What I Did on My Summer Vacation

I saw a volcano.

Mt. Rainier

Mt. Rainier

And another volcano.

Mt. St. Helens

Mt. St. Helens

And I also saw the destruction caused by the eruption of Mt. St. Helens in 1980.

Eruption Destruction

All those white lines in the picture are trees knocked down by the avalanche of lava and rock that poured down the hills and valleys when the volcano blew. Anything green in the picture is less than 34 years old.

I also saw the other volcanoes in the region — Mt. Hood and Mt. Adams — and noted the presence of volcano evacuation routes around Mt. Rainier. While I have lived in areas noted for their hurricanes and tornadoes and spent some time in earthquake country, looking at these volcanoes and what they are capable of doing brought home to me the fact that Earth is a living planet and that we cannot assume it will be the same tomorrow as it is today.

I did do other things on my summer vacation. I saw the Pacific Ocean from several vantage points. The best picture I got was this one on the beach at Newport, Oregon.

Pacific Ocean

Pacific Ocean


I watched fireworks (later in the day after this picture was taken) near this bridge over Yaquina Bay, also in Newport.

Yaquina Bay Bridge

Yaquina Bay Bridge


I saw snow — on a warm day in July — beside the road in the National Park area around Mt. Rainier.


I even walked around in the snow. Just out of reach of the snow, bluebonnets were blooming.


I also walked through a rain forest on the Pacific Coast of the Olympic Peninsula.

rain forest

The pictures only tell part of the story. We started our vacation by driving from Portland down to Newport, then up the Oregon Coast. We crossed into Washington over the (very scary to me, since I was driving) bridge at Astoria, spent a night in Long Beach, and then drove up (and eventually down) Route 101 on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington.

Along the coast we saw numerous signs for “tsunami hazard areas” and “tsunami evacuation routes.” Those gave me pause, though the scenery was gorgeous all the way up the coast.

We spent a night in Forks, Washington, where the Twilight series is set — a fact you can’t miss in Forks, which gives that series almost as much prominence as its timber industry. It was more or less clear when we were there, but I understand it is mostly overcast and rainy, making it a good setting for vampires.

We discovered that Sequim, Washington, just east of Port Angeles, gets only 16 inches of rain a year, making it unusual in a region where average rainfall might be 100 inches. Sequim sits in the rain shadow of the Olympic Mountains, which is why it is so dry.

We spent a pleasant evening along the Hood Canal, then crossed through Olympia, Washington, over to the region around Mt. Rainier. In Packwood, Washington, we stayed in an old hotel (in one of the few rooms with a private bath) and saw elk munching in people’s yards. (The elk pictures are fuzzy, alas.)

We drove up a narrow, 17-mile road to Windy Ridge observation point in the Gifford-Pinchot National Forest to see Mt. St. Helen’s from the best viewpoint and to hear a lecture by a ranger on the eruption. The lecture was sobering, as was the drive back down to the main road (steep cliffs, no guard rails).

We had great seafood along the coast, but much more ordinary hamburgers and such as we moved inland. However, I am pleased to report that every town of whatever size we visited in Oregon and Washington had excellent coffee and high quality beer. I was able to start my mornings with a good cappuccino and end my evenings (especially the ones with scary roads and bridges) with a good Northwest porter.

You can’t ask for more than beautiful scenery accompanied by good coffee and beer.



What I Did on My Summer Vacation — 16 Comments

  1. The western edge of the PNW is the land of good coffee and beer! If you head over the Cascade Mountains, the other side is high plains desert, with ranches, small towns, and not as much of the good eats, but the scenery can be spectacular there, too. The John Day Fossil Beds area is astonishing.

    The volcanos are a symptom of the subduction zone there. The San Juan de Fuca tectonic plate is driving under the North America plate along the coast. There is a really interesting book explaining how scientists from different disciplines figured out what’s going on: “Full-Rip 9.0”, by Sandi Doughton.

    • I’m getting spoiled. I’m not sure I want to travel too far away from good coffee and beer! Seriously, I’ll have to get to the eastern side of the Cascades in more depth at some point — I’ve driven through it a couple of times, but never stopped to see the sights.

