Summertime in WA – Part 1 Mt Saint Helens

Summertime is a great time to see the Pacific Northwest where we feel at home in the abundant greenery. It contrasts so dramatically against the recently-visited desert scenery of Namibia and our typical winters spent in the desert Southwest.

This route in July and August started out as a plan to join my sisters in Ocean Shores, Washington over my sister’s birthday. The idea was to deliver the Shutterfly photo books that Mom and I had crafted for both of my sisters, with help from so many others. Photo scanning during downsizing projects in 2018 kicked off this project and it just got bigger with Mom adding to the photo gems.

While in Washington, why not see the National Parks in the area? Part one of a trilogy of articles starts in Mount Saint Helens. With only a few-months notice, reservations were scarce, but Bruce got sites that were close to the targeted destinations.

National Parks are ridiculously crowded everywhere in summer, but August is the busiest. The parks were buzzing with people wanting a last Summer hurrah and foreign travelers who target USA National Park destinations in August. With the limited seasonal access to the mountains and limited tidal access to some of the beaches, the number of visitors can become an introvert’s nightmare! Because everyone was trying to see the same few areas at the same time of day we had to plan our excursions carefully.

Mount Saint Helens

Where were you when she blew?

Mount Saint Helens Eruption (Photo Credit: Unknown)

In May of 1980, I watched the Sunday eruption of the mountain on the television in my first home in Southeast Portland, about 110 miles away from the mountain. I was 22 years old, managing the first ATM Cash Machine venture at a local bank and earning a little extra cash working on-call. I was keeping the machines up and running for customers during non/banking hours as a first responder. We thought we were pretty fancy carrying a lighted display pager until the messages were overflowing with out-of-service machines!

Within hours of the eruption, we were flooded with calls for failures of the card readers and cash drawers and we couldn’t keep up with the volume of calls. Seems the building’s negative airflow sucked the gritty volcanic ash in through the ATMs which were installed in the walls of the bank branches. The card readers were grabbing cards, unable to return them and the cash drawer sensors were falsely reporting that cash had been left in the tray which shut the machines down.

The machine vendor suggested covering the machines to reduce damage to the components. We duct-taped trash bags over them and installed signs hoping the customers would be understanding. Our marketing techniques worked, we had trained customers to rely on ATMs for access to their cash and it kind of back-fired! This was well before the grocery stores offered the cash-back feature as they do now. Customers were furious that they couldn’t get to their cash and ripped the plastic off the machines. Some even smashed machines that swallowed their ATM cards.

After a lot of repairs to the cash machines, the ash started to dissipate and things slowly began to settle back to normal. I still remember people washing the ash off their cars leaving circular scratch patterns in the finish and the lawn mowers sending clouds of ash up into the air all summer long. I can’t imagine how it was for those closer to the eruption!

Visiting 39 Years Later

Map of Mt Saint Helens

Whenever we had visited Mount Saint Helens National Volcanic Monument before, it always seemed to be a quick stop on the way somewhere else. This time we stayed in the area for five nights and saw both visitor’s centers and more sights than ever. It is a place worthy of another visit to do some of the longer hikes that were off limits after the injuries I got when the Jeep was rear-ended in July.

The Visitor Centers had amazing displays of the effect of the eruption and the short trails were full of wildflowers and crazy bold chipmunks that ran right toward us seeming to want to climb up our pant legs or to jump right into the car!

Managed forests by Weyerhauser provided views of a gorgeous green sea of trees with cool patterns, especially the Noble Firs. Their Forest Learning Center had good displays on the history of forestry and wildlife in the area. Inside the monument, the reforestation has been left to nature, making the scenery appear more scraggly but the diversity of trees and wildlife is significantly better.

Cindy’s Birthday at Ocean Shores Washington

Mom and I decided to give the photo books that we jointly-created to my sisters during a stay at our family’s timeshare condo in Point Brown at Ocean Shores in July. I got a studio condo there for a few days and Mom and Dad stayed in the penthouse with Cindy’s family. It turned into a mini family reunion, only missing my brother.

RV Nearby

Bruce stayed a few minutes away from the condo on a five-night reservation at a Ocean City State Park. RV living means that a stay in a condo or hotel requires having a place to park the RV. Bruce didn’t mind having a little introvert time to himself and he came over to join the party at the condo periodically.

Family Time

We enjoyed some wonderful meals, game playing and visiting with my family. A birthday celebration for Cindy was a highlight when she and Debbie unwrapped the photo books. I took the opportunity to shoot some family photos while most of the siblings were together.

What we didn’t know when we booked this getaway and began putting the finishing touches on the photo books was that things were going to change. Cindy would have her 2nd brain tumor surgery in June, a few weeks before this trip. She did great traveling so soon afterward and she had a playful attitude considering she still had a big headache and was starting her rehab over again!

I’m so proud of my awesome sisters! Cindy fighting the fight and Debbie being her medical advocate and confidante!

My favorite activities were picking up pretty agates on Damon Point Beach with the gang and surprising my sisters with those photo books that Mom and I had been secretly working on for weeks. (read about creating photo books here).


Puget Sound

After a few days at Ocean Shores, Bruce and I moved on to camp near the water in the Puget Sound area. We settled for peacefully watching all the action along the water instead out of taking the bustling ferry to Seattle.

While staying at Manchester State Park in Port Orchard Washington, we watched the ferries come and go and enjoyed the Port Orchard Saturday Market. Our nice woodsy pull-thru site didn’t have hookups but it was very beautiful. The park has 3,400 feet of shoreline on the Kitsap peninsula. It had been a harbor defense installation protecting nearby Bremerton, and later a fuel supply depot and Navy fire-fighting station. The structures left behind were interesting to explore.

Our next destination took us Northward near Olympic National Park along the Straight of Juan de Fuca. See the next post for Part 2 of Summertime in Washington.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.