Mt St Helens, Washington

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Mt. St. Helens exploded on May 18, 1980 over 39 years ago.  It was the deadliest and most economically devastating eruption in US history.  Fifty-seven people were killed; 250 homes, 47 bridges, 15 miles of railway and 185 miles of highway were destroyed.  Luckily there had been a large earthquake a couple of months earlier in March so they were keeping a close eye on the volcano and expecting an eruption in the near future.  In the days prior to the eruption the northern side of the cone began to bulge up to five feet per day.

The eruption seemed imminent, but was much different than predicted.  A second earthquake triggered a massive landslide on the north face of the mountain moving over a half cubic mile of debris which allowed the volcanic cone to explode the northern side of the mountain.  In the end the mountain was 1300 feet shorter and instead of having a symmetric cone shape it was a horseshoe shaped creator.  So although it was very fast there was a chain reaction, earthquake caused the landslide, the landslide released the volcanic ash and debris which then melted the snow and glacier pack sending tons of slurry mud, trees and other debris racing down the valley.  The volcano continued to erupt for most of the day spewing ash and rock for many miles around.

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The effect on the surrounding forests was complete destruction.  What wasn’t pushed aside by the landslide was vaporized, burnt or simply blown down by the blast moving at over 300 mph.  As an example of the power of the blast, Spirit Lake to the north of the mountain was blasted up to 850 feet up the neighboring hill side and as the waves retreated it took the forest with it.  The lake rose over 200 feet due to the debris that settled in the lake and was covered with floating trees.  Now 39 years later a large part of the lake is still covered with dead trees trunks.  The greyish area are trees floating on the lake.  We hear they move from side to side depending on the wind…

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There are two main places to view the mountain and surrounding area.  Johnston Ridge Observatory and Windy Ridge View Point.  As the crow flies, they are probably less than 5 miles apart, but driving are over 4 hours apart.  It is interesting that the area approaching the Observatory are owned by private logging companies and have since been replanted and will soon start to be harvested.  Actually, the logging companies came in and salvaged the downed trees after the eruption.  While the National Monument area has been left to recover naturally.  There is a stark difference in the two areas.   Below is the naturally recovering area with dead trees both standing and laying on the ground.

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The snow/glacial melt also caused massive flooding in the surrounding area, changing the existing lakes and creating new ones.  With both the old and new lakes the outlets were blocked by ashen debris and there were fears that subsequent rain and snow melt would cause the debris dams to fail and flood downstream.  Below is Coldwater Lake a lake newly formed after this eruption.

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The Toutle river and surrounding valley flooded dramatically during the event and even washed trees as far away and Interstate 5.  The valley was covered up to 150 feet in ash and debris and has been slow to recover as shown below.

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Luckily, they were expecting this eruption or the loss of life would have been much worse.  Much of the immediate area had been closed.  But since the blast shot northward instead of straight up as expected much of the devastation was outside of the closed areas.  As a matter of fact of the 57 people killed by the event only 4 were in the closed areas.  The owners of this car did not survive.

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As you can see the creator and surrounding area are still steaming.  There have been multiple smaller eruptions since the main event in 1980 and we are sure that they will continue.  Mt St Helen in one of the youngest and most active of the volcanoes in the Cascades.

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An added bonus to our trip were these great views of Mt. Hood and Mt. Adams in the distance.

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Peace and Love from volcanic Cascade Mountains!!!

Sea to Sky Hwy – British Columbia, Canada

Being this close we really wanted to visit Canada.  But looking around it was really hard to decide where to go.  Canada is huge and appears to be mostly vast wilderness.  Very few roads except around the large metropolis areas and Vancouver Island only accessible via ferry. For a variety of reasons, we choose not to go to Vancouver Island, but tried to get a campsite near Vancouver City proper, but none were available.

We settled in Lynden just 7 miles from the border and decided to visit for a day trip.  Although it would be a long day we choose to take the Sea to Sky Highway 99 from Vancouver to Whistler, Canada for our first day trip.  The day started at the border with about an hour wait to cross.  The line was not that long it just didn’t move for a long time and when it did it was a very slow process.  Not sure what the hold up was??  That combined with a lot of highway construction on CA #1 made for a very slow start of the day.

