Thursday, August 11, 2016

St. Helens and Rainier. The Pacific Ring of Fire - Part 3.

The great state of Washington is where my dear friends Lisa and Tobie live. I don't get to see them very often, perhaps once, maybe twice a year, when they make their way down to the long-distance rider gatherings or what I (probably only I) refer to as 'The Fest' in Gerlach. I had the pleasure of seeing them at the IBR start in Albuquerque, New Mexico - July of 2015, but they were volunteer staff for the IBR, just as I was, and that meant many things to do, and not enough time to visit and catch up. It had also been 4 long years, since I visited them at their mountain cabin in Packwood, WA, and as I would learn - they have been quite busy upgrading their property in this time. More on that later..

This entire trip had fallen into place almost last hour, and I was excited to see my friends today. Lisa had been in touch with me throughout the day, we were exchanging texts when I would stop for gas or food. She is a great hostess, and she knows I love good food, so she was already grilling me on what I like for dinner, for breakfast, to drink and so on .. god bless her - she is such a sweetheart! This blog post is dedicated to Lisa and Tobie - very dear friends and honest, hard working, responsible, patriotic Americans. May we all be blessed with good friends like them. 

It was after a late lunch in Hood River, OR - that I ran into the other variety of our citizens. I am not a bleeding hear hippie in any shape or form - I respect people who work, and who desire and appreciate the dignity of work. I have little patience for people who would rather mooch off the hard work of others. I didn't know in the beginning, but one such example was parked beside me in the parking lot, and from inside his car, he struck up a conversation with me on the pretext of being interested in my motorcycle. I chit-chatted for a bit, even though I wanted to just get on moving, and after a few minutes of banter - he dropped the shoe. Could I spare $20 for gas? Hahaha - I should've seen this coming! I scanned the car - there he was with his iPhone in his hands, and in the passenger seat, what seemed to be his drugged up girlfriend, who hadn't stirred despite the conversation. He had to have been speaking up because I had earplugs in and my helmet on. What I really wanted to tell this schmuck was to use that government subsidized phone to try and find a job, but instead I just told him I didn't have any cash or change to spare that I could give him - and that he should try his luck with someone-else. There is a lot more that I wanted to say to him and say here, but it's best to stop wasting time and just move on .. in the immortal words of Smashmouth - I needed to get some fuel myself - and we could all use a little change!

As I set sail along-side the windy Columbia river, I had caught whiff of the barn, lunch had been a lousy McDonald salad and the texts with Lisa had whipped up my appetite. My love for good food was now engaged in full-scale warfare with my wanderlust, there wasn't a clear winner in sight, but the stalemate did result in a much quicker pace. 

The savory Wind River Highway was first on the menu, and the GoPro was set on a 5 second time lapse, in retrospect - that was a lapse too long. I should have set it to 1 second or maybe a 2 second lapse. This highway serves up curve after delectable curve for miles and miles - in some cases you can clearly see the highway slithering away into the distance in front of you. I was hoping (counting on) the GoPro to catch these moments, but due to my own fault in setting the lapse, none of the 5 second lapse captures passed the taste test to be included here in this report.

For no fault of mine, however, the ever so kooky GPS had managed to ignore the turn-off on Curly Creek to get to NF-25, and as I would find out - also every other way-point I had set on NF-25. If I hadn't been paying attention - it would have routed me right to Mt. Adams - where incidentally (and I knew) the road was washed out and closed. Thanks wacko GPS - but I was prepared for your mischief, you weren't going to keep me from St. Helens and views such as this below!

NF-25 was the second course, and had opened for the season - just this morning! The crews at Pinchot National Forest had been repairing landslide damage from this winter's rain, and were expecting the road to open today, and hip-hip-hurray and kudos to their crews - they were right on time!  I had called the Forest office in the morning from Detroit, OR and talked to a very nice lady who informed me that she was waiting to hear from the crews as well. She took my contact info and then called me back almost right away - NF-25 was clear for take-off! :)  

...and take-off you actually would, if you weren't paying attention to the road. NF-25 was bad enough 4 years ago, and the plundering seasons haven't been kind to this road. With limited funds spent (and available) to maintain this road - it is veritably pockmarked with potholes, and sneaky frost heaves. Although, if you keep your wits about you, you can still make pretty good time through here.

