Sometimes, we just decide to hop in the car & start driving towards a destination without planning. A year ago, this would have been unthinkable. Funny how time on the road changes things. Since we arrived in Portland nearly 4 months ago, I’ve been rather fascinated by the volcanos you can see from the city. Given the explosive nature of Mt. St. Helens, I had heard of that volcano even back east. We’ve been waiting for a clear enough day to take a drive and recently it was finally time to get in the car & visit.
No planning = thank goodness for volunteers at visitor centers. On a whim, on the exit I thought we should take to Mt. St. Helens, we stopped at a visitor’s center. The lovely lady there said while route 503 would *technically* take us there – the views aren’t as spectacular as the route 40 miles up the road. She also gave us a tip about the Ape caves on the original route that we will have to check out at a later date for sure.
So, armed with the new knowledge that our road trip was going to be even longer, we scooted up I5 another 40 miles or so and took route 504 all the way to Johnston Ridge. Before we got there, we enjoyed the numerous scenic overlooks and even stopped at two visitor’s centers along the way.
A highlight included a great view of the bridge that brought you into the blast zone, made even more poignent when you realized how much farther you still had to go to get to the volcano. We took Samantha, so we didn’t get to participate in many of the trails & exhibits inside the center and when we go back to visit Ape Cave, we will likely leave her behind to hit a few of the trails.
One sobering thing happened on the way back home, and we are now better prepared it if happens again. As we were driving back, we came upon a sharp turn with a woman running up the middle of the road trying to slow people down (never a good sign!). Up ahead there was a motorcyclist down. As we came to a stop, I got out of the car to ensure that someone had cell signal enough to call (we were probably the 5th car on the scene). That call already happened, but all of a sudden the bike caught fire. A cry went out for water and I was pretty impressed how fast I could run back to the car & down to the bike in sandals. While the fire was small and was put out before I got there, it got us thinking. When traveling in the RV we had multiple fire extinguishers, although we never did put one in the toad. After that incident, we bought a fire extinguisher to be better prepared not only for us, but for any emergencies we run across. Luckily the rider was okay which was a good thing – we were so far away from the nearest town that 20 minutes later down the road, we still saw emergency vehicles trying to make their way to the location.
If you happen to visit the area on a clear day, I highly recommend a road trip to visit Mt. St. Helens – she’s quite impressive, and to add an element of danger, still active.