8-08-04  Yakima to Cougar

Mount Rainier

Mount St. Helens

            I woke up to a cloudless sky.  It was an easy entry back onto 12 west, which squeezed down from a 4-lane highway relatively quickly to a 2-lane road.  The top of Rainier loomed up above the horizon... geez, how could I have missed that yesterday.  While stopped at a rest area/ viewpoint, I talked to a Harley driver and his wife.  He gave me directions for the road to the Sunrise Lodge, in the Rainier National Park.  His information included directions to Mt. St Helens, Mt Adams, and a good burger joint.

            It was a good slow ride up to Sunrise.

            Sunrise Lodge was spectacular ( I use the word, "spectacular" a lot.  But it was, you know?).  It was strange, though, in that I ran into the same husband and wife riding a black BMW that I had met in the restaurant in Teslin, Alaska.  After all of those miles...   I recognized his bike about the same time he saw the KLR with its gray crash guards and recognized me.  He was wearing a Dawson City T-shirt.  We traded stories, marveled at the luck of running into each other, and enjoyed the view.  The couple were staying for a few days at the lodge.  She was to fly back and and he would catch the Idaho BMW meet before returning home.

            I had the hot dog special at the Sunrise Lodge restaurant.

             At the next vista stop, there was a parked ’78 Honda Goldwing.  The Goldwing belonged to a local rider from Yakima.  He had purchased the bike for $750 and fully restored it.  It was a great looking bike.   

The road to the vista had passed through an unlit tunnel.  The tunnel was so dark you could not see the roadway under your tires.  The Honda guy had the same impression I had, a queasy sensation of driving suspended in the air.

While we talked, we were joined by a soldier dressed in fatigues.  He looked the KLR and the Goldwing over and asked questions.  He was thinking about buying a bike and was evaluating different types.  He knew of the KLR- Marine bike, in which the military version of the KLR sports a diesel engine and green or brown camouflage.

Mount Rainier

           Back down the mountain to find gas.

           Heading back down the mountain, I came to a Y in the road.  I turned one way and didn’t feel right.  Trying the second choice didn't feel right.  I asked a Bubba on the side of the road if this was the way to 12.  "Yup".  I drove until I saw signs for Yakima via the 410 (which goes parallel to 12). 

            I was worried about gas, so I kept going.  Besides, it was an untraveled, unviewed route.  There was a gas station near the town of Cliffdell. After I finished filling the tank, I sat in the shade, drank a soda, and talked to the rider of a Suzuki DR 650.  He owned several bikes; today was a 650 day.  He had taken fire roads across the mountains, using a "point and shoot" method to navigate.  He gave me clear directions to Mt. St Helens.  Back the way I came, over the pass, and I took the right turn this time.

            On the side of road was a rider with parts to his MotoGuzzi laying on the ground around his bike.  I stopped to see if I could help.  The coil wire had grounded against the engine and had blown the coil.  Friends were going back for parts, and would rejoin him to escort him home.

            He’d been up both the Dempster and the Dalton.  He did well on both.  I don’t know if he did it on the 'Guzzi.  I wished him well.

            The 12 west went into Randall and through Packwood, where it intersected the road to Mount St. Helens, the 25 south.

            The road immediately climbed into dense forest right to the edge of road, with the trees and their overhanging branches forming a tunnel.  It was so dark I could see the glow of the instrument panel, and the headlight reflecting off signs.  Spooky. There were twisty, 25 –30 mph curves, and at one point, a sign that said, "10 mph/ rough road".  I ignored the sign.

            The turnoff to the Mount St. Helens overlook reminded me of the Motorcycle Safety Course exercise through the cones… swerving, 15 mph curves.     

          The road climbed up and into devastation.  Mt St. Helens was visible to the west.  There was a haze in the cone.  I finally arrived at the Windy Ridge viewing area and climbed up the few hundred steps to get to the top of the hill.  I took pictures of the lake, the valley, and the cone.  I took pictures of trees, some standing, some blown down laterally from the blast and some that were just gone, leaving nothing but stumps.

Helens trees

          I had wanted to visit this area since the mountain erupted.  The magnitude of the destruction was overwhelming.  Below the section of mountain that had exploded outwards, nothing survived.  

          The path of the explosion was clearly defined by the trees.  Those that had stood directly in the blast were laid flat.  Those that were out of direct exposure to the blast were standing denuded and dead.  From the heights, the effects of the blast looked like someone had sheared off the vegetation with a giant knife.

Helens crater

          Even miles away, the trees showed the scars of the eruption.

blast zone

Back down, I returned west on 25.  It was a slow chug behind cars and through curves.  I eventually came out near a lake at sunset.  It was an idyllic setting, but there was no place to pull out to take a picture.

            By now it was past dusk.  I don’t like driving at night, there were too many Bambi’s jumping the road.

            The town of Cougar showed up at 9 PM.  Just past the town limits, a doe stepped out from behind the fire station.  She watched me as I rolled to a stop and then walked past me without fear.  Once behind me, she ran across the road in front of an oncoming car. 

            There was a motel/camground across from the fire station, so I booked a cabin.  The only food source was a gas station convenience store.  My late night dinner was a corn dog and a bag of chips, washed down with a beer.  At that time of night, it was gourmet dining on a discount budget.