Closer to “Home”

image The A-Frame, Souvenirs, and Elk Burgers

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In 1978 a man from Olympia began constructing an A-frame as a home away from home to fish and relax on the Toutle River. On the inevitable day of May 18, 1980, the house just needed a chimney for the wood stove and some finishing touches on fixtures upstairs… 3 days worth of work for completion.

For a reason other than the threatening volcanic bulge, the owner had left the area on May 17th.

By 5:00 PM on the day Mount St. Helens blew, 200 tons of silt, mud, water, and ash filled up the A-frame. A falling tree broke down the front windows and door allowing the mudslide to ooze in and sink the building 4 feet into the ground.

It took 8 and 1/2 hours for the flow, with a consistency of wet cement and a temperature over 100 degrees, to reach this area known as Maple Flats.

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From here the landslide continued into the Cowlitz River and later into the Columbia River.

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The A-frame is now a famous historical spot and a tourist stop for souvenirs, about 15-20 miles east of the RV Park.

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Today the parking area here is about 5 feet higher than it was prior to May 18, 1980.

I am usually not tempted to buy tchotchkes but I just can’t resist this salt and pepper shaker set, a mini replica of Mount St. Helens before

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and after.

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But here’s the best part… the gentleman behind the counter who sold me my souvenir, is none other than the man who built the A-frame!


Saturday Jeff and I go out to eat elk burgers, sweet potato fries, and homemade cobbler. (We leave the dogs behind in an air-conditioned RV.)

Patty’s Place is 11 miles east from where we are staying… A colorful, friendly, quaint, delicious, and popular place to eat.

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The back porch overlooks the North Fork Toulle River, but we opt for eating inside as the day is unseasonably HOT.

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Again, as luck would have it, I hear people around me talking about Harry Truman and pointing to some pictures hanging on the wall. All I can make out is a black and white pick-up truck outside of Spirit Lake Lodge. When I mention my surprise that the former president had ties to this area, our server says, “No, not that Harry Truman, but a man with the same name.” And a remarkable story is shared…

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In 1926 Harry Randall Truman became the owner and caretaker of the Mount St. Helens Lodge at Spirit Lake.

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Spirit Lake Lodge sat at the foot of Mount St. Helens

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and beside Spirit Lake… the danger zone of the 1980 eruption.

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Harry stubbornly refused to leave his home, despite evacuation orders, and presumedly died in the volcanic blast. No body was ever recovered.

The Columbian, Vancouver, Washington’s daily newspaper, published this article that captured the personality of Harry R. Truman, “The Old Man and the Mountain.”

And the icing on the cake, or the snow on top of the volcano is this… The woman who welcomed us, took our order, served us, and corrected my mistaken identity of Harry Truman… Her grandfather built Spirit Lake Lodge!

Incredible

image The Aftermath of a Volcano

We set out for Johnston Ridge Observatory from Silverlake, 44 miles east on Highway 504.

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Those aren’t socks on Jeff’s feet. It’s his tan line!

I’m just going to take you with us as we head to the closest viewing area of Mount St. Helens, from our first glimpse

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to the ever-growing evidence of its impact.

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Notice the mudslides.

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As we get closer I can’t help myself from taking picture after picture.

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I try to zoom in to get a closer view of the cavity left behind in the mountain.

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We stop at a viewpoint pull-off. I take photos of the same views the informational plaques explain.

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“On May 18, 1980, the bulging north face of Mount St. Helens slid into this valley… The landslide triggered a tremendous lateral blast that destroyed 230 square miles of forest. Within minutes, the eruption transformed the land… debris blocked the flow of several tributaries of the North Fork Toutle River. Water pooled behind these natural dams, creating new ponds and lakes. The blockage of Castle Creek formed Castle Lake.” (plaque at viewing site)

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The closer we get to the ridge, the more I become aware of the destructive force of the mudslides, re-forming the North Fork Toutle, carving new channels, depositing sediment, toppling the forest, and eroding the valley floor.

These fallen tree trunks are “cemented” into the earth.