The highway was very scenic starting with lovely views of Howe Sound.

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And continued up into the mountains with some views of snowy peaks.

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As you can see we did not have great weather for the drive, but what do you expect in the Pacific North West, or South West as far as Canada is concerned.  Our favorite spots (as usual) were the waterfalls.  Below is Shannon Falls a quite tall fall actually the third highest in BC.  It is right next to a gondola ride up the mountain side, which was closed because someone had intentionally cut the cable.  We had heard about this on the news and wondered how and why anyone would do this.  I am sure the cable was not cut with clippers!!!

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The second fall we visited was Brandywine falls, a completely different fall with a nice little walk to the viewing point.

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There was also a view of the Black Tusk an odd looking local landmark on the top of a nearby mountain.  It barely poked out of the surrounding clouds.

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Peace and Love from BC!!!

North Cascades National Park

The North Cascades National Park is over 500,000 acres of pure wilderness.  There are two sections of the park the north and south split by the Skagit River and Lake Ross National Recreation Area.  Highway 20 follows the Skagit River and is what is advertised as the way to visit the National Park.

This highway doesn’t actually enter the national park.  There are no paved roads within the park lands and only a couple of gravel roads.  We drove east on Hwy 20 to the Ross Lake view points and back again.  There is a circle you can do around the southern section of the park and Lake Chelan, but we did not go the entire way maybe another day.

The Skagit River is dammed three times up here to create three distinct lakes and lots of hydroelectric power.  These dams product most if not all the power required to run Seattle, and presumably everything between here and there.  The lakes are (lowest to highest or west to east) Gorge Lake, Diablo Lake and Ross Lake.  They are beautiful especially the color of the water.  They are sparkly milky green/blue due to the amount of minerals carried into them from the glacier fed rivers.

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We found it interesting that the highest (first in the chain) Ross Lake was not this stunning turquoise color, more of a dark blue from what little we could see.  Could not find an explanation, but definitely a difference even on google earth.

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There was a nice water fall, and on the mountain shot notice the fire damage to the trees.

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But unless you are able to hike a long distance or four wheel on one of the gravel roads this is what you get from the heart of the “CASCADE MOUNTIANS.”  I hear there are 300 glaciers in the park and some of the most rugged mountains in the country so we wanted more.  Following the river, we were basically in the valley and really couldn’t see the mountains.

We found Hwy 542 north of the park up to Mt. Baker ski area and decided to try that.  It again does not touch the national park, but is in the Mt. Baker Mt. Shuksan national forest.  Most of the drive was pretty flat and we were wondering what kind of views we might find.  But the last 10 miles or so went straight up to the most magnificent views of the two mountains and many glaciers!!!  Yeah, we were so pleased and absolutely loved the views.

Mt. Shuksan –

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Mt. Baker, not as great as we would of liked because the hike we wanted to take was closed for maintenance, but better than the view from Anacortes.

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Also took a side trip to the Nooksack Falls (of course).  Nice but hard to view due to such steep cliffs and thankful for the fence keeping us back.

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Peace Love and save the glaciers!!!

Whidbey Island, WA and Beyond

Now and Then above.

We left Port Townsend via ferry to Coupeville on Whidbey Island.  It is always an adventure taking the Wanderlodge on a ferry.  We were the first vehicle loaded on the boat and therefore had front row seating for the approximately 45 minute ride.  Nice seats and a pleasant ride.

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We drove up Whidbey Island and into the Freightliner shop in Mt. Vernon.  On the ride we remembered coming here when we were in Seattle about 15 years ago.  Of course, we did not stop in the bus, but visited some of the same places this time around.  Will have some now and then shots in this post.

