We finally leave Seattle by 2pm. It is a glorious day, and we have learnt that this does not happen all the time, so we plan to make the most of it. I have been plotting over my maps while John has been working. I had wanted to go to Mt Rainer, but lots of the roads around the mountain are still closed, so we will head straight on to Mt St Helens (non- stop). As we head south we can see snowy peaks everywhere. Finally we turn off the motorway. As we climb in altitude we get more glimpses of the peak and the snow gets thicker & thicker. It is fresh & white. The Visitor Centre’s are all closed & barricades are up. It is 5pm by the time we reach the first open viewing area. Fortunately the snow plough has been through, but we still have to walk through mounds of snow. Every view point is magical. The light is perfect for100’s of photos! The final section of road is closed, but as it is now 6pm we decide to head back down. We don’t want to camp up here. The road may well be icy in the morning. Finally we head down a side road & stop near the Dam. It is still a very chilly night. Thank goodness for the diesel heater.
The next day dawns bright & clear. First stop the open Visitor Centre at Silver Lake with a movie about the eruption. Finally we cross the border into Oregon. We have decided to follow the Scenic Route alongside the Colombia River Gorge – and my goodness it is gorgeous. The down side is that it is also very busy. We stop at viewpoints, walk to waterfalls & wind along the old narrow road. Our last stop is at Bonneville Dam. Rarely can you drive right into a dam – but this one you can. It is surprisingly interesting, with lots of info about the dam, viewing platform, & viewing windows right into the fish ladder. And yes there are salmon running already! As we leave we see seals eating fish in the frothing water near the dam. Amazing how far they come upstream.
As we head further along the motorway we spy a little peninsula with a RV on it, so we track back & settle in for the night. When we go out for our evening stroll we discover that they are making an advert for Mitchelin Tyres with a couple of brand new Subaru’s. They all leave later, so we have the spot all to ourselves. Only noise is from all the trains that keep going past!
At the town of Hood River we decide to leave the riverfront & head inland to Mt Hood. We see tantalizing views of its snowy peak above rows of trees in full blossom. We head right up the mountain. Ski season is still in full swing here and also at the famous Timberline Lodge. Leaving the snowy peaks we head down into Warm Springs Indian Reservation, & on through some great gorges, especially the one at Crooked River where there is an amazing old metal bridge. Finally we roll into Bend, where we head down some back roads to find a spot for the night. Everywhere there are signs up, but we finally find a spot in the forest. Two other vehicles join us - it is obviously a frequently used spot.
It is a pretty cold night, so we stay longer in bed than usual, but eventually it is time to get back on the road. We head up Mt Batchelor. It is Saturday & the carpark is full & ski tows busy. Our planned road is closed. Bother – it is still covered in snow. So we retrace our steps & head to our next destination – Crater Lake. We have been there many years ago with the kids, but as we are so close I want to see it again. There is lots of snow (but not piled as high as last time). Most of the roads are closed, but worth the drive. It is a magical sight.
Earlier in the day all the petrol station prices were too much for John, so now as we head down the mountain, our fuel is getting low. So change of plan – we track towards some little towns to find fuel. At least it means we get a chance to walk to Sawmill Falls & Rogue River. Finally we find our best camp spot yet – right beside the Rogue River, with an old brick fireplace to make a fire – magic. In the morning it is 2.6 deg outside.
After all these snowy mountains we plan to head to the coast. We discover that our route is the Waterfall Route – so lots of stops at lots of waterfalls. Some with short walks, some a little longer. As usual we meet lots of people and stop to chat. GR2 is making quite an impression over here! After lunch at a pretty riverside restaurant we decide we are “waterfalled out!” So we simply continue following the Umpqua River. Finally we head up a side road to Loon Lake. The BLM campsite is closed so we camp in the Day Use area.
As we head to the coast we stop to watch the elks at Deans Creek, continuing on to the Dunes National Recreation Area. They are a bit of a disappointment as the dunes aren’t all that big. We venture out to the beach in the arctic wind – stop to watch a kite boarder heading out into the waves (full wet suit of course) and seals playing in the surf. Time to head south, hugging the coastline. We stop to watch for whales – none that we can see. The day continues cold & dull. Finally we pull over in a little fishing town called Charleston & head out to the marina to find a spot for the night.
The next day is bright & sunny. YAY!! We follow some seriously gorgeous coastline. Finally time to cross the border into California ……more to come.