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On state and private timberlands, fallen trees were salvage-logged. Six hundred truckloads of logs were removed from the mountain every day for more than 2 years. Fast growing Douglas and noble firs were planted in successive years to begin the reforestation process. (brochure from Charles W. Bingham Forest Learning Center at Mount St. Helens)

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On US Forest Service lands within the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, however, the forest is returning at nature’s pace. The alder trees below have returned naturally.

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Red alders thrive in the nutrient-robbed soil of the landslide deposits. Bacteria on the trees’ roots produce nitrogen to enrich the soil and encourage the return of the forest. (plaque at scenic site)

It’s truly amazing how resilient nature is… that beauty can blossom where destruction once reigned.

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A Late Start

image Silverlake, Washington

By the time we pick up the RV, hitch the tow dolly and attach the car, it’s 5:00 PM. We still have to drive north through rush hour traffic to get to Mt. St. Helens RV Resort in Silverlake, Washington.

Stuck in traffic on I-84 and I-5 North, we crawl across the Columbia River from Oregon into Washington.


Finally we pass through Kelso whose earliest inhabitants were Native Americans from the Cowlitz culture, named after the Cowlitz River. By some accounts, the name means “spiritual seeker.” Upon reaching adolescence, young members set out on a fasting quest to seek visions of a spirit guide to help them become productive members of their tribe. (en.m.wikipedia.org)

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Paul Kane, an 1840s artist from Canada, painted this portrait of a Cowlitz mother and her baby. Notice the sloping forehead. Apparently the tribe believed that a sloping forehead marked a person as free, so a board tightly tied to an infant’s head helped produce this special trait.

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In 1847 a Scottish surveyor, Peter W. Crawford, platted a homesite which he named for his hometown of Kelso, Scotland. Nicknamed “Little Chicago”, Kelso became famous for its taverns and brothels that catered to loggers.

With the eruption of Mt. St. Helens, 24 miles away, in 1980,

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Kelso received huge amounts of volcanic ash through the air.

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Many areas of Kelso today, including the Three Rivers Golf Course,

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are built upon volcanic ash dredged from the Cowlitz River by state inmates and volunteers.

In 1998, 129 homes were destroyed by a slow moving landslide set in motion by higher than average rains. (en.m.wikipedia.org)

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In 10 more miles we reach Castle Rock where we turn onto Highway 504

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that will take us to the Johnston Ridge Observatory, 52 miles east, the closest viewing area of Mt. St. Helens. In 8 miles we arrive at Mt. St. Helens RV Resort in Silverlake.

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Guess what? The Camp Host couple is from the Cincinnati area. Their RV has a Bengals sign in the front window!

Another Day in the Car

image …with the dogs

We pack up and say goodbye to Corbett as I take some last minute pictures to remember our stay at Crown Point RV Park.

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Most people live here long-term and have little yards with potted plants and vegetables.

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But we can’t stay. We are headed into Portland to have the RV seals and slides checked and lubricated. Also the tow dolly has a bad wire connection that prevents one turn signal and break light from operating.

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What we think will only take several hours, turns into another full day in the car with dogs. 😩 When we drop it off we are asked the dreaded question, “Can you leave the RV with us overnight?” Apparently the service crew is short one mechanic. We can’t leave our home overnight. Besides, we have reservations in Silver Lake, Washington at Mt. St. Helens RV Resort.

So we head across the Columbia River again and explore the part of Highway 14 we haven’t seen yet. That’s when we discover Camas, Washington and Lacamas Lake Park where we spend the day!

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There are picnic sites along the calm waters of the lake where paddle boarders skim the surface and kayakers and rafters join them. There are hiking trails and waterfalls. There is a playground for children. It’s a treasure trove of natural beauty and it’s free!

As the day lengthens we continue our foray on Highway 14 to the view at Cape Horn. A defacement of the marker has crossed out the “C” and added a “y” at the end so that it reads “Ape Horny.” 😜

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I meet up with a couple from Connecticut who also wonder, “Why did it take us so long to discover the Pacific Northwest?”

