Mount Rainier, Mount Saint Helens and the Capital City - Olympia WA


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North America » United States » Washington » Olympia
August 1st 2017
Published: August 28th 2017
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The drive from Bellingham RV Park in Bellingham WA to American Heritage Campground in Olympia WA on Wednesday, July 26, 2017 was a traffic bad dream – not really a nightmare but a very, very bad dream. I had small samples of Seattle traffic when I travelled north on I-5 from WA 20 to reach Bellevue on Wednesday last and again on Saturday last when I went to the Future of Flight Aviation Center in Mukilteo WA. In most cities, HOV (High Occupancy Vehicle) lanes have hours for the morning rush and the evening rush on weekdays. In Greater Seattle, the effective hours are from about 5 AM until about 9 PM (I don’t remember the exact hours, indeed, they might vary by freeway) and seven days a week. I had been disappointed when my late departure caused me to aborted my stops in Everett WA and Auburn WA, but, with this new information, I just might have to reexamine my list of Seattle-area attractions. There’d better be something pretty damn special to generate a visit to Seattle-metro. Other than the heavy traffic, the trip to Olympia was uneventful.

Friday found me revisiting the first of two attractions I had
If One Wants to Read All the Available Information, Plan on Spending the Entire DayIf One Wants to Read All the Available Information, Plan on Spending the Entire DayIf One Wants to Read All the Available Information, Plan on Spending the Entire Day

Mount Saint Helens National Volcanic Monument Headquarters - Amboy WA
first seen in 2014. I had entered Mount Saint Helens National Volcanic Monument from the northwest when I was staying in Randall WA, Devastation and Glaciers – Mount Saint Helens and Mount Rainier WA, but the approach from the west on WA 504 is designated as Spirit Lake Memorial Highway and has three visitor centers along its route. I saw numerous very well done, informative placards at several scenic vistas in 2014, but there were no visitor centers. Check out the road atlas for a reasonable explanation. Access from the northeast is remote whereas the western access is only a few miles from I-5.

My first stop was the National Volcanic Monument Headquarters at Amboy WA. Mount Saint Helens had been restless since March 16, 1980, and increased activity signaled the awakening of the sleeping beauty from her 123-year dormancy. Visible eruptive activity ceased temporarily in late April and early May, but small steam-blast eruptions resumed on May 7, continued intermittently for the next several days and ceased again by May 16. During this interval, the forceful intrusion of magma into the volcano continued with no respite, as was shown by intense seismic activity and visible surface swelling and cracking. Through mid-May about 10,000 earthquakes were recorded.

The swelling was easily measured and affected
Ghostly, Ghoulish, Ashen Figures Remember Those Who DiedGhostly, Ghoulish, Ashen Figures Remember Those Who DiedGhostly, Ghoulish, Ashen Figures Remember Those Who Died

Mount Saint Helens National Volcanic Monument Headquarters - Amboy WA
a large area on the north face of Mount Saint Helens that became known as “the bulge." A comparison of aerial photographs taken in the summer of 1979 with those taken during Spring 1980 showed that by May 12, 1980 certain parts of the bulge near the summit were more than 450 feet higher than before the magma intrusion began. On Sunday, May 18, 1980 at 8:32 A.M., with no immediate precursors, a magnitude 5.1 earthquake triggered a debris avalanche that was accompanied by a rapid series of events. In a matter of seconds, vibrations from the earthquake loosened 0.647764 cubic miles of rock on the mountain's north face and summit, creating a massive landslide. In more comprehendible terms, that’s one mile wide by one mile long by almost 2/3 of a mile (0.647764) high.

With the loss of the confining pressure of the overlying rock (the weight of the “now-removed” lid to the pressure cooker), Mount Saint Helens began to rapidly emit steam and other volcanic gases. A few seconds later, it erupted laterally, sending swift pyroclastic flows (dense, destructive masses of very hot ash, lava fragments and gases) down its flanks at near supersonic speeds. The stone-filled wind swept over ridges and toppled nearly 150 square miles of forest. Before being struck by a series of flows that would have taken less than a minute to reach his position some six miles away, volcanologist David Johnston managed to radio his United States Geological Survey (USGS) co-workers with the message: "Vancouver! Vancouver! This is it!" Seconds later, the signal from his radio went silent, and all contact with the geologist was lost.

At the same time, a mushroom-shaped column of ash rose thousands of feet skyward and drifted downwind, turning day into night as dark, gray ash fell over eastern Washington and beyond. Wet, cement-like slurries of rock and mud scoured all sides of the volcano. Searing flows of pumice poured from the crater. The eruption lasted 9 hours – 57 people were killed and 250 homes, 47 bridges and 185 miles of paved roadway were destroyed. The volcano continued to erupt until 1986, violently at first, then quietly building a lava dome. Thick pasty lava eruptions oozed out, each one piling on top of the next, like pancakes in a sloppy pile. The lava dome is now 920 feet high. USGS scientists continue to monitor the volcano
The Sound Physics Creating the “Zone of Silence” Is Explained in Layman’s TermsThe Sound Physics Creating the “Zone of Silence” Is Explained in Layman’s TermsThe Sound Physics Creating the “Zone of Silence” Is Explained in Layman’s Terms

Science and Learning Center - Mount Saint Helens National Volcanic Monument WA
for earthquakes, swelling, and gas emissions.

