Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Must-See Places

August 11-16, 2017
Kalama, WA - Portland, OR

With the goal to be in Albany, Oregon, for the solar eclipse, I planned one fishing/birthday stop and one stock-up/bucket list stop after leaving the Hood Canal. Expecting the smoke to move out, and the temps to drop down, I am much happier to be moving inland than I anticipated.

We set up at our level grass site with 50 amp and water on the Kalama River, at Camp Kalama RV Park, mid-day on Friday. There are very few places we don't like, and I can't really say what it is about this park, but it's not a place we'll return to. Of course I picked it for Bill's birthday so he could fish, and there's minimal river access even from our "river front" site. Oh well, we make do. 

And for our Saturday day-trip it is ideal.

Bill's best friends from high school were hitchhiking in Washington when Mt St Helens blew in 1980. I was planning a move to Missoula, Montana that same week (that changed). So although they are "distant" connections, we've both wanted to visit the volcano for years.

Smoke on Friday and rain on Sunday mean our Saturday is the only day the mountain is visible - and we have perfect views all day. From the Visitor Center in Castle Rock, to the Forest Learning Center, to the Johnson Observatory at the end, Spirit Lake Highway is 52 miles of awesome. 

And the clear skies are wonderful!!

"Before" photos begin the story told in the VC (Spirit Lake was completely buried in mud and debris, but has returned over the years in a higher location)

Volcanoes on other planets is an interesting exhibit - Olympus Mons is the largest volcano in the solar system at six times taller than Mt Rainier, and twice the size of Washington state. Why do we want to go to Mars?

The mountain's history is told through the lives of Native Americans, explorers and settlers, miners, and forest rangers. The life size mannequins are really well done.

I forgot that there was so much seismic activity prior to the main eruption.

The pyroclastic ash clouds would eventually circle the globe!

Even with the advance notice, and closure of the area to the public, many people were caught in the massive mud flows. This man and his dog were both rescued just hours after the blast.
There isn't a lot of information "inside" the volcano, but the geologic layers are really cool ('cause it's not a real volcano).
While the VC focuses on the volcano, the Forest Center is all about salvaging and restoring the devastated trees.
Weyerhaeuser salvaged over 21,000 acres with 1000 loggers from October 1980 to December 1982. Replanting and restoration would take years.

The restored forests are lush, but look like a pixelated canvas having all been planted at the same time.
The route treats us to many views as we get closer. 

In addition to repositioning Spirit Lake, the eruption formed two new lakes. This is Castle Lake. Coldwater Lake is just off the highway. Note the steam on the mountain above the left of the lake.
Loowit Point has the best view of the mountain and mud flows. 
The remaining cinder cone in the center of the crater. 

The Johnson Observatory has incredible views from the large deck, and the long line convinces us that we don't need to see any more. 

We have a wonderful meal at Guadalajara Restaurant in Kalama for Bill's birthday eve. Excellent margaritas and yummy eats. The service is the best we've had anywhere, and I go back inside as we're leaving to tell the manager how much we enjoyed it. It costs nothing to appreciate others.

Rain!! Early Sunday morning we get a few good showers, and then lovely drizzles all day. Unfortunately Bill isn't feeling great for his birthday, but it's the perfect day to hang out at home. 

Monday he's up early to fish for a couple hours before we continue south to Portland. Just 40 miles gets us to Columbia River RV Park where we have to wait to check in at 1 PM. Our GPS routes us through four large loops to get there - later we find a direct route from the interstate (sometimes I think the GPS gremlins get together and laugh at where they get us to drive!).

Several other bloggers recommend this park for being close to town. It is very clean and well maintained. Our back-in site is tight all the way around, but other than the road on the other side of the wall behind us, it's very quiet here.

Expecting there to be hordes of people at our next stop, Tuesday we run errands and stock up on groceries in case we want to avoid going out. OMG Portland is so busy! And crowded. 

But they have a Trader Joe's so I love Portland :-)

On my bucket list (the original one, it's grown since we got on the road) is Multnomah Falls in the nearby Columbia Gorge.

Wednesday is the day!

We're not surprised by the crowds, this is the most visited site in Oregon. There's no parking on the south side so we continue to Horsetail Falls where we snag the last parking space. 

The crashing water is loud in the small pool.

The unobstructed views make this a special spot.

The temperature drops 6 degrees from the car to the pool - glorious :-)))
We return to Highway 84 to get to the parking lot for Multnomah Lodge at the base of the falls. It's a good size lot with a short walk under the highway. The scenic road we were on is now backed up in both directions - glad we didn't try to squeeze in.

The lodge is Disney-esque and seems to be trying too hard. Over priced kiosks line the patio. People fill the space in front of the falls. The sun is just over the falls, right in our eyes. 

Still, I'm excited to see that the falls live up to my years of expectation! 

Although the upper falls are visible from the highway, it's the iconic bridge crossing the water that confirm you're at Multnomah. 

Tall and thin view from the highway. The upper falls drop 562 feet - combined with the lower falls they are the second highest in the country.

The lodge originally opened in 1925, but lacks the feel of an original structure.
Bucket list!

