Day 17 of Lupe’s 2012 Dingo Vacation to the West Coast.
Once again, Lupe and SPHP were up before Lanis. Lupe soon found the Loop Trail, which runs entirely around the Iron Creek campground, NE of Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. Iron Creek campground is located in an amazing mossy forest of huge Douglas firs. Before it was time to head to Mt. St. Helens, Lupe and SPHP wanted to explore the Loop Trail, and see it all.
The trail was in good condition. Lupe, as always, was an enthusiastic explorer. She sniffed ferns, and jumped up on giant mossy logs laying on forest floor, using the logs as her own private green-cushioned Dingo trails. If there were any squirrels, Lupe wasn’t finding them. They may have been up in the stratosphere of the towering tree tops.
The N and NE sides of the Loop Trail went along a lovely blue river, the Cispus. The water of the Cispus sparkled in the morning light. Not far from the Cispus, on the W side of the Loop Trail, were signs next to two huge Douglas firs. The little tree was 280 feet high, had an 8 foot diameter trunk, and was 600 years old. The biggest one was 285 feet high, had an 8 foot 2 inch diameter trunk, and was also 600 years old.
These trees were already 80 years old when Columbus set sail for America! It was hard to imagine they had been standing here all that time. Both trees were still alive, and looked to be in good condition. The forest was full of Douglas firs that looked almost as huge and ancient as these two. Iron Creek campground was a pretty amazing place!
Lupe and SPHP completed their journey around the entire Loop Trail. Lanis was up, when Lupe arrived back at her tiny house. It was time to leave for Mt. St. Helens (8,333 ft.)! A long, winding paved road took Lupe up through a dense forest to the E entrance of Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. Lanis parked the Element at the first overlook in the monument with a view toward Mt. St. Helens.
Lanis and SPHP started reading some plaques at the overlook showing pictures of the eruption of Mt. St. Helens on May 18, 1980. Amazingly, the man who took those very photos, Gary Rosenquist, showed up while Lupe was at the overlook!
Lupe got to meet Mr. Rosenquist. Lanis and SPHP got to chat with him for a while about his experience photographing the Mt. St. Helens eruption, and then fleeing for his life from the falling ash. Mr. Rosenquist said he still likes to visit Mt. St. Helens fairly frequently.
Lupe, Lanis and SPHP continued on the road toward viewpoints closer to Mt. St. Helens. From one of them, there were some great views of Spirit Lake. The 1980 eruption of Mt. St. Helens was so powerful, it created a wave of water from Spirit Lake that went as high as 850 feet up the mountains on the N side of the lake. Debris blocked the outlet to the lake, and the water level rose about 200 feet above its prior elevation. The surface area of Spirit Lake is now about 2,200 acres compared to only 1,300 acres before.
The road ended at a final viewpoint, still quite a distance from the volcano. From here it was possible to get a very good view of the huge debris flow extending down to Spirit Lake formed by the collapse of the former N slopes of Mt. St. Helens as the volcano erupted.
At the last viewpoint, there was a set of stairs climbing up a steep hill above the parking area. Lupe, Lanis and SPHP went up to the top of the hill for a better view.
From the hill, it was possible to get a better look not only at Mt. St. Helens, but also see Mt. Adams (12,276 ft.) and Mt. Hood (11,239 ft.) in the distance. Lupe even got to see Mt. Rainier (14,411 ft.), after all, despite having missed seeing it due to cloud cover the day before. The summit of Mt. Rainier was peaking up over the ridge beyond Spirit Lake.
At the top of the hill above the final viewpoint, there was a trail leading one mile back to the best viewpoint over Spirit Lake. The trail was high up on the side of the mountain facing Spirit Lake, so it was bound to be a very scenic path. Lanis didn’t feel like taking the trail, but Lupe and SPHP did.
The one mile trail was very scenic, and did have great views of Spirit Lake, but at one point there was a stretch of trail a few hundred feet long that was a bit scary. The trail was very narrow with cliffs directly above, and a very steep slope leading to more cliffs below. Lupe and SPHP made it through easily enough, but it sure wouldn’t be a place to take little kids.
Lanis was waiting with the Element at the best Spirit Lake viewpoint along the road at the other end of the trail. Lanis said there had been signs saying the trail was for experts or advanced hikers only. SPHP had not noticed them.
Going back down the paved road heading back out of St. Helens National Volcanic Monument was interesting, too. There were some pretty big drops off the side of the road, and no guardrails.
More concerning was that the road itself was cracking, and in many places had already slumped creating troughs in the road several feet deep. The pavement was still smooth, these weren’t abrupt cracks, but after seeing a whole mountain that had collapsed, it was easy to envision a 50 or 100 foot section of the road failing, and plunging down the cliff!
Of course, nothing actually happened; the road did not fail. (Some day it will!) Lupe, Lanis and SPHP left Mt. St. Helens behind.
Lupe was heading back to the West Coast! She traveled through the little towns of Cougar, Yale and Ariel on the way back to I-5. She turned N on I-5, and then W on Hwy 4, which followed the N bank of the Columbia River. Along Hwy 401, Lupe, Lanis and SPHP stopped at Dismal Nitch, a cove along the Columbia River.
