Skip to content

MOUNT ST. HELENS


What humans see as devastation nature sees as opportunity. About 35 years ago, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions collapsed an entire side of Mount St. Helens.

Photo of photo of Mt. St. Helens eruption in 1980

Photo of photo of Mt. St. Helens eruption in 1980

Within ten minutes a landslide of incomprehensible proportion destroyed old-growth forest, lakes, and many mammals who hung around too close to the blast.

Mt. St. Helens and Spirit Lake 2014 from Norway Pass trail

Mt. St. Helens and Spirit Lake 2014 from Norway Pass trail

Life renews. Three days later, herds of elk roamed around the barren plain. Their hoofs churned up the pumice while their droppings planted seeds. Enter the lupine…pushing up through the pumice and regenerating life with numbers of purple flowers rarely before seen.

Looking into the crater of Mt. St. Helens from Johnston Observatory

Looking into the crater of Mt. St. Helens from Johnston Observatory

Gophers survived the blast underground and burrowed their way to the top, aerating and fertilizing. Insects and birds continued the process of adaption, taking advantage of brand new territory. Aquatic life survived under ice-covered lakes and ponds. Amphibians thrived. Today, there is more diversity and abundance of life around Mount St. Helens than before the blast.

View of Mt. Adams from Boundary Trail #1 near Mount Margaret

View of Mt. Adams from Boundary Trail #1 near Mount Margaret

We are privileged to hike through Norway Pass to Mount Margaret. Walking through the rebirth of a new forest on a clear day, views of Mt. Adams, Mt. Rainer, Mt. St. Helens and Spirit Lake expand us. As growth matures, the diversity of life will decrease. Weed-out so to speak.

Match-stick forests created by the blow down from the blast

Match-stick forests created by the blow down from the blast

Leveled trees, rocks, ash, mud, etc., filled Spirit Lake. The water level rose almost 1,000 feet. Everything died in the putrid lifelessness that followed. Three years later, the waters cleared and nature began a new cycle.

Meta Lake from Norway Pass

Meta Lake from Norway Pass

Rain, melt and runoff created new lakes and ponds where everything from algae to frogs and beavers inspire us with resilience and adaptability. Life lives.

Iron Creek Campground

Iron Creek Campground

Camping on a side of Mount St. Helens that was not in the blast zone, we breathe in a rain forest with some trees up to 600 years old. What humans see as devastation nature sees as opportunity. Thank you abundant Universe.             Ron Mitchell

FIVE WAYS TO NOT KILL YOUR TRAVEL PARTNER IN THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST


Let’s face it, there’s a stage during every journey where travel partners grow grouchy. The book, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance mentions this natural phenomenon. Living in close quarters can enhance certain challenges. Here are five ways to get over it:

Photo by Marilynn Windust

Hiking the Oregon Coast Trail at Cape Arago, Oregon

Hike the coast and let Mother Nature pull you out of yourself. Ego means nothing when you traverse along the ridge of Oregon’s southern coastline. From Sunset Bay to Cape Arago, observe seals and whales in a setting that is much bigger than all of us. (Resist the urge to push your partner over the edge)

Photo by Marilynn Windust

Camping on the Rogue River in the Rogue Umpqua Divide Wilderness area, Oregon

Camp, fish and swim along a churning, vibrant river like the Rogue. (Don’t accidentally knock your partner into the rapids) Yes, the rainbow trout are small, but tasty little suckers.

Photo by Marilynn Windust

Crater Lake, Oregon

Climb a live volcano that patiently simmers beneath two-thousand feet of water at Crater Lake. (No nudging anybody into the snowbank down below)

Photo by Marilynn Windust

Buying fish on the Columbia River near Beacon Rock, Washington

Drive across the Columbia River into Washington and purchase some real fish from the Native Americans. Now we’re talking…steelhead and sockeye freshly filleted for five dollars per pound.