Whidbey Island is the largest island in Washington State, and although is not considered part of the San Juan Islands it is just southeast of them and I assume very similar except Whidbey is connected to the mainland via Fidalgo Island and Highway 20.  The San Juan’s are accessed via ferry or private plane.  Private planes and small air strips are pretty popular even on Whidbey, and we heard some in the area commute to work or school via private plane…

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We visited several (I think all) state parks on the island and even a couple of county/city parks and went to the best farmers market we have visited in a long while.  Most these days seem to have more arts, clothing and prepared food, while we want fresh local veggies.  Our favorite park is Deception Pass, the narrow strait between Whidbey and Fidalgo Island to the north.

Deception pass is crossed via two bridges built in 1935.  Whidbey Island is so long and hugs the mainland and Deception Pass is so narrow that the currents passing thru during tide changes is very volatile and creates some interesting whirlpools.  The currents reach up to 8 knots or 9.2 mph.  The rolling eddies and standing waves attract daring kayakers although we did not see any in the strait.

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Another park we visited back then and now was Cap Sante, on the eastern point of Anacortes on Fidalgo Island.  It was a high bluff with nice views of the town and bay to the east.

Now and then looking towards Anacortes, WA.

Now and then looking towards the mainland in the now picture notice Mt. Baker over the left end of the small island.

Closer of Mt. Baker.

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And just some miscellaneous.

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Peace Love and cheers to island time.

More Park and Peninsula, Washington

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As we mentioned earlier, most of Oregon’s state parks are free, but as we got further north to more popular areas they began to charge.  Mostly we respected the “parking fee” and just drove thru, not even stopping for a picnic.  So instead of worrying about it when we entered Washington, we invested in an annual State Discovery pass.  Only $30 as opposed to $5-10 for each and we will probably be in the state a month or more this year.  So long story short we are stopping in a lot of Washington State Parks and displaying our placard proudly.

On the north eastern side of the peninsula is Port Townsend, a small village I actually visited with Randy’s state rental car when we were in Seattle years ago.  That visit I remember walking in the quaint downtown window shopping.  This time we visited Fort Worden really a bustling little old fort.  In this and other parks we have noticed they are revamping the old buildings and renting for vacation accommodations.  We think that is a brilliant idea to off set the costs of maintaining the parks and for a unique experience for the families renting.

Another brilliant idea I forgot to mention in Oregon is that their lottery program goes to the benefit of the State Parks.  Maybe why most are free??   Having the funds benefit the park benefits all citizens and businesses alike, pretty smart in our opinion.

Fort Worden also had several educational facilities and meeting spaces as well as the old batteries and lighthouse.  When we were there it was sooooo foggy as it is many days, we really couldn’t see the harbor, but there were lots of ship horns blaring from all directions.  Would have been scary to be on the water.  Notice the sailboat in the fog and how close to shore it is.

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Point Wilson Lighthouse is scenic, but I don’t really think that it’s light would do any good in fog this thick.  This is on the Straight of Juan de Fuca and the opening of the Seattle and other ports so you know it is busy with really large ships!!!

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East of Port Townsend we visited Ft Flagler State Park.  More repurposing for vacation rentals.

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While in Hoquiam, Washington we went out to Ocean Shores and the Jetty and to Westport Light “State Park” and Grays Harbor Lighthouse although we would have visited even if not a SP.  It is the tallest lighthouse in Washington and is currently a half mile from the shore, those jetties really work.

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These are just a few of the state parks we visited.  But our favorite adventures/places to visit (besides the lighthouses) were of course some waterfalls.  The Dosewallip state park had this nice fall that didn’t require much driving or hiking but a little of each.

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And then there was the Hamma Hamma Falls.  The pictures on line looked amazing, so although it was 17 miles in 40 minutes up a winding and sometimes gravel road we had to go.  Upon arriving it was kind of a let down.  The photos showing a several terrace falls each emptying into pools must have been taken by a drone??  Because it was definitely not as scenic and there were no trails to get a better view.  Curious as to why the road was even here as it dead ended on the other side of a bridge over the Hamma Hamma river, all that and a nice bridge to a trail head??  Either way here is what we saw.