The lower falls drop 69 feet.

During a wedding on the deck a 400 ton boulder fell from the top into the pool at the bottom of the upper falls, sending a wall of water over the event. There were several injuries, the couple did get married that day, and now they're part of history!
We backtrack to the scenic highway and Crown Point. Now this looks like a building built in 1916. Even with some residual haze, the views of the river gorge are spectacular!

Vista House designed by architect Edgar Lazarus "to recall the ancient and mystic crown of Thor".



The wetlands add another layer of color in the gorge.
The ceiling and windows are stunning.
Being in the shadow of the solar eclipse is something I've looked forward to for over three years. Me and thousands of others. So while I'm looking forward to this once-in-a-lifetime experience, I'm not excited about the expected chaos of such a huge event.

Thursday we head into the fray!!


  1. Nice story and photo's been to St Helen's but think I will be going back!

    1. Thanks Bob, it's an impressive place with a great story.

  2. Very interesting story about Mt St. Helen's. Never been there and have a really good feel for it thanks to you. We don't use a GPS any more for the exact reason and experience you just experienced. Give me google maps on my phone. Had no idea those falls are the MOST visited place in Oregon. They sure are beautiful in your great pictures. Now that is an historic wedding! Bet their memories are better than the experience at the time. Sorry to hear about the lodge. Hope you have THE glasses for the event. We're too far away to see anything I fear.

    1. We don't have glasses, but may get some. Being in the shadow means it will be dark for 2 minutes :)
      I checked Google Maps in advance and thought the GPS was going the same way, until it was too late! It did take us to the park.......eventually :))))

  3. Mt St Helens is spectacular!

    The summer crowds at Oregon's most famous sites are pretty bad. The hype building around the eclipse is mind boggling. Even on the coast where there is the chance of clouds it is crazy! Reminds me of the buildup to Y2K.

    1. Yep, they say there isn't a single portable toilet left to rent in the whole state :-))) With the shadow "entering" in Newport on Monday morning I considered getting a spot there, but thought the fog might be an issue even for the total darkness.

      We really enjoyed our day at Mt St Helens.

  4. I wish we had known you were at Camp Kalama? I can tell you many reasons we don't like it and it's right down the road from our son!

    1. It was as much the campers as the park, it just didn't have a good feeling. Of course we had no issues :-)

  5. I absolutely love the forest at St Helens! The last time I was through there, I was senior in HS. There was still so much destruction and not a pretty site. They had just st started to plant the trees.

    1. You really need to come back and see it now. And the centers are exceptional.

  6. By the time I write this, you should be tucked into your eclipse spot. Can't wait to hear what you find! Prineville has been a zoo the past few days with people heading to the huge festival east of town. Madras has been surprisingly 'green' on Google Maps. We will see if it remains that way. Enjoy the eclipse! Hope we can meet up again before we head east!

    1. So far it looks like everybody wants to be with you guys!!

  7. Happy belated birthday to Bill. :-)) So fun to see your photos of Multnomah Falls. We have photos of Eric's dad as a child on the same bridge -- from sometime in the 1920's. We were there several years ago before the big boulder came tumbling down. Hilarious that every porta potty is rented out for the eclipse. We're heading over to San Juan Island Monday for an eclipse viewing event on the beach. It will be a low-key island style event. Who knows if we'll see anything, but it should be fun! Have a great time!

    1. Low key sounds good too :-)

      How great to have such a "historical" photo of the falls!

  8. We visited Mount St Helen's many years ago on a motorcycle trip. Our first view of the volcano was half shrouded in clouds, but we enjoyed the drive, Spirit Lake and the Johnson Observatory. It's hard to believe that the scientist sitting in that area, so far away, was actually killed when the mountain blew out the side. The day before we were to fly out was a crystal clear day. So we took our rental car and drove three hours back to see the it without clouds. So very glad we did.

    We will be heading to hike a view of the falls. Multnomah Falls is spectacular.

    We aren't thrilled with the Columbia River RV Park. We are probably in the worst area. We back up to another RV and we share a small grass area with the fifth wheel on our door side. Luckily, we don't sit out much. And we have absolutely no water pressure. We are assuming there is something wrong. Five planes in the last two hours. Should be an interesting eight days.

    1. Yeah, we were tucked in the back with our back to the street - not quiet. Barely enough room to squeeze in the Jeep, zero grass anywhere nearby for Tessa. Our water pressure was fine though so yes, probably they're having a problem today. Turning left on Marine takes you into the worst area we've seen in any city. I'm sure you know to go early to the gorge, the crowds are especially bad with the whole world in Oregon :-)) Have fun!

  9. We loved MSH too. Such a cool spot with so much info. The boulder falling at the wedding was awesome! Enjoy the eclipse. I hope you get clear skies!

    1. So far we're still supposed to be clear and about 78 degrees for the eclipse. At the risk of jinxing it, it's not crowded in Albany yet :-))

  10. Thanks for more memories. When I worked at St Helens it was the southern remote side of the monument. Seems everywhere people go it's crowded.

    1. We didn't see that side but would like to next time.

      I'm hoping we leave behind the crowds when we head toward Montana this week.