Posts Tagged With: Mt. St. Helens

Wow, what a view

Wednesday my friend L and I did something we’d been wanting to do for a long time.  We went up to Crystal Mountain Ski Area, and we rode the gondola, which is open to sightseers in the off-season.  It cost twenty bucks, but it was worth every penny.  I really had no idea how far we’d be able to see from up there.  I’d been to Crystal to ski several times, but that was fifteen years ago, and even then I’d never gotten that high on the mountain (the easiest trail down from the top of the gondola is intermediate, and I never got much beyond high beginner trails the entire decade or so that I skied regularly).

Anyway, the day was about as clear and dry as it gets in the Pacific Northwest (and hot — 90+F in the lowlands, which broke records for this time of year, and in the upper 70sF even at almost 7000 feet at the top of the gondola), and the views ranged from Mt. Adams, clear down by the Columbia River, all the way to Mt. Baker, all the way up by the Canadian border.  And Mt. Rainier looked as if a person could reach out and touch it.

The only view even slightly obscured was down towards Puget Sound, where haze hovered over the water, blocking our view of the Olympics and of the cities down there (I bet the nighttime view in clear weather of those cities must be absolutely amazing).

There’s a fancy restaurant up at the top of the gondola, but it was beyond our price range, so we’d packed a picnic (actually, we’d bought our picnic at a Subway on the way), and we had plenty of chipmunk company while we ate.

All in all, it was a seriously spectacular trip.  If you happen to be in this part of the world on a clear day, don’t miss it.

Mount Rainier from the top of the Crystal Mountain gondola.  That's the White River down below.

Mount Rainier from the top of the Crystal Mountain gondola. That’s the White River down below.

That shadowy curve above the crags is Mt. St. Helens.

That shadowy curve above the crags is Mt. St. Helens.

Mt. Adams, and the tubs of flowers on the path to the restaurant.

Mt. Adams, and the tubs of flowers on the path to the restaurant.

Welcome to Crystal Mountain, elevation 6872 feet.

Welcome to Crystal Mountain, elevation 6872 feet.

That little white triangle on the horizon towards the righthand edge of the photo is Mt. Baker.

That little white triangle on the horizon almost dead center is Mt. Baker.

Lunch company.

Lunch company.

Really brave lunch company.

Really brave lunch company.

Headed back down the gondola.  Taken through the clear cover, so please excuse the reflections.

Headed back down the gondola. Taken through the clear cover, so please excuse the reflections.

Just a reminder, the Time in Yellowstone series: Repeating History, True Gold, and Finding Home, and the story “Homesick” (including chapters from all three novels, and only 99 cents for the e-version), are now available as ebooks on Amazon and Smashwords, and Repeating History is now available as a paper book from Amazon and CreateSpace, with the other books coming in paper editions very soon.

Categories: "Homesick", animals, books, exploring, Finding Home, flowers, Mt. Rainier, national parks, outdoors, parks, Repeating History, travel, True Gold, weather | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Visiting a volcano

 I firmly believe that if at all possible, everyone should have a chance to explore his or her surroundings.  And I tend to use the word “surroundings” loosely, generally meaning within a day trip, or, for some exceptional destinations, perhaps an overnight or a weekend. 

 I think this was brought home to me most profoundly by a woman I used to work with when I lived in a small, rather remote (when asked where it’s located, I usually say “thirty miles east of Idaho, eighty miles south of Canada”) town in Montana about twenty years ago.  She was in her forties and had never been more than thirty miles from home.  Given that the nearest city of any size was ninety miles away, and the only other town within that thirty mile limit was about a quarter the size of the one she lived in, that meant her boundaries were circumscribed in a way that I could never imagine.

 I was born in New Orleans.  I grew up in the suburbs of Los Angeles, Denver, and San Francisco.  My parents always made a big deal of exploring and getting to know the area around us every time we moved.  Since then I have lived in Oregon, another part of Colorado, Indiana, Ohio, Montana, and Washington state, and I have kept up the tradition of exploration.  Any circumscription of my boundaries is pretty well stretched to the point where it won’t snap back.

 Anyway.  A few years ago I discovered that my best local friend, whose father and husband were both military and so is even more well-moved than I am, had never really had a chance to explore once she moved here.  Kids and a full-time job just didn’t let her.  So I started a campaign to take her someplace she’s never visited before at least once a year.

 This year’s jaunt was to Mt. St. Helens.

 It was a beautiful, almost too warm day.  Classic Pacific Northwest August sunshine.  It also happened to be the first time I left the kittens to their own devices for the entire day; as it turned out, they managed just fine and didn’t even destroy the house. 

 But I digress.  We packed a picnic and drove the two and a half hours down I-5 and east along the Toutle River, first to Coldwater Lake, where there’s a trail/boardwalk along the lakeshore with signs telling about how the lake was formed by the 1980 eruption, and a picnic area, and a restroom that looks like a bunker for surviving nuclear war.  Now that I think about it, maybe it’s designed to help anyone stranded there survive another eruption.

 After lunch, we drove up to the Johnston Ridge Observatory, where we listened to a ranger talk about the eruption and went through the exhibits, where, among other things I jumped up and down on a platform to create my own tick on a seismograph.  My inner ten-year-old liked that a great deal. 

 There’s a pleasant trail leading up the hillside above the observatory, where plenty of wildflowers were in bloom.  It leads past a viewpoint, and a memorial listing all of the names of the 57 people who died in the eruption.  The views from the top are quite spectacular, but there aren’t many views in the monument that aren’t.

All in all, it was an extremely satisfactory “taking L somewhere she’s never been” day.  I hope she enjoyed it as much as I did.

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Categories: exploring, museums, national parks, outdoors, philosophy, plants, travel, weather | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

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