We were out of bed at 5am on Wednesday the 13th to catch the first ferry back to the mainland. I experienced mild cardiac arrest once we were on the boat, when I checked the schedule and thought for a moment we had gotten on the wrong ship. But I was wrong and we were alright and we watched the sun come up over the frosty sea as we headed back to Anacortes.
We made pretty good time most of the way back to Seattle. Then we hit the legendary I-5 traffic. No problem, I thought. I whipped open the laptop, got online and began charting an alternate route. Left here. Right there. No! We’re crawling along through the suburbs. Ok, back to work. I feverishly plotted another course. U-turn! Back on the highway. Further afield from the main metropolis. Quick, take this exit! Then blammo. We’re dead in the water again. Ultimately, we had no choice but to sit and suffer like the rest of them. I’ve never been so defeated by a roadway. No viable alternate routes? What is this nonsense? It must be the confounded evil of Microsoft at work. I know I saw Redmond on one of those off-ramps.
Eventually, we got past Seattle and were trucking south through Washington again. We stopped in Olympia for lunch and I was put to work looking up the address of K Records so we could take a drive-by photo shoot. Then we took I-5 the rest of the way to Toutle (say it, it’s fun! Toutle, Toutle, Toutle!) and then to Eco Park Resort where we bedded down in a real cabin. I’d like to invite Mar Vista Resort to visit Eco Park Resort to see how cabin lodging is really done (and at half the price!).
We stayed in a cute one room log cabin, powered entirely by propane with a little refrigerator, a heater and two gas lamps. There was a log table with card games and checkers and a quilted log bed that required a running hop for me to reach. The back of our cabin opened out onto a clearing with silence and forest in the distance. We walked a little trail then took a drive down the rest of the way to Mt. St. Helens.
All along the road, we saw signs for Weyerhauser paper company. Apparently, most of the land around the volcano and the national park was bought by them for pennies decades ago and they now plant it and clear it in rotation. Each sign was labeled with the type of tree planted in that particular tree farm along with the year planted and the intended year of harvest. Many of the tree farms had a life-cycle of 40 years or more. I had never put much thought into my feelings on logging before other than that I’ve heard it’s bad for the environment so it must be bad. However, while I know clear-cutting is not good, I was heartened to see that they were continuously re-planting the same areas rather than leaving them for waste. It’s also plain to see that logging supports many families in this part of the country and, for many of them, logging has been a way of life and part of the local culture for generations. I was so excited when I realized the tree stumps laid out in front of the Eco Park Resort were for logging contests. I don’t know anything about this stuff except for a bad eighties film having something to do with the high school quarterback who wins logging games. Or maybe it was about the girl who wanted to play football. Or maybe it was one that starred the boy who looks like Sarah Jessica Parker from Real Genius? I can’t remember.
Anyhow, we finally arrived at the Johnston Observatory, which is the closest visitor center to the Mt. St. Helens. The center is named for a scientist who was camped out on the mountain nearby observing the oncoming eruption and died on-site. His body was never found. It was overcast, brisk and windy up on the mountain so we didn’t stay long. Seeing the area brought back memories of the pictures my grandparents showed me of their trip out west in the 80s. I didn’t think much about it at the time. But now I realize not much has changed since they were there and we’re traveling much of the same routes. In fact, we’ve come to realize that most of the people we travel alongside are grandparents. I don’t know what it is, but we apparently have the interests and road-trip habits of people twice our age. Could it be our fondness for early bird specials and WWII memorabilia? Is that an odd characteristic to have when you still have all your own teeth? Then again, we are homeless and unemployed so our teeth should be the next thing to go.
After heading back to Eco Park and having a home-cooked meal of “logger’s stew”, we bedded down in our cozy cabin for the long night’s rest.