The third course - I had never tasted before. Four years ago, when I rode past here, NF-99 to Windy Ridge was still snowed in, and the gates were closed. It is another one of those lesser traveled roads, leading to the east side of St. Helens. The west side and Johnston observatory being the more popular and more accesible tourist destination. This year NF-99 seems to have opened much earlier - there was more two and four wheeled "traffic" (and I use the term very loosely) on this road than I was expecting. 
Once again, I was hoping for some GoPro time lapse footage of my ride on this road, but this time I was foiled by a kamikaze bug, who unbeknownst to me, decided to dive bomb the lens on my helmet mounted GoPro. It's a mixed bag sometimes *shrug*. 

Although my pace had quickened, I was still putting my Nikon to good use. From this viewpoint along the way - you can see where I had just rode in from. Mt. Hood barely fading into view, with the expanse of the Grand Pinchot forest between us. NF-25 is on the left side - somewhere.. 

Getting closer to Mt. Adams wasn't to be. The roads leading up to the mountain were still washed out. I could see it from NF-99, but one has to get closer to be impressed by it's size - it's a touch bigger than Mt. Hood, but perhaps has a bit less dramatic outline. 

Looking closer, again, at Mt. Hood - perhaps you would agree. It is much further away, but more photogenic. 

Of course, the main attraction is St. Helens. This is what I came for. :)
This is exactly what I came for! By pavement - you can't get any closer to Helens, than to it's north-east side on NF-99. The vistas from the road, riding up to Windy Ridge viewpoint are grander than I could have imagined - the gyrating road, the dead trees snapped off like tooth picks, and still menacing in the backrround - a now calm, but the once angry St. Helens who threw one hell of a destructive tantrum. I really wish that bug hadn't ended it's useless life on the GoPro lens. This road to St. Helens is also gradually deteriorating, in some places it looks like portions of it is going to just fall off the hillside, hopefully it doesn't crumble any time soon, or with anyone driving on it. 

Spirit Lake and St. Helens. This counts towards keeping the 'volcano and water' picture streak going. Mt. Adams doesn't count - I never had the chance to get anywhere near it. :)

The view from the parking lot of the Windy Ridge viewpoint is partially obstructed. A much better viewpoint is several flights of stairs up a hillside. Any other day, you would have found me climbing those steps to get a better view, but today I am hungry and it's getting late. I had promised Lisa I would be at her doorstep by 5:30 pm, so I don't keep them waiting for dinner. Besides, did I mention I was hungry? I couldn't wait for dinner either! :)

So, the parking lot is where I remained. There was another V-strom rider in the parking lot, but he wasn't interested in a conversation, he was too busy staring at his smartphone. I hid him behind my motorcycle in the picture below. The new and the old V-stroms side by side. I maybe biased, but the older one looks better. :)

Leaving Windy Ridge, I retraced my steps on NF-99 back to NF-25. This road is at it's worst between NF-99 and almost to the town of Randle, WA. I was standing on the pegs pretty much all the way. Even four years later, I still remember riding this section of the road on the FJR which has a much firmer suspension setup - it wasn't pretty. The V-strom mostly just took it in stride, including being able to get around several slow moving cars and vans. 

Funny thing when I reached WA Hwy 12 at Randle -  my RD immediately started chirping, I look to the right - the direction I was going to ride, and there he was. Four years earlier, there was a patrol car parked almost in that exact spot, and now there 'he' was again. Gave me a good chuckle. The legendary (infamous) WA speed-trap patrol. 

The saying goes - not all those who wander, are lost. Although, if you think about it - how many of those who are lost, actually admit to being so? :) So, what am I doing here on this gravel road? Am I lost, but won't admit it? Fortunately, no. This is the only road in and out of the mountain where Lisa and Tobie have their mountain cabin. That, and I am a dirt road poser, and couldn't resist posting this picture.

Reunited with friends, I made myself comfortable in the bunk-house that Lisa and Tobie had added to their property. the mask collection is another addition (by Tobie), and the now defunct White Pass Motel sign dragged up the mountain (again by Tobie) to amuse visitors - typical Tobie. That's not all, not pictured below is a bath house, which sits between the bunkhouse on the left, and their cozy little cabin on the right. The bath-house has some interesting art - you would have to visit, to know what I am talking about. All in all, it's a very cute little place to get away from the world. No TV, no WiFi. They do have electricity, but no running water (yet) - rain water is collected for washing up, and lots of bottled water for cooking, and for anything which might end up in your mouth. Lisa also has a portable kitchen nestled in there, and she had been cooking up a storm. Two different kinds of home-made salads, pasta alfredo with shrimp, and the piece de resistance was the delightful grilled Salmon. The two nights I was here, they fed me like royalty. Salmon, Steaks, stuffed bell peppers, and different kids of dessert. Never lacking in hospitality - these two!

