In the first few months that we lived in Oregon, we were very excited about exploring the area, including making a day trip to Washington to see Mount St. Helens National Park. It was only a few hours drive from our apartment. Being from California, where everything is pretty much open year round, it didn't even occur to us that the park might be closed. We were able to see the visitors center, but the actual park was closed for the season, which is approximately October-April.
On a sunny day in May 2017, we put on shorts and drove back to see the volcano.
When the weather turns sunny, the Pacific Northwest is absolutely gorgeous. Here are a few pictures from our drive: sparkling blue rivers and lush green mountainsides.
We brake for Bigfoot!
Our Bigfoot spotting/photo op was at the Volcano Country souvenir shop, where we talked ourselves out of buying all manner of Mount St. Helen's tourist crap.
Tourist trap aside, this is a place you should stop because there is something else very cool to see. They have an A-Frame cabin that was partially covered during the 1980 eruption. No one was hurt in this cabin, as it was still under construction during the eruption, however it is still unnerving to see, especially since this is a fair distance from the volcano. It shows how far the reach of the devastation extended.
We had to stop and take more pictures at the official "Welcome sign." It's a great spot with a snow covered Mount St. Helen's clearly visible in the background.
I'm not sure what we thought we were going to do once we got there, but having already visited the visitor's center on our previous attempt, we just parked on got out. The parking lot was jammed with two types of people: people like us and hardcore hikers. If you want to hike, you'll need to purchase a trail pass. We did not come prepared for major physical activity, so we just took a quick, ten minute walk up the trail to take more pictures.
There was snow! You can see by the way I'm dressed, that I wasn't prepared for hiking or for chilly weather. Luckily, I had thought to throw my sneakers in the truck, otherwise I would have really been in trouble.
A few trail information signs. I love the one warning the animals.
A few pictures from our little walk.
On the way down, we stopped at the cutest cafe called The Fire Mountain Grill.
It was warm enough to sit on the back deck, where we had stunning views of the river. Did I mention how beautiful the PNW is when the weather is nice? It's gorgeous and everyone is in a good mood.
The food was amazing. We had BBQ Pulled-Pork sandwiches with homemade slaw and the most incredible locally sourced berry cobbler with homemade vanilla ice cream for dessert.
I'm happy to have seen Mount St. Helens and I'd definitely go back just to eat at The Fire Mountain Grill. We debated taking the kids when they visited us last summer and ultimately decided that the drive was too long for what we saw, that they wouldn't appreciate it enough. We might reconsider when they are a little older or if we could plan more activities around the adventure. I think there must be more to see if we had planned out our trip, rather than going on the spur of the moment.