
Wild camping has proved to be a really great experience for us. Within the National Forests you are allowed to camp free and we have been very lucky to find some great spots. The sadness of these spots is the rubbish that has been left behind by others, ranging from beer cans to plastic bags and a lot of stuff in between. (Why don't people dig holes?) You are not allowed to cut down trees although it is done, and there is also a lot of damage done to the large trees in the vicinity of the sites where they have been attacked with axes and generally scared. It is not unusual to find bullet cartridges lying on the ground, which reminds us of the gun culture of this land.
Thursday 29th July woke us at 0630 (Jill's idea aren't you impressed-I am excelling myself) and we were on the road by 0700, stopping for breakfast (pancakes and over-easy eggs, with cream and maple syrup on the side and eggs, hash browns and toast with bottomless coffee) at Randle on the 12 before hitting the 5 interstate back South. Our weeks car rental was up that afternoon, and we expected the wheel to be back from Woody's, and Nancy back together, but stopping off at Steve's shop in Dundee on the way to Frank and Carol's, the wheel had not yet arrived back. Ringing Woody's we were told they hadn't sent it out until the day before, two days later than we expected, and that it went overland stagecoach so wouldn't arrive until Tuesday the following week. We were crestfallen. UPS Jan told us had 'screwed up'. We left Jan and Steve who promised that they would have the bike ready for us as soon as the wheel arrives. Back with Frank and Carol and in a quandary about what to do next, they said 'no problem' and offered us to stay with them another few days, and to be honest we can't think of nicer people and place to be, so thanks you Frank and Carol. You have been truly marvellous and a testament to the hospitality of America people.
We pledged to spend the time refining our luggage, getting everything cleaned up, oh and of course David had the little job of fixing the Sand Rail oooops!


  1. catching up on your adventures since Calgary has been a real treat...I see you're getting the rhythm of the blog and the rhythm of real camping...the wilderness is the best of the New World after all, next to the shopping, that is!! Just back from 2 weeks at the lake and in Southern Maine...it's amazing what the absence of stress can do for one's well being...keep writing...xoxoxo Judee

  2. enjoying reading all the news x

  3. Wow fantastic photos. Love catching up with your adventures. Well done Jill for embracing the early morning start to your day. take care love to you both