Tag Archives: Columbia River

Northwest Trek – The Fate of a Man and a Mountain

21 Aug

Before the trip began, my brother said over and over that Mount St. Helens was the one thing he definitely wanted to see. It did not matter where else we went as long as we went there. He remembered watching the weeks of television coverage as the volcano built towards a massive eruption. Although I am younger, I also remember the images of the mudslides and ash. After visiting the mountain, I know that television did not portray the impact and destruction.

There is only one road to Mount St Helens, but there are a few places to stop along the way. The Mount St. Helens Visitor Center sits a few miles off the interstate and provides a good introduction into the events of 1980. My nephews did not know much about what happened, but they knew a little more after watching a movie about it. Obviously, the film was about the volcano, but it was also about the people who were affected by it. This included a man who I still remember seeing on television.

Harry Truman was in his 80s and had lived in the shadows of Mt. St. Helens for 50 years. As law enforcement evacuated people who lived in the area, Harry was determined that he was not going anywhere. He became a celebrity as reporters flocked to interview him. He was full of quips and quotes and became the face of the people of the area. Harry disappeared in the eruption. It is assumed that he was buried under the boiling mud that slid off the mountain.

As we walked out of the movie, I made the comment that I would have never stayed around to die in a volcano. However, my nephew had another view. Here was a man who had lived his life, and he did not want to leave his home. By staying near the mountain, he lives on in memory rather than fading from our minds.

I am not sure I agree with that, but it is true that Harry has not been forgotten.

We drove to the end of the road and the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. There sits the Johnston Ridge Observatory, named after a scientist who was also killed in the eruption. It is an impressive building that provides an excellent view of the north side of Mount St. Helens. In other words, it is in the blast zone.

There a televisions in one part of the observatory that show news footage from the time. There are interviews with a lot of people, and there are interviews with Harry saying that he will never leave the mountain. When the televisions go dark, doors open into a theater where we learn about the explosion. The cause. The destruction. The environmental impact. When the movie ends, the screen rises and a huge window appears. Outside sits Mount St. Helens. It is an awesome thing to see.IMG_2917

On the observation deck, park rangers explain the event in detail. The mudslide was the largest in recorded history and traveled at 150 miles per hour. What impressed me the most? The entrance to the Columbia River went from a depth of 40 feet to a depth of 9 feet.

The ash cloud traveled at a speed of 300 miles per hour and circled the globe in two weeks. There is no way to describe the destruction in a blog post, but it was total and absolute. The national park service has preserved the land in its ruined state and is studying the environment as it recovers.

Driving back to the interstate, we stopped at a restaurant called Patty’s Place at 19 Mile House. It was a good meal, but it is not the food that stood out. As we walked out, there was a picture hanging of Harry Truman. He was right when he said that he would never leave the mountain, and my nephew was right when he said that Harry is still remembered. Mount St. Helens and Harry Truman are intertwined.

Northwest Trek – Lewis, Clark and Kites

19 Aug

After a day of many miles and little sightseeing, we were determined to spend the next day doing the opposite. We wanted to see some stuff and do it in as few miles as possible. That meant hopping over to the Oregon side of the Columbia River and driving to Astoria, the town that served as the base for John Jacob Astor’s fur company.

As a historian of the American West, this is a place that I have talked about in class and a place that I wanted to visit. Astor’s company was the first in the United States to be worth a million dollars and served as the basis for investment in New York City real estate.

The Astoria Column sits on the highest point in the town and was built by the Astor’s to commemorate the one hundredth anniversary of their business.DSC00340

My nephews and I climbed the tower and saw stunning vistas.DSC00337

It also gave them the opportunity to make fun of my discomfort with heights.

After the climb, we drove to Fort Clatsop. It is a place that few people know about but that played an important role in one of this country’s pivotal events, the journey of Meriwether Lewis, William Clark and the men who traveled with them. They built a fort to spend a few months on the coast before making their way back home. There is a reproduction of the fort that provides an idea of what it may have been like in the early years of the 1800s.IMG_2701

As we walked around, I thought about the location. The Louisiana Territory did not reach to the Pacific Ocean. During their time at Fort Clatsop, the expedition was trespassing. Obviously, it had long been the domain of Native Americans, but a couple of European powers claimed it before the United States.

I also realized that, through our travels, we have covered a lot of the trail that Lewis and Clark traveled.

Lewis and Clark went east when they left the fort. We went south toward Seaside, Oregon to a famous formation called Haystack Rock.IMG_2741

It was cool, but there was another place that we needed to visit.

While studying the map, my younger nephew and I saw the World Kite Museum and Hall of Fame. He was determined to go, and we were determined to get him there. After crossing the river in Washington, we made our way to Long Beach and a building full of kites. It was corny, but we learned about the important role that kites played in World War II. Also, the first floor had a wall filled with people who had been inducted in the Hall of Fame. I read each one of them. Hey, if you are going to be in a hall of fame, then someone should read your name.

