Day 79

Friday, August 12, 2005Chehalis, WA
Miles: 9459Mt. Rainier, FINALLY!
Since we were planning on going somewhere scenic, it was of course foggy when we woke up. We decided to hang out and wait for the Mt. St. Helens Information Center to open anyway, which turned out to be a good thing. Apparently, the fog stopped about 3000 feet off the ground, and the lookout point is at about 4000 feet. So we took in a video about the catastrophic 1980 explosion and then headed up to the observation center. Apparently, their were only two people who predicted that the mountain would blow the way it did, and unfortunately, one of them was the first victim of the mountain, since he was right there observing it. Bummer. The trees still haven't come back, and the trees that were mowed down are still evident under the new green growth. There is no pahoehoe anywhere, since the lava was much more viscous. The mountain was steaming while we were there, since back in September of 2004, the mountain reawakened and started cone building again. They're not sure when it's going to blow again, but this time they hope to have more warning. We watched a short presnetation by an extremely enthusiastic ranger and learned that the employees had all been evacuated at one point a few months previously, as the mountain was making some alarming rumblings. There was a memorial for all the victims who hadn't found, including one poor guy who had been out working overtime as a logger to pay for his wife's cancer treatments. How unlucky is that. Apparently, if the explosion had waited 24 more hours, hundreds more people would have been killed because the woods would have been filled with loggers. As it was, only 57 people were killed, including one guy who was told to evacuate and refused. He and the lodge he owned were covered in 300 feet of ash.

After our trip to Mt. St. Helens, we decided to head to the mountain which had thwarted us nearly a year earlier, Rainier.

During our trip to Seattle, we had seen Rainier only from afar, as every time we got close to it, it shrouded itself in mist. We had thought that it was majestic when viewed from far away, but up close it's really sort of mind boggling and intimidating. We drove up the main road through the park, stopping to walk across a log bridge that spanned a raging river and check out some waterfalls. We had hit very few crowds at St. Helens because it was early, and Mt. Rainier wasn't very crowded because it was fairly late in the day by the time we got there. We drove along and took in the views of the peak and its glaciers and the surrounding forest and made it to Paradise. One of the signs in the visitor center explained that many people think Rainier is so intriguing is that it is accessible from all sides. It's not a range that has pockets that are covered, but rather a single bohemoth that inspires a sense of intimacy. We had to agree.

Signs at the entrance had claimed that the parking lots for Paradise were full, but this was not true. We parked just fine and went on a hike to view the glaciers and the headwaters of the same river we had walked over earlier in the day. It was pretty amazing to see and we walked in awe. We also saw a pretty little deer munching on the tender wildflowers we were admonished to avoid. Silly deer.

After completing our loop through the pretty, we headed for our campsite right outside the park and had dinner before settling in for some Perseids watching. Sadly, it wasn't as dark in this part of the country as it had been in Idaho, but we still saw 15 meteors in the hour or so we stayed awake to watch.