      That book looks fascinating, though if I read it I may never be willing to travel to such delightful places as Seattle, Portland, and Vancouver again!

        • That’s great to hear. When I traveled across the country from Washington, DC, to the other Washington some years back, there were vast swatches of this country that could only be described as a coffee desert. (Since I was driving 500 miles or more a day, I didn’t check out the beer.) And some of the most beautiful parts of the U.S. are not noted for great cuisine. In some places, “vegetable” means iceberg lettuce and sad-looking carrots.

          • And most places remain a tea desert. Even where iced tea is a dogma of lifestyle.

            We brought our teas and infuser-funnels that are cup-size with us.

            It’s also a desert mostly for getting real milk for coffee or tea most places. You always have to ask, and people find the request as incomprehensible as a pot of hot water for making tea — meaning actual real HOT water. Even here, in these ridiculously upscale camera cuisine restaurants.

            Love, C.

  2. What an exciting adventure!

    Ah, “yes please” to the excellent coffee, but “no thank you” to the beer (beer is swill…).

    • Beer, when made properly, is a wonderful thing. (There are a lot of bad beers that aren’t worth your time.) The porters made in the northwest — I’ve tried several different ones — are my all-time favorites. I only drink the occasional beer and try to keep it to extremely good ones, because in my experience beer is one of those substances that adds more pounds on the human frame than its calorie count would suggest.

      • Heh, heh – I’ve tried; believe me, I’ve tried.

        Every time someone brings home a new brew I’m there, doggedly optimistic that *this* will be the one. My family always assembles when I take a swig, just to see me make The Face. Pure entertainment (yeh, we’re odd people).

        Through the years I’ve taken to rating each variety by the number of sips I can take before the gag reflex sets in: one-sipper, pure death in a bottle; two-sipper, passable; three-sipper, hey – not bad; four-sipper, hmm…I’ve never really found a four-sipper. The only brew I’ve ever been able to finish was a particular brand of sour apple pilsner – which, I’m certain the purists amongst us would argue is not really beer, and undoubtedly why I was able to force it down.

        But I do love my coffee – as long as it hasn’t been roasted to oblivion (that’s when it starts tasting disturbingly similar to beer…).

  3. We call the Blue Bonnet flowers Lupine. They come in lots of shades of blue.

    In Seattle there is a coffee shop on every corner. In Portland we alternate corners with craft breweries. Portland now has more craft breweries per capita than anywhere else in the US.

    Yes please come. And try to make Orycon in November followed by a mass book signing at Powells on the Sunday evening.

    • Californians also call bluebonnets lupine, I believe. I suspect that’s the official name. But in Texas they’re called bluebonnets and are the state flower. We get great fields of them in the spring, if there’s been enough rain.

      I’m not sure I’ll make it to Orycon this year, but once I get moved to California the odds are I’ll visit the entire area much more often.

    • Diane, the downside is that most of the coast has signs saying “tsunami hazard zone” and in the mountains there are “volcano evacuation routes.” And the Cascadia Subduction Zone runs up the coast, meaning earthquakes (with or without tsunamis) are a real thing. If this trip taught me one thing, it’s that the Earth itself is very much alive and Things Can Happen.

      But it’s gorgeous up there. And tornadoes aren’t common.

  4. We spent a couple weeks earlier this summer on the Pacific Coast at Long Beach, WA, followed by Portland (while my husband took a grad course). I loved all of it! The scenery, the ocean, the weather (especially the lack of humidity compared to the Mid-Atlantic states), the great food.

  5. Wonderful pictures of one of my favorite places in the world.

    Though one does pause a bit over all the natural hazards. Earthquakes as well as volcanoes and tsunamis. Well-heeled friends put up a triple-wide rather than a site-built house on their fancy horse farm, because it would weather an earthquake more easily. “And we should be out of range of the lava flow or the mudslides when the mountain blows.”

    I love the drive up or down the Columbia Gorge–just beautiful from end to end.

    • We drove along some of the Gorge, too, on our way back to Portland. But by then I was tired and hungry and focused on navigating a big highway instead of back country roads, so I didn’t take any pictures.

      It is a beautiful place. But yeah, those natural disasters.