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Crater Lake, Mt. St. Helens & Seattle ’02

Perhaps it was a bit ambitious, but when all was said and done and visited, our trip to Crater Lake, Mt. St. Helens and the Seattle area was a fantastic trip filled with astonishing sights (photos below). We rolled out of town with the car loaded and maps marked, on a nice summer day, though there were some worries about forest fires raging throughout California and Oregon. We whizzed through most of Northern California, then veered off well-traveled I-5 onto U.S. Route 97. A few miles after our stop in Weed, Calif., the terrain and vegetation sure changed…we drove through the dry pine forests in California at this point and entered the more lush forests of Oregon.

Then WHAM!, I slammed on the brakes shortly after passing a sign for the Klamath Fish Hatchery near Chiloquin, Oregon. The boys and I enjoyed gawking at the fish in the holding ponds, but were flabbergasted when we spied some fish that had escaped to the stream adjacent to the hatchery….one would have fed a family of fifteen! Then our adventure really began…

Driving into Crater Lake from the south is quite dramatic. We rose through the forests, glimpsing smoke from distant forest fires as we crested the occasional ridge line. We arrived at the campground about mid afternoon, but after a quick look around decided to cut our stay short by one day, allowing us a full day later at Mt. St. Helens. We set up camp, just above Annie Springs Creek, and as you may see by the picture it’s deep in a lush canyon. Adam, Sean and I hiked a trail that ran along the creek and up the hills of the canyon, stopping at the guideposts and reading from a guidebook. Of course, our visit included the boys making friends with camp neighbors and marshmallows roasted over the campfire.

The next day we struck out for “The Lake.” It’s a short drive from the campground, and on the way there we stopped at the visitor center. There the boys discovered National Park trading cards…much better than Pokémon cards if you ask me! A few minutes later we crested the rim of the former Mount Mazama. Crater Lake has to be seen to be believed…the water’s blue hues are incredible, and the picture to the left only hints at the richness of these colors. We spent quite a while walking up and down the pathways of the south rim, popping into another visitor center and the every present gift shops.  Wizard Island is in the center of the lake, and on the left side on the shore line, there was some snow – at the end of July!

Of course, we had the obligatory group shot in the album. Moving from your left to right, it’s Adam, Karen with Chris sprouting out of her head, me, and Sean. Near as I can figure, the person taking the shot was leaning a bit, then I had to crop their finger out of the image, so we look as if we’re about to fall over.

The road out of Crater Lake (U.S. 97 to State Route 58) has its own charm. It’s quite a drive to reach I-5 again, but along the way you pass through a pumice desert. I thought it was an amazing sight. We passed through the Willamette Valley and watershed on Highway 58, long stands of trees and frequently the road was paralleled by a river. After this long drive (it was LONG), we stopped in Eugene at, of all places, Costco. Great place to fill up on gas and feed the kids.

The kids were incredibly well-behaved through the rest of Oregon, and we were all amazed, when we opened our doors at Seaquest State Park in Washington to the humidity that flooded in. Thank goodness we had made room to spend a full day at Mt. St. Helens, it was well worth it! After a campfire-less night (No campfires permitted in the wet woods of the Northwest?!), we left our campsite for a romp up the mountain.

Mt. St. Helens is an amazing and staggering place. Since we had all day, we drove and stopped along the way, hitting every visitor center along the way – the Mount St. Helens Visitor Center at Silver Lake, almost across the street from our campground and well worth the visit if you don’t plan on driving up to the Coldwater Visitor Center near the caldera, as we did, and Weyerhaeuser’s Mount St. Helens Forest Learning Center. At the forestry center, we spent quite a bit of time watching elk below near the riverbed.

The Coldwater Visitor Center was a fantastic place and we all enjoyed it. One of the best video presentations shows what happened through news clips and documentary footage, and at its conclusion the screen rises and curtains part to a view of Mt. St. Helens itself. (Unless it’s covered by clouds.) Later, we hiked up a vista point, where the boys “posed.” Guess we timed it just right…if you look at the picture of Mt. St. Helens above, you see nary a cloud though it was overcast until we reached the summit.

We had a great time camping our way up to the Seattle area, where we visited my folks and had a grand time, but that’s another story…and another web page.