It was beautiful at Dismal Nitch! The Columbia River is almost to the Pacific Ocean by the time it reaches Dismal Nitch. The river was so wide, it was hard to tell if it was still even a river, or a bay of the ocean. Seagulls were swirling around over the river. The long bridge over to Astoria, on the Oregon side of the Columbia, could be seen just a few miles ahead.
Lupe had just missed seeing Lewis & Clark! Well, not quite “just” missed. Lewis & Clark first reached Dismal Nitch on November 10, 1805, so Lupe was 206 years, 9 months and 14 days late. It was a good thing, really. Lewis & Clark had taken shelter here from a severe winter storm. The storm forced them off the river for 6 days, causing them to miss their supply boat. It was Captain William Clark who had named the place, calling it in his journals “that dismal little nitch”.
It was getting late enough in the day to start thinking about finding a place to camp. Lupe, Lanis and SPHP left Dismal Nitch, and continued W on Hwys 401 & 101 all the way to the Pacific Ocean at Cape Disappointment.
Cape Disappointment is located at the very SW tip of Washington state on the N bank of the Columbia River. It was named by a British fur trader, John Meares, who had been sailing S in search of trade and the Columbia. On April 12, 1788, he sighted Cape Disappointment, but had to turn his ship around due to a storm, thereby failing to discover the mouth of the Columbia. Lupe, Lanis and SPHP were also disappointed – the campground at the Lewis & Clark State Park was full.
Lupe, Lanis and SPHP drove all around the general area, stopping at all the campgrounds. Every one was full. People were flocking to the area for some kind of big kite flying contest. SPHP’s road atlas did show a “World Kite Museum & Hall of Fame” on the coast a little way N of Cape Disappointment State Park. Well, no problem. Lupe would just take the Astoria bridge over the Columbia River to Oregon, and find a place to stay over there.
When Lupe crossed the bridge, Oregon became the 6th Lupe state to join her Dingo Nation! Unfortunately, the story was both different and the same in Oregon. Just like in Washington, all the campgrounds were full. So were all the motel rooms, except for a few luxury suites priced well beyond budget. The reason was different, though. People were flocking here for a big Mt. Hood to Seaside relay running event that was in progress.
Lupe, Lanis, and SPHP gave up finding a place to stay in Astoria. Lanis drove S on Hwy 101 towards Seaside. Suddenly, Lanis spotted a black lab on the very busy 4 lane highway. The black lab was clearly lost. He was running back and forth right on the highway looking at each car as it whizzed by, hoping to find his owner. The poor black lab was doomed to cause an accident, and die within minutes doing this!
Lanis stopped the Element. Lanis and SPHP intended to rescue the black lab, but time was of the essence. Fortunately, someone else in a pickup truck also saw the dog’s plight, and stopped closer to where the dog had run to. In just seconds, he had the dog safely in his truck. The black lab was saved!
At Seaside, unsurprisingly, it soon became clear there were no campground vacancies here, either. However, there was a little park right along the highway, and a large pullout parking lot for it. The park had a big open field, with scattered stands of trees. Beyond the field was a view of a bay of the ocean. No tents allowed. It wasn’t dark yet, but it soon would be. Looked like car camping in the Element again.
As twilight was fading, SPHP and Lupe went for a walk through the park down to a little river flowing into the bay. Very high, thick, coarse grass grew next to the river. Lupe sniffed around in the grass forest, while SPHP gazed out over the river down to the ocean bay. SPHP didn’t notice anything was wrong until getting into the Element for the night.
Within a few seconds, the Element just reeked. The source of the stench was quickly identified as Lupe. She must have found some dead fish along the shore of the river, and rolled in them. Dogs, even Dingoes, sometimes love to roll in the nastiest, most awful things. An instinctive way of hiding their scent from prey? Well, it was true no sensible prey animal would likely suspect it was being added to the menu by an extraordinarily obnoxious dead fish.
Lupe was very happy curled up in the Element wearing her Eau-du-Dead Fish perfume, and wondered what all the fuss was about? Lanis and SPHP were far less thrilled. The smell was horrid and overwhelming. Lanis refused to stay. He took a sleeping bag outside, and tried to sleep on the ground next to the Element. The air was much better, but the traffic roaring by on the highway did not bring sweet dreams.
After Lanis had suffered outside, and SPHP had suffered inside, for about an hour, neither could take it anymore. Take your pick – traffic noise, or the stench of a Dead Fish Dingo – it was impossible to sleep. Lupe, Lanis and SPHP went for a long walk in the darkness, just wandering around Seaside.
The walk helped. By the time Lupe, Lanis and SPHP returned to the Element, it had aired out somewhat. Somehow, Lupe had, too. She was still no rose garden, but the worst was clearly over. For Lanis and SPHP, sleeping in the Element still wasn’t going to be a treat. With the back loaded with gear, the front seats didn’t recline. Sleeping in the Element always meant sleeping sitting up.
High up on her pile of blankets and pillows, Lupe curled up and drifted peacefully off to sleep, soothed by the aromatherapy of the hint of Eau-du-Dead Fish she was still wearing.