Views of the Columbia River Gorge and Beacon Rock from the summit of Mt. Hamilton, Washington

Views of the Columbia River Gorge and Beacon Rock from the summit of Mt. Hamilton, Washington

Let Mother Nature sooth souls. A day-long hike to the summit of MT HAMILTON will exhaust the remainder of your mean thoughts.

Photo by Marilynn Windust

Bert Cole State Forest, Olympic Peninsula, Washington

In the morning, before you start snipping, walk about a mile up Beacon Rock. Views of the Columbia River Basin will help you to forgive. (Make sure that your partner does not fall off the narrow walkway)

Rialto Beach in Olympic National Park, Washington

Rialto Beach near La Push, in Olympic National Park, Washington

If that doesn’t work, head to the Olympic Peninsula. Writhen trees and branches will carry you into the heart of a cold, green and gray world. Maybe you’ll start to like each other again at the most northwestern point on the contiguous US.

Photo by Marilynn Windust

Hiking Hurricane Ridge with views of Mt. Olympus in the background, Olympic National Park, Washington

Still grouchy? Take a hike along Hurricane Ridge for views of MT OLYMPUS that you may never see again. (Don’t tell your partner, “Get closer to the mountain goats for a better photo!”)

Photo by Marilynn Windust

Wild Mountain Goats sharing the trail on Hurricane Ridge

Now, you may be able to hike to the summit of MT WALKER with no thoughts at all. (You’ll be too tired to push anybody off of anything)

Views of the Hood Canal and Mt. Rainier from the summit of Mt. Walker, Washington

Views of the Hood Canal and Mt. Rainier from the summit of Mt. Walker, Washington

Finally, the best way to not kill each other while camping in the Pacific Northwest (okay, maybe this is more than five ways) is to look way into each other’s eyes, and recognize that there’s no one else in the world whom you would rather spend two weeks with in the back of a pick-up truck…not counting the dog, of course.

Photo by Marilynn Windust

Ron Mitchell

 

 

SUMMER FUN IN THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST


Jack and I drive from Phoenix to Portland to hook-up with Mare. We plan to explore Oregon and Washington by camping, fishing, and hiking, when not mooching off of relatives (Sister Pat).

Photo by Marilynn Windust

The Columbia River Gorge

Most tent campsites along the Oregon coast sit right on the line that divides temperate rain forest from the beach. We build a fire, shuck oysters and crack Dungeness crab for several days, while camping at Beverly Beach State Park. A short walk to the beach and Jack does one of his favorite things in life…chasing sticks and digging for rocks in the water.

Photo by Marilynn Windust

Near Beverly Beach Campground, Newport, Oregon

Haystack Rock in Pacific City provides some R&R, along with a little “combat” fishing on the Nestucca River. Mare talks with a local fisherman. “I watch from my house to see when the chinooks [King Salmon] start biting,” he says. “I let these guys do all the work fishing, and just come down when they start hitting.”

Photo by Marilynn Windust

Haystack Rock, Pacific City, Oregon

The man might be watching me all day long, as I have no chinook on my hook.

Photo by Marilynn Windust

Fishing the Nestucca River in Pacific City, Oregon

It’s time to head north for a short hike around Cape Disappointment on the Washington coast, where the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean…named “Disappointment” when explorer John Meares thought he had discovered just another Bay, not a river. Still, it’s not disappointing at all to us.

Photo by Marilynn Windust

Cape Disappointment Lighthouse, near Long Beach, Washington

Back in Oregon, we head inland for a long, exhilarating hike. This one takes us along Eagle Creek, winding through temperate rain forest in the Columbia River Gorge.

Photo by Ron Mitchell

Hiking along Eagle Creek to Tunnel Falls in the Columbia River Gorge

We pass numerous waterfalls on a trail that weaves through moss-covered lava landslides and shady forest.

Photo by Ron Mitchell

Tunnel Falls. Yes, there is a tunnel right behind the waterfall. And a heck of a drop off from the trail after!

Six miles later we reach Tunnel Falls. We have lunch amidst a magical background. Rejuvenated for the hike back, we are lucky to have missed the crowds, as they pass us on their way in.

