Centralia, Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Ranier National Parks

United States' flag
North America » United States » Washington » Centralia
August 10th 2012
Published: August 18th 2012
Edit Blog Post

10th Aug ’12 Portland, Oregon to Centralia, Washington and Mt. St. Helens N.P.

A quick trip to Walmart to pick up some lunch and we found ourselves in the middle of a small drama. The local care home minibus engine appeared to have caught fire, nobody appeared to be hurt but lots of people were standing around watching and then the fire engines screamed up.

So after that bit of excitement we were off up to Highway 5 and the Mount St. Helens National Park. We stopped at the visitor centre where we saw a short film about the eruption in 1980. It was pretty amazing to see the side of the volcano start bulging, getting bigger and bigger, then the whole face of the mountain sliding down and the eruptions exploding out. This was all footage taken and the time and there was film of the evacuation officers trying to persuade Harry S Truman, an 83 year old long term resident of Spirit Lake, to leave. He refused, saying he didn’t want to see his beloved mountain reduced to a shell of itself. Newspaper reports say he stayed at his lodge along with his multitude of cats and at last count 83 bottles of bourbon. He was never seen again bless him.

There were some really interesting displays and it was well worth stopping for.

Carrying on into the park we kept getting glimpses of the jagged mountain and the signs of devastation. By the time we reached the Johnston ridge Observatory at the end of the road, you could clearly see the route of destruction, hill sides were still covered with white tree trunks flattened to the ground and all pointing in the same direction. This was the remains of the hundreds of years old forests.

There was also signs of new life, with pine trees growing again and plants and flowers growing in the lava fields.

The visitor centre here showed 2 films relating to the eruption. The first one again showed actual footage taken from where the visitor centre is now, it’s unbelievable to think the pyroclastic flow was travelling at 300 mph, you wouldn’t have stood a chance! The film focused on renewal and rebirth and showed how the land has been repopulated and has developed new growth, adapting to the change in the environment. At the end the screen went up, the curtains parted and there was our first clear view of Mount St. Helens, everyone went wow!

There were personal accounts from people who had been in the park area on that fatal day in 1980 and survived against the odds, eye witness accounts from people who had seen it happening and testimonies to those who had died. It was very moving.

Walking around the area after seeing the films you could clearly identify the different areas mentioned and see the effects on the ladscape.

We then drove back and up to Centralia where we are spending the next 2 nights. Dinner tonight was at the Grill next to the Travelodge and the speciality of the house was the bbq combination platter and it was good!!

11th Aug ’12 Centralia

Today we didn’t have to move on so after a lazy start we went out for the day and spent 7 hours driving!!!!! To see yet another bloody mountain, yet more pine tree forests and a waterfall.

Anyway we went to Mt. Ranier National Park. It was lovely and the forest trees were huge, obviously how Mt. St. Helens forest would have been. The top of the mountain was covered with snow and after trying to do the start of the walk up to the top of the meadows (all steeply uphill) I gave in and went back and Howard carried on.

Howard was in his element and loved every second of it, despite the nose to tail cars. It was good but 7 hours extra driving wasn’t.

We made it back about 7.30pm with just enough time to get the washing done. I put it on and wandered back 20 minutes later to see how it was doing and that was how I met Shirley and Bob from Tulepo, who were doing their washing too. They were a lovely friendly couple who were in their late 70’s.

I mentioned that we were going to Tulepo and Memphis and Bob told me that Shirley went to school with and was in the same class as Elvis Presley! Well I was and gobsmacked and I asked her if he was a right one in school and Shirley said ‘oh no, he was such a sweet boy, bit of a loner’. She then recounted lots of stories about him, about her
Mt. St. Helens NPMt. St. Helens NPMt. St. Helens NP

The old and the new
life growing up in Memphis, her Daddy was the Fire Chief and he knew all the boys. She kept mentioning how various people ( obviously well known to Elvis fans) knew each other, met and who they married. Her grandma was firm friends with Elvis’s mother. She kept me really entertained and kept calling me honey child and touching my arm for emphasis or when laughing.

She told me that when they were graduation High School Elvis asked her to sign his yearbook and while she was she said ‘watcha doing Elvis, sign mine’, she said he was taken aback that she wanted him too, but he did. She said he didn’t have many friends in school and consequently not many yearbooks had his signature, but she treasures hers and no way would she sell it even though they are worth a lot of money.

She talked so naturally and fondly about him and those times. I had to get up as my clothes had finished drying and she suddenly said ‘ I can’t believe I told you all that, I never talk about Elvis to anyone’ she seemed slightly shocked that she had. I felt very privileged and told her so. She said Memphis used to be a lovely place but once Martin Luther got shot it changed badly. She left and stayed out of the area for a long time until she finally moved back to Tulepo – where Elvis was born.

So she told me about the park where she works as a volunteer and said ‘ y’all come visit me, just call and ask for Shirley and I’ll come see you’. After lots of hand holding, thankyous and goodbyes I left the laundry room, walked back to our room and said to Howard ‘you’ll never guess what…………!’

Additional photos below
Photos: 10, Displayed: 10


18th August 2012

Wow! What a story about bumping into the lady who knew Elvis is high school.
I hope you do visit Tupelo. We visited there in 1997 to see his home and then take the Natchez trace to Vicksburg and on to New Orleans. Last year we stopped briefly in Memphis, but left right away since it has really gone downhill as the lady confrimed to you.
21st August 2012

I know it was amazing!! Yes we are definitely going to Tupelo, i can't wait to get to this part of the trip! Is the naztec trace the 2nd longest road in the states?
22nd August 2012

The Natchez Trace was the cross country short cut in the 1800's for the rivermen...
who transported goods by raft down the Tennessee, Ohio and Mississippi Rivers to New Orleans. It is managed by the National Park Service and has lots of history. Vicksburg was where a great Civil War battle was fought at the same time as the Battle of Gettysburg. The Union won thus dividing the Confederacy in half.
23rd August 2012

Thanks for that! It sounds interesting, we will have a look and see if we have time to fit it in

Tot: 0.891s; Tpl: 0.05s; cc: 13; qc: 29; dbt: 0.0328s; 1; m:saturn w:www (; sld: 2; ; mem: 1.3mb