Southwest Washington, 29 and 30-Sep-2013

This year Melody and I decided to head south for our vacation, centering the trip around Mt. St. Helens. The trip was planned thinking that there wouldn't be much rain, but ends up we did some rearranging of our itinerary to accommodate the weather. In addition, we may do even more juggling if the U.S. Forest Service is shut down, closing many of the parts of Mt. St. Helens we were planning on visiting.

Pre-trip omens

Our trip saga actually begins the day before were going to leave.

    • When we were heading to the market to pick up produce from the farmer, I noticed that the front seat was quite wet. It's something we've had several times before, but this was very inconvenient timing. Fortunately, I took a look at the drains around the sunroof and noticed one of them was blocked, and was able to clear it.
    • We were also going to do some final harvesting of our tomatoes and summer squash, and pull out the plants (especially since we didn't want rotting tomatoes when we returned). I ended up doing the harvesting and composting in pretty solid rain.
    • We wanted to use up as much of the produce as we could, but just before making dinner, the power went out. City Light said it would be 11pm before service was restored, so we finished packing then hung out at Northgate for a few hours where we saw the power might not be back until after midnight. On the way back we saw the street lights were on, so were quite relieved to come home to power.
    • When we originally planned the trip, we were thinking the bad weather wouldn't be happening yet. As the trip got closer, Melody saw it was more and more likely to be raining. Heavily. We made a bunch of contingency plans if Mt. St. Helens was going to be too wet to hike. 

    Sunday, 29-September

    Our original plan was to go to the east side of the mountain, and the backup was to go to Cape Disappointment. It looked like both places were going to have heavy rain, so we decided to go straight to the motel in Kelso. The rain was pretty intense for a lot of the trip, especially as we got further south.

    We got off the freeway a bit after noon and checked into the motel. On the way down we had decided that we would find a place to eat, get some food to heat in the room for dinner, then return to the motel. We did all that, and looking at the local weather, it looked as if we would have a bit more than a half hour before it really started to rain, so we headed out towards Tam O'Shanter Park on foot.

       Walkway around Tam O'Shanter Park

      Walkway around Tam O'Shanter Park

      We got a good amount of walking in, but it did start raining, so we headed back to the room. We had brought a few movies to watch, so we started one but got too tired to finish, so it was time to sleep.

       

      Monday, 30-September

      We woke and went down to get the breakfast which was included with the room. Not many people were there, but the room did fill up as we were finishing up.

      Mt. St. Helens still looked very wet, so we decided to head to Cape Disappointment State Park, where it was also going to be wet, but not as much. The route took us across the Lewis and Clark Bridge into Oregon, then across the Astoria-Megler bridge back into Washington (ends up going through Oregon is a much quicker way to get to Cape Disappointment rather than staying in Washington). They're both very impressive bridges, but the Astoria bridge is just huge. This photo only shows the Oregon side, where you can get an idea of how high it is comparing it to the buildings. The part on the left where it's just above the water is the bulk of the bridge, but there's another large trestle section on the Washington side.

       

       Oregon side of the Astoria-Megler bridge

      Oregon side of the Astoria-Megler bridge

      We started out on the North Head Trail and the weather seemed pleasant. There were a few sprinkles, but nothing very bad; it even started to warm up a bit. We saw a salamanders, garter snakes, and lots of frogs on the trail. Then it started to rain. Again, heavily. We donned our jackets. 

       Salamander on the North Head Trail, Cape Disappointment State Park

      Salamander on the North Head Trail, Cape Disappointment State Park

      At the end of the trail is the North Head Lighthouse and Lighthouse Keeper residences. We climbed the lighthouse stairs and were greeted by a docent who was more than happy to start talking about the history of the area, including where Lewis and Clark went, how jetties were built to help make the entrance to the Columbia more navigable (by narrowing the outlet, the water moved faster so sand was deposited further out, reducing the buildup of sand), and even other park features which he thought we would find interesting. While we were up there, a couple squalls blew through, but we timed it well enough that by the time we left the lighthouse, the weather was clear.

       North Head Lighthouse, Cape Disappointment State Park

      North Head Lighthouse, Cape Disappointment State Park

      We started going back to the car and hit heavy rain again about halfway back; were pretty well soaked. Being ready for lunch, we worked our way up to Long Beach (WA, not CA) for lunch. After having our fill, we headed down towards the boardwalk to take a look at the water and the dunes. On the way back to the car we stopped by a bakery to pick up pastries for dessert then went back to Kelso where we relaxed for the rest of the evening.

       Boardwalk at Long Beach, WA

      Boardwalk at Long Beach, WA

      After eating dinner, Melody started to re-check the weather to see what would be best to do, but there was a new twist. Because of the government shutdown, a lot of Mt. St. Helens will be closed since it's a National Volcanic Monument. In addition, one thing we skipped on Monday was Fort Clatsop, but since that's a National Park, we wouldn't be able to do that, either. There are still some things we could do, so we laid out some options and figured we would check again in the morning.