Part 34: Mount Rainier, WA to White Salmon, WA


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The Trip

We spent the night at the NPS campground at the base of Mount Rainier.  It was rainy and cold and the sites were small.  But, the camper was sufficiently comfortable and we had a good night.  Next morning, we headed up to the Sunrise Viewpoint for a look at Mt. Rainier.

The Photos

The photos below are what we saw.

We went down to the White River and indeed it was white.  The color was due to the high level of rock flour that is carried by the river.  The NPS has erected a bridge across the creek to allow foot traffic without getting your boots filled with water.

From the center of the foot bridge you could see downriver toward the main drainage.  The canyon was filled with glacial cobbles and debris that has washed down from recent storms.

We left the campsite and drove up the mountain to the Sunrise visitor center.  Along the way, we got views of the snow fields on the upper portions of the mountain.  Sadly, the clouds and rain obscured views of Mt. Rainier itself.

The views of Mt. Rainier were totally obscured by the clouds, so we decided to leave the park through the western portal.  Along the way we passed a river gorge that had a viewing point.  On the bridge over the gorge, we had a good view of the rushing waters below.  There was a small separation in the layers of rocks and the water found the cracks and exploited it to the fullest.

The waters in the gorge were like a bandsaw: cutting and gouging at the undelying rock.  The high mineral content of the water added to the cutting power of the rushing water creating a deep gorge with smooth sides.

The bridge that crossed the gorge was made of cut stone and was a conventional arch design.

Higher on the mountain the route provided views of multiple waterfalls.  Note the path of the road on the cliff.

From the side of the cliff we could see back down the canyon.  There was a huge debris slide that crossed the road.  In winter this slide was an avalanche run.  Maintaining that portion of the road must me difficult and expensive.

There were a number of rivers that came down from the upper reaches of Mt. Rainier.  Some resulted in dramatic waterfalls.

As we progressed toward the western exit portal, we came upon a scenic turnout for a waterfall.  We stopped and had lunch and then hiked to the falls.  The falls were substantial and totally worth the 1/2 mile hike.

The road passed over a large bridge that gave a great view of a river valley totally filled with glacial debris.

There were plenty of small waterfalls that were visible from the roadway.  Sadly, the road was in poor shape and it was rough going.  It reminded us of the frost heave damge we experienced in Maine.

We traveled west out of the park and then south, then east again.  We ended up in a Forest Service campsite called "Iron Creek"  As campsites go, Iron Creek was very, very nice.  It cost only $15 and the sites were paved (preventing muddy feet in the camper) and the restrooms were clean. 

We watched a movie and had a calm night.  Next morning after breakfast we headed south toward Mt. Saint Helens and the volcano overlook.

We followed a backroad into the park.  Our route had many places where the road bed had failed; the whole mountain side was slumping into the valley and taking the road with it was part of the process.  From the side of the cliff we could see the mountains to our west that showed damage to the forest.

Looking back to the north we could see steep walled valleys that showed evidence of previous glaciation.

As we got closer to Mt. St. Helens, the terrain showed evidence of the volcanic eruption.  Note the trees that have been blown down due to the force of the 600 mph explosive winds.

Further up the road we came to Spirit Lake.  From an overlook at Spirit Lake we could see an ocean of drift wood on the lake surface.  These logs are remnants of the dead trees that resulted from the 1980 explosion of the mountain.

The amount of dead timber on the lake was awe-inspiring and a true testament to the forces of nature.  The prevailing winds pushed the timber against the east shore of Spirit Lake.

On the path to Windy Ridge viewpoint we passed this nice restoration.

Behind the nice restoration was his buddy with an obvious work-in-progress truck.

When we got to Windy Ridge, the whole mountain was socked-in.  For a brief moment, the clouds cleared allowing a partial photo of the mountain.

From Windy Ridge, we could see the so-called Pumice Plain on the north slopes of St. Helens.  Due to the harsh nature of the soils, the area had only been colonized by a minimal amount of vegetation since 1980.

Finally, as we were ready to leave, the clouds parted enough to provide a partial view of Mt. St. Helens.  Note the harsh pumice slopes with steep erosion channels.

We continued south on various forest roads until we hit the Columbia River, then we headed east.  The road followed the railroad tracks and the railroad tracks followed the river.  The route headed through tunnels in the basalt cliffs at many points.

The Columbia River is huge and is a major sculptor in the regional landscape.

The Columbia River gorge is known for strong, consistent winds and has become a mecca for kite surfers.  On the south side of the river we could see dozens of surfers working the strong winds.

We spent the night an RV park in White Salmon, WA right on the Columbia River.  We needed to drain our tanks, do laundry and go shopping.

Next, we head south toward the Pacific Coast and a visit with our friends Mark and Arrenia in Arcata, CA.

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