Seattle Stories and Tips

Day 5 - Western Washington

Mount Rainier Photo, Mt. Rainier National Park, Washington

No, I didn't go up in the Space Needle or to the Boeing Aircraft Plant while I was in Seattle. I did take two scenic loop drives, one around Mount Rainier and the other up to the Johnston Overlook at Mount St. Helens.

My trip around Mount Rainier on a scenic loop road was not what I had expected. I wasn't able to get very close to the mountain, and there was a lot of forest to block the view. It was a neat enough trip, however. I was also disappointed to learn that the road from Randle was not passable down to Wind Ridge, the eastern viewpoint for Mount St Helens. I had to drive all the way out to I-5 and head south for the Johnston Overlook instead.

Harry Johnston was a photographer who thought he could photograph the Mount St. Helens eruption from a distance of about ten miles. He underestimated the power of the volcano by about seven miles, and he perished. The overlook, although not the place where Johnston died, is a memorial to him. The drive to the overlook from I-5 was 108 miles round trip. There were no side roads after the first ten miles, so the road from there on was built for only one purpose: to get to the Johnston Overlook, but it was a neat drive and had lots of viewpoints on the way.

I was really shocked that the aftermath of the 1980 eruption is still quite visible on the drive out to Mount St Helens. Workers are still clearing the downed trees, which were blown down up to 17 miles from the mountain in a radial pattern such as that shown above by the parking lot of Johnston Overlook. The cleanup and restoration is a joint project between the government and Weyerhouser.

The new plantings are called noble spruce. They appear very symmetrical and almost reminded me of the imitation Christmas trees we use these days. Each stand (forest) is marked with a sign with the year shown in which the trees were planted.

The Toutle River once ran past Mount St Helens and flowed west to the Pacific Ocean. It is now a river of volcanic concrete with a small stream of water running through the center. It doesn't even look like a river anymore. The Toutle is visible from the road all along the 54 mile drive up to the Johnston Overlook.

After driving 54 miles back to I-5, the short trip down to Portland was a welcome one. Once again, I never did go into the center of the city. I was on the trip to see rural views, so cities were only places to find lodging and food.

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