My intuition tells us to turn around and head back to Portland to pick up the RV. Soon after, we receive a call that our RV is ready.

The Other Side of the River

image Highway 14 in Washington

We leave Bonneville Dam, traveling east, and in 4 miles cross into Washington over the Bridge of the Gods. The Pacific Crest Trail also crosses the Columbia River here.

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Today it is a steel truss cantilever bridge built in 1926 and further elevated in 1940.

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Native Pacific Northwest cultures tell tales of a natural stone bridge crossing the river, connecting people’s from the north and south. (plaque at scenic view)

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Geologists confirm this story with modern dating techniques. In 1450 a large landslide, originating from Table Mountain and Greenleaf Peak, sent a huge amount of debris south into the Columbia River, creating a natural damn across the river. (en.m.wikipedia.org)

Eventually the river currents eroded the dam/bridge producing whitewater rapids later named, the Cascades. William Clark describes these rapids:

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The Legend of the Bridge of the Gods (as retold by the Klickitat Native Americans)

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The chief of all gods, Saghalie, and his 2 sons traveled down the Columbia River in search of a place to live. Upon finding the perfect place, the brothers squabbled over who would settle where. To solve the dispute, the father took up his bow and shot one arrow to the north and one to the south. Now both brothers had a place to settle. 

Saghalie then built a bridge connecting the 2 settlements so the brothers could get together periodically. He named the bridge, Tanmahawis, the Bridge of the Gods.

Peace reigned until both brothers fell in love with the same beautiful maiden who could not choose between them. As the brothers fought over her, the earth shook so violently that the bridge collapsed into the river and produced the Cascade Rapids encountered by Lewis and Clark. (en.m.wikipedia.org)


So, now I invite you to sit back and enjoy the view, from my passenger’s seat, of the Washington side of the Columbia Gorge.

Gorgeous views…

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A train…

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Tunnels…

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Kiteboarding…

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Recognize the mountain to the east?

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We cross the White Salmon Bridge

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and re-enter Oregon at Hood River.

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The Oregon Trail… The Last Leg

image Coeur d’Alene, Spokane, Portland…

Then we head southwest on Route 42.

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It’s hard to believe we have made it all the way back to the West Coast again since we left March 17th.

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It’s Thursday, April 21st,  when we wake up in Coeur d’Alene, ID, less than 20 miles from Washington. Before we know it, we have traveled south on I-90 through Spokane and Kennewick and are on I-82 that takes us into Oregon.

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We cross the Columbia River.

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The Welcome to Oregon sign rolls by and we are in our new home state for the summer.

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After spending the night in the Columbia River Gorge area, we continue on I-84 into Portland where we connect with I-5 and head south again.

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The cloud formations inspire us.

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About 75 miles away from our final destination we encounter our 2nd misadventure. One of the tires on the tow dolly is flat, more than flat, like rim damage and all!

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(We were wondering why so many truckers kept waving at us. We thought they were just being friendly until everyone who passed us by started waving to us and mouthing something we could not lip read.)

Luckily a rest area appears and we pull in to surmise the damage in the picture above. As we dismount the RV we can smell the burnt rubber.

(Somewhere north of Eugene a small delivery truck expelled some metal sheets on the highway. Jeff had no time to change lanes to avoid running over them. At the time all we could think of is a tire on the RV going flat. We never even considered the tow dolly tires!)

So, we call the RV Emergency Roadside Assistance first. Of course, the tow dolly is not part of the package. Next call is to our RV insurance carrier. The best they can do for us is to have the tow dolly towed to a Eugene RV dealer.

Meanwhile 2 Good Samaritans help out. The first is a trucker who finds us cones to surround our emergency.

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The second is a state highway worker who suggests that we call Les SchwabTires. Within an hour and a half we have a new tire and rim and are ready to go again.

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At last we reach State Route 42 just south of Roseburg.

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And our new home, sweet home!

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Welcome to Remote Outpost RV and Cabins!!!