Wednesday, September 2, 2009

On The Road: Columbia River Gorge, Mount St. Helens, Astoria & Seaside

Our third day in Portland we decided to rent a car and explore the Pacific Northwest. We had looked on a map and saw that Mount St. Helens was only about an hour and a half away and neither one of us had ever seen a volcano so we thought we should take the opportunity to explore it! We also wanted to visit some of the very pretty and well-known waterfalls in the Columbia River Gorge and of course, how could we be near the Pacific and not visit the beach? So we checked out Google maps and mapped out a reasonable schedule to hit all three places.

We woke up bright and shiny early, got our showers, packed our bags for the day with plenty of supplies (towels, hiking shoes, flip flops, light jackets, etc.) and walked our two short blocks to Hertz to pick up our sporty car.

Our first stop was the Columbia River Gorge. It was so gorgeous! We first hiked/walked on a paved path around Wahkeena Falls. They were lovely and since it was early we avoided most of the crowds. The paths were paved and not too steep so it would be a good "hike" for just about anyone.

After that we hit Multnomah Falls which is the tallest waterfall in Oregon. It's was much more touristy than Wahkeena which wasn't the greatest, but the falls were awesome so that was a good trade off. It also had a very easy walking path so it would be a good place for non-serious hikers to explore. Below is just one of the shots from Multnomah.

After the Falls we set our GPS to Mount St. Helens and were off! We realized that Portland is much closer to the Washington-Oregon state line than we thought. We drove and drove and finally got to the Mount St. Helen's Visitor's Center. That's when we realized that the actual volcano is an additional hour and a half from the Visitor's Center. Oops. Well we had already made great time that day and thought it would be a waste if we came all that way and didn't see the volcano so we journeyed on. And we had the rental all night so who cared if we got back late?

There were lots of really cool little pull off places along the road to the summit so we got to see the volcano from a ton of viewpoints. Here's a shot of our cute little car at one of the stops.

The closer we got to the volcano the more excited we got! It was cool to see all the lava flow areas, and the way that 30 years later, nothing is still growing in the lava path. Here's a nice shot of my cutie with the mountain in the background.

Washington has done a great job of repopulating the area with wildlife and flora. They have a great sustainable forestry program and all the way up the drive there are little signs with what kind of trees are there, when they were planted, etc. Of course we couldn't get any really good shots of them because either there was no place to pull off or the trees were blocking good shots of the signs. We got this quick shot just to remind us of it.

When we finally got to the top of the mountain, we found out that we were supposed to pay $8 each to go to the observation platform. Well we had already seen the mountain from a billion angles and since we're cheap we decided to skip the platform and snuck our way just to the lower observation deck to take a quick shot. If you were going to spend more time there it would be worth it to hear info from the rangers and possibly hike around the mountain, but since we were just there to take a quick looksee we didn't want to expend $16. We high-tailed it out of there and drove back down the mountainside.

We stopped at the bottom of the mountain right before the highway to check out some souvenirs and grab a quick bite to eat. We chatted up the locals and decided that we'd drive along the river through Astoria and end in Seaside.

Our excitement was building since we are both fanatical ocean lovers. We made an impromptu stop in Astoria when we caught our first glimpse of ocean! We hopped out of the car amidst many Kindergarten Cop jokes and lifted our noses up to smell the sea air. Here's Ange soaking it all up.

We spent about 20 minutes in Astoria, although there are some cute little hotels and the town looked like it could be a nice overnight stop for tourists, and jumped in the car and pointed ourselves to the beach!

We finally got to Seaside around 6. We jumped out of the car and skipped our way down to the beach. We were sooooo excited! It was our first time to a beach together and we soaked up the love and happiness together. Here is the shot of us entering the Pacific Ocean together for the first time. It was FREEZING! I'd guess the water was around 65 degrees. Really, really cold.

There were lots of people on the beach, including lots of people with dogs. Of course we loved that being the crazy dog ladies we are. We even saw a German Shepard that looked like our little Stoney-boy!

There were some stoners that joined us on the beach. We knew they were stoners because A. we saw them smoking a joint when they were out in the water (see pic below) and B. no one but a stoner would have went out to their chests in that water if they weren't stoned. Seriously, I was a little fearful that they were going to get hypothermia and die.

We had so much fun walking around in the ocean and digging around in the sand. We just enjoyed ourselves and loved being in love at the beach! Ange was splashing around a bit and I snapped a quick one of her.

We decided to wait out the sunset because neither one of us had ever really watched a sunset on the beach, and for sure not with each other! It was awesome. Our last lovey-dovey shot at the beach below.

We headed out to dinner, which sadly, was the only disappointing part of the day. We happened to pick the crappiest seafood restaurant in the entire town. Oh well, the rest of the day was great so we just focused on that. We drove back through the longest, darkest mountain path ever. Finally got back to Hertz at 11:45. Walked back to the hotel and crashed into bed. Good times :)

1 comment:

Leslie Reed said...

where's my grandson??