Thursday, September 13, 2007

Roadtrip 1995 - Part 4: Mount Saint Helens And Mount Rainier

My next destination was supposed to be Portland, OR. As I sat in my hotel room in Bend and looked through the AAA book, I could not find anything that I was interested in there so I skipped Portland and went straight to Mt. St. Helens.

The drive up to
Mt. Saint Helens is pretty cool. The state of Washington is incredibly scenic. I stopped at the visitor’s center and watched the movie of the eruption. This wasn’t the main visitor’s center as I was coming at the monument from the south and then driving over to the east side eventually ending up at Windy Ridge. On the way there you entered the zone of devastation. All the trees were flattened. It looking like a wind had blown all the trees down all in the same direction. It was eerie.
I stopped at a trailhead heading down to Spirit Lake and walked down the one mile trail. The lake, in 1995, was still partially covered with fallen trees. It looked like you could walk across parts of the lake on the floating logs. After hopping around on the logs and taking some pictures I headed back up the trail (Huff Puff).

Returning to the car I drove on to Windy Ridge. From there I got a good view of the volcano. I climbed up a ridge (about 150 steps) and took some pictures. Very impressive.
It was starting to get a little late so I left Mt. Saint Helens and ended up in the town of Packwood. It is a logging town tucked into the forest. I stopped at a grocery store and bought some food to eat in my hotel room.
The next day I drove up to Mt. Rainier. I got there at about 9:00 am and decided to try to hike up the mountain to Camp Muir (altitude 10,188 feet - 4,788 feet up from the visitor's center). I wanted to be on the road again at 3:00 pm so I set my watch for three hours to let me know when it was time to turn around. I started up the trail which soon entered a snow field. It was steep, slippery, and really cool. Here I was on a snow slope in shorts (It was a warm sunny day). 

The air was a little thin and the slope was really steep and I was pooped when my alarm went off. I didn’t make it to the camp that I was hoping for. I guesstimate that I reached 8,750 feet - 3,350 feet climb. (While I'm writing this post I realize this was my personal best. It just took me 12 years to realize.)

I turned around and headed back to the car. Walking down on snow is harder than walking up. I fell on my behind several times on the way down. At one point I fell down on my rump and started sliding. Since I was moving in the right direction I just let it happen. I was leaning back on my hands and they started going numb because of the cold snow so I had to stop. If I had had gloves I would have slid all the way down that way – would have been faster and funner (I know – not a word but you know what I mean). Some hikers had sleds and skis to ride down on - a smart move. I was out of water by the time I got back to the car but fortunately I had some in the trunk.

Now something else happened while I was on the mountain. As I walked up the sun was shining on the back of my legs. As I was walking back down the sun was shining on the back of my legs. Six hours of sun, both direct or reflected off the snow, on the back of my bare legs. The back of my calves were roasty toasty. As I drove to Yakima I could feel the heat radiating from my legs. This would not be good. In a day or two I developed a sun rash - the back of my legs looked like they had chicken pox.

I reached Yakima, checked into a hotel, looked around for a restaurant, and had some grub before hitting the hay. I was completely bushed. I think I overexerted myself on Mt. Rainier. Sometimes I don't know when to quit.


Pictures are
here. Next destination is Seattle, WA.

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