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Our last full day near Port Townsend we got adventurous.  Hiking over 3 miles to view two different falls in the National Park with a 2 hour drive each way, but we had to do it!!!  First was Marymere Falls a nice mostly flat walk until the end where there were stairs and switchbacks straight up for the views.

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And finally Sol Duc Falls again a mostly flat hike to a lovely fall.  Interestingly, on the maps, road signs and documentation we say it was “Sol Duc,” but when we got to the trail head it was “Sole Duck”?

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Both of these were on the northern side of the peninsula on creeks/rivers that empty into Lake Crescent, it was a misty overcast day with temps in the 60s in mid August, not too bad.  Below is a picture of Lake Crescent.

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I have to say that moss is a real thing around here.  We started seeing a lot of it in northern California in the red woods and it has followed us or us it ever since.  Some of it is really kind of gross looking especially on dirt roads where it collects a lot of dust, and some looks like really nasty cotton candy, but like most things in nature it is beautiful in its own way!!!  They talk more about it in the western rainforest region of the park, but we can attest that it is on all sides of the peninsula.  Some more moss pictures.

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Peace Love and mosses for all!!!

Olympic National Park, WA

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Olympic National Park is in the northwestern corner of Washington State and takes up most of the Olympic Peninsula.  Much of the park is not accessible to us mere mortals due to the rugged and varied landscapes.  There are three distinct ecosystems within the park the rugged Pacific coast, temperate rainforests and glaciated subalpine mountains.

It is also a very large park at almost a million acres and is accessed mainly via US Hwy 101 which circles the peninsula.  There are several roads that penetrate the park from various areas, but none that cross the mountain range therefore reaching the various areas requires a lot of driving in-between.  Of course, you can hike as far as you would like to see more of the interior, but for us mere mortals a distant view will have to do.

The Coastal region is obviously on the western side of the peninsula.  The national park runs about 60 miles long but only a few wide.  The area is mostly wilderness with a few long in and out roads, but a 10 mile stretch is accessible on Hwy 101.  We did not spend a lot of time here since we have spent a lot of time on a variety of beaches during the last couple of months but did stop to see Ruby Beach and a glimpse of Destruction Island with a lighthouse about 4 miles off shore.

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Our destination on that day was the Hoh Rainforest, an almost 2 hour each way drive from our home in Hoquiam.  The drive was pretty unamazing thru thick forests with a lot of evidence of recent logging.  Logging is very much a thriving industry in western Oregon and Washington.  There were very few communities along the way (would not call them towns) and little traffic which was nice.  So it was quite surprising when we arrived at the rainforest how packed with people it was.

Of course, we had been driving thru the rainforest for a while, but the park area for parking, visitor center and trails was full.  Little to no parking even for a picnic.  This rainforest is a temperate forest as opposed to a tropical rainforest.  The large Olympic mountain range makes it difficult for rain to cross thus keeping most of the moisture on the western side.  It received an average of 150 inches of rain per year while the eastern side of the mountains only get about 30 inches.  It is covered with coniferous trees, hemlock, firs, spruce and red cedar and has one of the largest collections of biomass in the world.   This is most evident by the mosses growing on every surface.

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The final ecosystem is the glaciated Olympic Mountain.  The tallest is Mt. Olympus at almost 8,000 feet which is really pretty low to have glaciers.  The glaciers are shrinking and have lost over 30% of their area in the last 30 years.  These mountains were formed via uplifting from tectonic plate movement millions of years ago not from volcanoes like the nearby Cascades.  They formed in a single dome shape and were since carved into multiple peaks and valleys by encroaching and retreating glaciers.  This is only the second time we have seen glaciers on our travels the first were very small in the Tetons.  We are afraid that these may not be around for many generations to come, but hope to see larger ones soon on Mt Rainier.

The best view of the mountains is from Hurricane Ridge on the north side.  It is a 17 mile winding road up from Port Angeles and provides stunning views of both the mountains and the Straight of Juan de Fuca separating the peninsula from Vancouver Island and Canada.  On a clear day you can see Victoria, Canada, we could see it, but not very clearly and not a good picture!!!

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Peace Love and Justice for all.