 

Photo by Marilynn Windust

Tunnel Falls

The coast keeps calling us, though, and soon we’ll venture to the southern Oregon coast.        Ron Mitchell

ONE THING WE HAVE LEARNED FROM WORLD TRAVEL


Marilynn and I were camping with Jack the dog when a couple in the site next door walked over to us.

Camping

Camping

“Can we borrow some matches?” He said in broken English, making striking motions with his hands. Of course we gave them a handful of matches.

“Where are you from?” his accent prompted me to ask.

“Iran,” he said reluctantly.

“Welcome!” I said with a big smile.

Their faces lit-up. We conversed enough to ascertain that they rented a car in California, and were saving money by tent camping on their way to Las Vegas.

Later, Marilynn said, “It’s so cool that the first thing out of your mouth to that man was a smile and a ‘welcome.’ That’s a result of the thousands of greetings with smiles and welcomes that people from all over the world have given to us.”

We know how it feels to “reluctantly” say where we are from, while traveling in certain countries. Even then, we usually get a warm welcome.

Deep down, all of us are the same.

Thank you, Abundant Universe.  Ron Mitchell

THAILAND: FROM “TRAVEL” TO “VACATION”

Our final days in Thailand...

Read more

SLOW BOAT THROUGH LAOS ON THE MEKONG RIVER

A slow ride on a long boat through Laos.

Read more

CHIANG MAI, THAILAND

Loving the city of Chiang Mai, Thailand...

Read more

THAILAND ISLANDS: KO LANTA AND PHUKET

Enjoying the paradise of Ko Lanta and Phuket islands in Thailand...

Read more

THAILAND: FROM BANGKOK TO AO NANG BEACH


The 100,000-plus political demonstrators in Bangkok greet us with smiles, handshakes and cell phone photo requests. As far as we can surmise, the urban middle-class believe that the prime minister is corrupt and should resign. The rural majority support the current regime.

Protesters close down major streets in Bangkok

Protesters close down major streets in Bangkok

The energy of this crowd reminds Mare and I a little of Carnival in Rio. We get caught up in the high energy and cheer on the protesters with high-fives. Later, we question the wisdom of engaging in such activity in a foreign land. Touring a Thai jail is not part of the travel plan.

Ron connecting with the people

Ron connecting with the people

Actually, we fear the Komodo Dragons more than anything else thus far. They swim and crawl around the numerous natural canals that flow through Bangkok.

Komodo Dragon - check out that tongue!

Komodo Dragon – check out that tongue!

This massive city of monasteries, palaces, and world commerce is full of streets lined with food vendors. We could stay longer for the food alone, but are itching for the island beaches.

Wat Phra Kaew and Grand Palace

Wat Phra Kaew and Grand Palace

Now we’re talking…lounging poolside near jungle-covered limestone cliffs. Down here in Ao Nang, things are much more laid back, and it’s always beer-thirty. Some folks call Ao Nang the “poor man’s Phuket” because it is much the same, but smaller and cheaper.

Mare enjoying the pool at the Ao Nang Cliff Beach Resort

Mare enjoying the pool at the Ao Nang Cliff Beach Resort

Tourists roam the sidewalks that are lined with restaurants, guesthouses and a plethora of shops. Cover music blares in the many bars, and I even hear a Muzak version of “Cat Scratch Fever.”

Just another day at the beach

Just another day at the beach

Time to burn off the breakfast buffet with a walk along the beach, where monkeys frolic and longboats bob in Andaman Bay.

Andaman Coast

Andaman Coast

Oops…we stumble upon a gauntlet of Thai Massage specialists. “Massage? Do you want massage?” Yeah, Baby, rub that coconut oil all over my body.

The kind of gauntlet I am happy to run

The kind of gauntlet I am happy to run

A man motions for me to remove my shorts. Then, I start to remove my underwear and he enthusiastically stops me. “Sorry, I’m new at this,” I tell him.

Oops!

Oops!