What is also not pictured here is the 2000 sq. ft. house they are building here. 3 bedroom, 2 bath, and when I say building it here, I mean actually building it themselves, and with the help of their son, who is a carpenter. All the lumber for the house has come from their property. Talk about enterprising, extremely hard working people. They work 5 days a week in Yakima, and then spend their weekends building their mountain home. I am not sure how they do it. I know I couldn't. 

This is the view from their cabin and soon also from the porch of their beautiful new mountain home. I can't wait to come back and visit once it's complete. The structure is done and the roof and walls are up. I got a little tour and they talked about what they were envisioning it will look like when finished - it will be gorgeous. :)

The next morning I woke up to gray skies and poor visibility. Characteristic of the Pacific North Wet - I am told. Tobie opined that it will burn off, just give it some time and plan on a late start. After breakfast, and while I waited - I helped Tobie move in some heavy electrical stuff into the house, and before long it was clear skies in Packwood. There was no guarantee, however, what the weather would be like at Rainier. It could be sunny in Packwood, and socked in at Rainier. The only thing to do was to gear up and go over there and see for myself. It wasn't looking too bad as I approached from the east side, scattered clouds, some of them dark, but still plenty of blue sky.

I think this is Stevens Peak and Unicorn Peak, but I am not entirely sure. Whichever these are - they made a very nice backdrop. 

Not sure which waterfall this is either. It could be Sylvia Falls, or Martha Falls. Sylvia or Martha - whoever you like better, that's what it is then! :)

Rainier is a fickle mountain. Fickle and shy. It had draped itself in an ever circling ring of clouds today. Fast moving clouds, but they weren't moving away, just circling around. I wonder how badly the winds were screaming at the summit, or even a bit higher up in elevation. The first up-closer look from just past Inspiration Point wasn't looking too promising, or inspiring, for that matter. The time-consuming (and time-wasting) game of cat and mouse was just starting. 

I rode up to Paradise (here on earth), but found Rainier still lassoing those clouds around her, disappearing from view. The dance of cat and mouse, wait and pounce, was in full swing. With Rainier burrowed out of sight, I decided to explore Paradise Inn, supposedly counted as one of the "Great Lodges of the West". It's impressive in it's own regard, but I think I am partial to The Ahwahnee in Yosemite. Paradise Inn was built in 1916 and is nestled at the foot of Rainier, and other surrounding peaks.

Finding even more time to kill, I decided to enjoy a late lunch in their dining room, which was surprisingly empty for a holiday weekend. I was seated next to one of the many windows facing Rainier, and had Rainier not been playing coy - it would have afforded me a great view of her. I had put the camera away in the dining room - as I am apt to do, so people can enjoy their meals in peace and not have a camera shoved in their faces, or their food, but I am including a picture of the great hall and it's vaulted ceiling. 

The waiting game was starting to pay off just a little. I had aimlesly wandered away from the Paradise Inn and came upon the trail to Myrtle Falls, it wasn't too far of a hike to get to it, so I decided to trek to it in my moto gear. Perhaps the gods wanted the sacrifice of sweat along with patience, so they parted the skies and briefly opened a window to Rainier. I happened to be in the right place at the right time - Myrtle Falls pictured below with Rainier as it's backdrop!

This below is Edith Creek, which feeds Myrtle Falls. The window wasn't open very wide or for very long. Had the weather been clearer, or if I had hiking boots - I would have loved the hike up to Panaroma Point, hiking in motorcycle boots is no fun at all! One of the pitfalls of traveling by motorcycle - on a tight schedule. 

The meadow near Edith Creek. You can see the Skyline Trail on the ridge, which leads to Panaroma Point and other trails. Perhaps one day, on a longer trip, but it wasn't on my radar today.

I took my time meandering back down to the Paradise parking area, and took one last shot at Rainier before gearing back up to complete my ride through the park. The waiting game had burned through most of my riding day. 

