Monday, sadly, we had to leave Mount Rainier. We got up at a pretty reasonable time, and headed out to take some last photos in the early morning light. Sadly, my camera was still not working, but I had brought my point and shoot with me as well, so I used that. We walked around the general area of the Inn, and got some last shots, as the morning light was so nice.
It does look like my camera is completely dead, so I was glad that I had brought my little point and shoot with me. I had originally only planned to use it for mountain biking, but I ended up needing it for the rest of the trip. As you will see, the rest of the photos are not really quite up to my usual standards.
We took a bit of time after breakfast to go for one more short hike up to Myrtle Falls. The light was nice, and even without my good camera I wanted a few more photos. We were pleasantly surprised by another family of deer, right on the path again. A doe and her two fawns, and again we were able to get very close.
After getting packed up and checked out, we headed back down the mountain. We made a short stop at Christine Falls, then continued on to Longmire for one last quick look around, and to take some of the photos that me missed out on in yesterday's downpour. It wasn't too long a stop, and then we headed back up the mountain. The plan was to head out the Ohanapecosh exit from the park.
Monday was a spectacular day - bright and clear, without a cloud in the sky. A far cry from the end of the day yesterday, and it made the drive out amazing. At every turn we were presented with a different view of Rainier, the surrounding mountains or some great view of a massive canyon. Plus it's a fun drive - the road is in good shape, and is twisty turny and fun.
We made a few stops on the way out at different viewpoints, including a bit of a longer stop at the Box Canyon. The light wasn't great, but we stopped and had a bit of a look around. From there, it was a pretty short run out of the park, and south towards our next stop in Bend Oregon.
At this point we had a bit of a directional choice to make. Bend is actually a bit east of Mount Rainier, but as Mount St. Helens is in the middle, we either had to go west back to the I5, or skirt a bit east around the mountain on lesser roads. We opted for the eastern route, and while it was definitely a more beautiful and interesting drive, it made for a long drive.
Our route took us south, then west then south again, after turning onto a paved forest service road. We got gas in one of the small towns along the way, which was good because there wasn't much in the way of civilization after that. The road took us mostly south, skirting the eastern side of Mount St. Helens. It was a twisty, turny road, which was lots of fun to drive along. At one point we passed what must have been a massive washout, where it looked like half the mountain must have come down.
Not long after we came to a crossroads, where there was a side road that would take us to one of the two official viewpoints for Mount St. Helens. Given that we are not likely to come back that way, and it was a clear, beautiful day, we figured we should go check out the mountain. So we headed back west, not realizing that we were adding about 50 miles of twisty highway to our journey.
That said, it was worth it to get up close to St. Helens, and see the scale of the eruption from 1980, and to see the devastation it had caused, even more than 30 years later. The drive was incredible, twisting through the mountains, and every once in a while open up a view of St. Helens. Once you got within about 30 miles from the mountian, you got into the "devistation zone", and it was a something to see. Initially, it was just dead trees everywhere, but as we got closer, you came into the area affected by the blast, and whole forested were just blown over, like a bunch of twigs in the wind. You could see the direction of the blast, with all these trees lying down, faced away from the mountain. As you got closer, there is almost nothing around.
Of course, that was more than 30 years ago, and the forest is starting to come back. Life is returning, but it's amazing to see how long it takes. The viewpoint at Windy Ridge is ~5 miles or so from the mountian and it really makes you appreciate the scale of the disaster. There's just a ge hole in the side of the mountain, and it's hard to conceive that one day it was there, and the next it was just gone. Not to compare the two events, but as we saw on Rainier yesterday, you just don't want to mess with a volcano.
The side trip out to the Mount St. Helens viewpoint added few hours to our day, but it was totally worth it. We worked our way back out the road east to the forest service road, then headed south some more. Again, the road was amazing, and before too long we had made it all the way south to the Columbia River, and the Washington/Oregon border. We headed east from there toward Hood River, with was our best opportunity to cross the river and continue South. Having spent a fair bit of time in this part of the world it was good to be back in familiar territory.
We crossed the bridge, but sadly there was no time to stop in Hood River, so we continued on south. We passed close by Government Camp and the base of Mount Hood (our third major volcano of the day), and continued on deeper into Oregon. Between Mount Hood and Bend we passed though an area of grasslands that was really cool, and completely different from any other ecosystem we had been through to date. It was completely different from the lush forests, but beautiful in its own way with the golden grasses in the late afternoon light.
It had been a long day with a lot of driving, but we finally got to our destination at Tumalo State Park, about 7 miles north of Bend. The sun was still up after we got checked into the campsite, and we were able to get camp setup while it was still light.
We were meeting Justine's friends, Graham and his girlfriend Colleen in Bend to do some mountain biking for a few days, and so once camp was set up, we headed into Bend to meet them for a bit of a late dinner. I had only spent a little more than a day in Bend last time I was here, but I really fell in love with the town, and this trip really has sealed that feeling. We had dinner down in the "Old Mill" district, which seemed to have a lot of great restaurants and things to do.
After dinner we headed back to the camp site, and headed to bed. We were both exhausted, and it was getting pretty cool, which made for perfect sleeping weather in our little tent.