You may have heard of a few of them.

Charlie Brown

Wilber and Orville Wright

Benjamin Franklin

Alexander Graham Bell

It is an impressive list.

We asked the lady at the desk for a food recommendation. She sent us up the road to a seafood place that fried everything. We wanted seafood, but something grilled would have been nice. Honestly, it was not any better than Captain D’s. Its only redeeming quality was the city park across the street. When we walked out, a band was playing a music filled the air. They were called Jawbone Flats, and I would have listened for a while. However, everyone was ready to leave.

Hey, look over there. It is a road that goes to the beach. When I say the road goes to the beach, I really mean that it goes onto the beach. Cars are allowed on Long Beach, the longest beach in the world.DSC00348

Honestly, we all thought that Daytona Beach was the only one that you could drive on.

With daylight burning, there was one more stop to make. An old lighthouse sits on the edge of Cape Disappointment.IMG_2774

My brother and nephews climbed to the top while I talked to the man at the entrance. They learned all about the operation of lighthouses while I learned that men were stationed there during World War II. After all, they never knew when the Japanese my attack the Columbia River.

We returned to the hotel with our mission accomplished. We did not go far and saw a lot of stuff. We old folks went to bed while my nephews went to Shari’s to get more pie.

Northwest Trek – These Are The Times That Try Men’s Souls

17 Aug

We spent an uncertain night in Redmond, Oregon because we did not know which way to progress. Do we go northeast toward Idaho? Do we go north before deciding our next direction? This uncertainty is strange for us because we usually have a plan of roads to take and sights to see. However, we were not familiar with the territory. Finally, we decided to drive north towards The Dalles and turn eastward through the Columbia River Gorge. We had been told that this was something that had to be seen.

Through the years, we have driven through some desolate regions. There are parts of Montana and North Dakota where you will not pass another car for a while. However, we all agreed that nothing was as desolate as the road we took. The road was empty. The land was rough. I was driving and began to worry about the fact that we did not fill up with fuel before hitting the trail.

At one point, we pulled over to take a “break” and saw this guy riding along in the middle of nowhere.DSC00331

This brings me to a couple of other points about the trip. First, there are tons of cyclists in the northwest. They were on every road. Sometimes, they rode alone. Sometimes, they rode in pairs. Other times, they rode in groups with all of them wearing the same jerseys. I assume they were cycling clubs.

Second, the guy on the bike never acknowledged our existence. He rode by slowly as we stood along the side of the road. In these parts, we would have waved or nodded our heads. In some parts of the country, a cyclist may have yelled at us for being in the way. That did not happen on the side of a desolate road, and it did not happen on any other part of the trip. The people of the northwest were nice enough, but it was like they did not care if we were around. There was no reaction.

That could be that they are more mellow than the rest of the country. It could be that the zombie apocalypse has started in the northwest, and no one has realized it. Whatever the reason, most of the people we ran into seemed to be floating through the day. Heck, they did not even ask us where we were from. Usually, our southern accents elicit that question but not this time.

Anyway, we made it to the edge of the Gorge and filled up with gasoline. For those who do not know, Oregon has a law that says you cannot pump your own gas. They have attendants that do it for you. Of course, you have to get out of the car to insert the credit card and clean the windows.

We drove through the Columbia River Gorge on the scenic side and were disappointed. It simply was not as scenic as people made out. If someone thinks this is the most beautiful place they have been, then they have not been many places. It is not a terrible place, but there are better drives throughout the nation.IMG_2528

On top of that, we ended up eating at Burger King. We expected little towns with cool local eateries. There were little towns but not many choices in dining. However, Burger King provided the opportunity to break out the map and find our destination. It turned out to be Longview, Washington, a place that set us up for the next day.

We made it to Longview in time to do a couple of things. One was to find a place to fix my nephew’s GoPro camera. The other was to find something to eat. It took a couple of stops for the camera, and my nephew ended up fixing it with glue and rope. While he was looking for that, we were on our phones looking for restaurants.

My nephew and I found a steakhouse a few blocks away. There were some other places, but the pickings were slim. My brother said that he found something great – a smokehouse with brisket, barbecue and all sorts of stuff. We could not find it on our phones, but he was determined that we were going there. It turned out that he was looking for restaurants in Longview, Texas.

We had dinner at Applebee’s. It was not as good as our local Applebee’s because this one has my picture on the wall.

On the way back to the hotel, we ran into Shari’s, the place with the pie. We had to top off a long day with something good. For me, that was another piece of Marionberry Pie. It was a wasted day. We did not see anything. We did not have a decent meal. However, we got some pie.