I rode out to the West entrance of the park, and then turned around and re-traced my steps back to the East entrance. Lisa and Tobie were waiting for dinner and I didn't want to be late, but I still found the time to stop a few times along the way. I was here to take pictures of and enjoy being in the presence of this mountain. I only got to catch glimpses of her between the parting clouds - but that is more than most get to see of her, when she is temperamental with her weather. I was much luckier than most. 

Besides the blanket of clouds - do add to the aura and the mystery of this majestic mountain, makes looking at her even more dramatic, and awe-inspiring. 

One last look before I lost sight of her around the next turn. This is probably the best look I had today, at Rainier's imposing self. I think she was waiting for me to leave, before she dropped her veil. I caught this glimpse in my rear view mirror before I lost sight of the mountain, and decided to turn around and burn one last image of her to take with me. Who knows when I will be get the chance or find the time to return here again? :)   

Dinner tonight was a potluck at friend's of Lisa and Tobie. We were all supposed to bring our own steaks and a side dish - Lisa and Tobie already had the steaks and side dish, so I bought the (really good) beer, and we grilled, drank (I had my two drink maximum - and stopped in time to obey the bottle to throttle rule), laughed, and played Foosball late into the night.  

It was time to head back home to Shasta the next morning. It was the 4th of July, and I was expected at my Aunt's in Shasta. I don't think I have missed a single 4th of July celebration here in the past 10 years! How could I? There is no better place to be on this holiday than with loving family - and undebatably, the best BBQ Ribs I have had anywhere, Period!

I took Lisa and Tobie out to breakfast in the morning, to try and thank them for their hospitality, it wasn't thanks enough, but hopefully they will come visit me, so I can also have a go at playing host sometime. We lost track of the time a little at breakfast, so it was a late start before I rode out of town. 

I had miles (> 700) to go, before I ate again. :) No, really - I made a mad dash (with some curvy road detours thrown in) to Shasta, stopping only to fill up the tank, and empty the bladder. I wish I had a warp engine on the bike, as those Ribs were waiting. I knew my Aunt would save some for me, but with Floyd and Brian around - I wasn't sure how many she would be able to hide away for me! :D

Hey, what's with the dirt track pictures again? Total poser shot! I need dirt riding lessons, badly!

No seriously! Cut it out! You are barely even moving.. :)

Perhaps I mis-spoke. I did make one special stop in my mad dash home to Shasta. This was the 4th of July after all. As I approached the town of Snohomish, WA, maybe just outside of the Indian Reservation, I saw this proud and mighty flag waving - I could see it from miles away. I am certain I haven't seen a flag this size before, the motorcycle is in the picture for scale, and the bike is smaller than the stars section. The second tallest flag pole in the country is in Doris, CA and that flag isn't nearly as big as this one. Look at it - glorious in the wind, and it's expanse. Just like America - the beautiful! 

There isn't a better place to stop this report - than here. Perhaps in the future there will be more parts to my story of the Pacific Ring of Fire. Up to Alaska, and perhaps down through Mexico - if not farther. Perhaps some day. I am hopeful!

Happy Independence Day! God Bless America! :)

Thank you for reading! :)


As I had promised myself. One the way home I hit the 'other' and better highway between Oroville and Quincy. If you have been following along with the earlier blog posts - you know which one this is. Easy guess. It's a rip-roaring ride! :)


  1. Wonderful write up. We are so happy that you chose to spend your vacation up in our little slice of heaven. Beautiful pictures. Hugs to you, my friend.

    1. Thanks Lisa! Loved seeing and spending time catching up with you and Tobie! Wish I could see you guys more often! Hugs back to you and to Tobie! :)

  2. Very nice. Great pics! Enjoyable read. Buck Lake Rd-oh yea!

    1. Thanks Jeff! Always appreciate your comments! :)

  3. You need to consider publishing these. I'd be among the first in line for a coffee-table format book of your work...

    1. That's very high praise Mr. B! I don't know what to say but thank you!
      I am not sure if a coffee table book would ever be in the works, but one never knows. That, however, was a great compliment!
      Hope you are enjoying a great summe! Cheers!

  4. That first picture is my favorite but all of them are beautiful. You have an eye for capturing nature's majesty.

    1. Thanks for the comment. I am just a bit partial to the first picture also! :)


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