Mare opts for the Aloe Vera rub. She also insists upon both of us getting a major foot scrubbing. Hmm…who would ever think that sandpaper could tickle so much? And we’re just scratching the surface.  by Ron Mitchell

MAINE: LOBSTERS, LIGHTHOUSES AND LANDSCAPES


Room Service BABY!

Room Service BABY!

A lobster lover’s paradise awaits you along the coast of Maine. Tonight, Mare and I camp outside of Bar Harbor with a view of Frenchman Bay. We order a lobster dinner for two ($29.00) delivered to our site. Heaven. For the past week we have been living on lobster rolls, bisques, and omelets.

Breakfast, lunch, dinner... Not enough meals in the day

Breakfast, lunch, dinner… Not enough meals in the day

“Back in the day when you could walk out in the bay and rake in the lobsters, they would feed them daily to the inmates at the penitentiary,” John, a local friend explains.  “Then, the state mandated that lobster be served only two times per week, because daily was cruel and unusual punishment.” Punish me baby!

Bush shack

Bush shack

This northern coastal drive unmasks mansions, like the George H. Bush’s family shack in Kennebunkport. Down the way, lighthouses stand sturdy on rocky coastal ledges.

Nuble Light, Cape Neddick

Nuble Light, Cape Neddick

In-between, we find plenty of beaches for Jack and Mare to frolic.

Dog friendly Maine beaches

Dog friendly Maine beaches

We mainly camp, lodging at a motel once in a while just to “clean-up,” and watch some football, but much prefer the colorful views and fresh air of campsites. By the way, the Pier Fries at Lisa’s Pizza in Scarborough are “wicked” delicious.

View from our campsite in Scarborough

View from our campsite in Scarborough

Work-off some of those fries and lobster rolls with a hike up Cadillac Mountain, the highest point on the Atlantic Coast.

Congress sucks

A divisive Congress shut down all Federal Parks, which actually works to our advantage…no vehicle traffic or fee booths are present to pollute Acadia National Park.

View from the top of Cadillac Mountain

View from the top of Cadillac Mountain

Hikers and bicyclists enjoy the relative solitude and un-obscured views.

Bar Harbor from the top of Cadillac Mountain

Bar Harbor from the top of Cadillac Mountain

While driving through the town of Lubec, we ask a random pedestrian for directions to The West Quoddy Head Light. Philip spends time talking with us, as do most of the friendly folks in Maine, and sends us in the right direction.

Quoddy Head Light

Quoddy Head Light

The lighthouse continues to provide a point of navigation for sailors from a strategic spot, on the easternmost point of the Atlantic coast. As we leave the lighthouse, who should appear but Philip. “Hey, if you guys aren’t on a tight schedule, you should backtrack to Cutler.” He pulls out a map. “When we sailed up from Florida, we found this area to be the most dramatic coastline in all of Maine.” We shall heed his advice, and check it out.

Rocky coastline

At the turn-off to the Cutler Coast Preserve, there is Philip… again, waiting in his truck to escort us to the trail head. This is really nice, but Mare and I are getting spooked, wondering if he is a serial killer trying to lure us into the woods.

Hiking the Cutler Coast Preserve

Hiking the Cutler Coast Preserve

Could it be the too many years working as Probation Officers, or have we been watching too many TV episodes of Criminal Minds? “I’m taking the gun with me on this hike,” I say to Mare. We laugh, but if Philip does appear in the woods, I will immediately pick up a thick stick and a rock.

 

Colors north

The trail twists through the forest of Cutler Coast Preserve, and leads to a section of coastline where Maine earns its rocky reputation. Numerous black precipices jet out into clear, cold waters that separate the US from Canada. Thank you for the tip, Philip.

Colors north 2

As autumn colors the landscape, we head inland and northbound to the beginning of America’s First Mile…aptly named “Route 1.” Initially just a footpath for the thirteen Colonies, George Washington even traveled here.

The First Mile and the beginning of the road in northern Maine

The First Mile and the beginning of the road in northern Maine

We could stay in Maine forever, but the colors of New Hampshire and Vermont call. Thank you abundant universe!   Ron Mitchell

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 346 other followers