In 1982, President Reagan and Congress created the 110,000-acre National Volcanic Monument for research, recreation, and education. Inside the Monument, the environment is left to respond naturally to the disturbance. Adjacent to the Monument, reforestation projects and other recovery efforts have occurred. One focus of the Science and Learning Center at Coldwater examines the geology of Mount Saint Helens – previous eruptions, the 1980 eruption, the 2004 - 2008 eruptions and the eruption crater. The other focus of the center is the associated post-eruption biology. Several videos (the link above is, essentially, a table of contents for the on-line equivalents) demonstrate many of the whys and wherefores of volcanos, forestry and related topics.

A significant portion of the learning center has the name Weyerhaeuser contained in photos (either in the picture itself or in the caption), videos and other materials. I don’t know if the company owned/leased all the affected land or if it funded significant portions of the center and/or the displays therein. Perhaps both. Regardless, this attraction is very well done and extremely informative. I’ll regurgitate some of the statistics presented in the placards – yup, I photographed them. The Mount Saint Helens blast devastated 150,000 acres of private, state and federal forests. In addition to the forest damage and other losses previously noted, 3 logging camps, 22 crew buses, 30 log trucks, 650 miles of logging (dirt) roads, 12 million board feet of previously harvested logs, 39 railroad cars and 16 miles of railroad were lost. Weyerhaeuser spent $9,000,000 in reforestation efforts that will not be harvested until 2026.

One exhibit I found particularly interesting discusses the “zone of silence” which extended approximately 60 miles in every direction. The sound bounced back and forth between the earth and the upper atmosphere a number of times, creating alternating zones of explosion and calm. The most distant report of the eruption’s sound came from a Canadian town 690 miles away, while folks in Portland OR heard nothing and residents of Eugene OR and Seattle WA reported what sounded like gunfire, sonic booms or thunder. One survivor who was about nine miles from the volcano reported hearing the snapping of trees but no sound of the eruption itself. As is usually the case, silent birds and barking dogs were reported just before the sound reached the witnesses.

At the literal end of the road, I
When the Movie Is Completed, The Curtain Lifts to Reveal Mount Saint HelensWhen the Movie Is Completed, The Curtain Lifts to Reveal Mount Saint HelensWhen the Movie Is Completed, The Curtain Lifts to Reveal Mount Saint Helens

Johnston Ridge Observatory - Mount Saint Helens National Volcanic Monument WA
stopped at Johnston Ridge Observatory. Quickly, there is an $8.00 admission fee which is covered by the National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Senior Pass which is proudly displayed on the rearview of my truck. I asked if I could purchase another pass for an additional $2.00 and was told I could. This new pass has found its way to my money clip so I’ll have one visible at drive in booths and another for easy access at walk-in attractions.

Johnston Ridge Observatory is focused on the science of volcanos. Seismographic equipment, both vintage and contemporary, is on display. Volcanic eruption science is given a general overview; however, the focus of the center is on the eruption of Mount Saint Helens. A pad allows the young and the young-at-heart to create their own “earthquake.” A movie augments the visitor center displays. The better part of a full day is required to enjoy a leisurely drive on Spirit Lake Memorial Highway, to stop for some pictures and to absorb half the information available at the visitor centers. For those born after the eruption, the events of May 18, 1980 are brought to life. For those who lived through the eruption and its aftermath, there is a lot of learning, reminiscing and “I forgot about that” moments. This is a highly recommended, several-hour attraction for all tourists.

On the way to the Science and Learning Center at Coldwater, I made a brief stop at the Hoffstadt Creek Bridge overlook near Toutle WA. One placard notes that 14 new post-eruption bridges were constructed on WA 504 alone, while another placard states the Hoffstadt Creek Bridge (370 feet high and 600 feet long) is the largest and highest bridge along Washington State’s Spirit Lake Memorial Highway. If you read the sentence carefully and absorb the words, you might reach the same conclusion as I – big deal, so what! Well, at 260 feet high, the nearby Cow Creek Bridge is also impressive.

The new Hoffstadt Creek Bridge and the new highway were opened in 1991 after the original highway was destroyed by the 1980 eruption. I read that when the lahar (a wall of mud, ash and debris) raced down the North Fork Toutle River Valley, over 30 miles of the original WA 504 were buried. Getting easily sidetracked as I write a blog (inquiring minds want to know), I have found one vintage photo
Boardwalks and Well-Groomed Trails Are Easy to NavigateBoardwalks and Well-Groomed Trails Are Easy to NavigateBoardwalks and Well-Groomed Trails Are Easy to Navigate

Coldwater Lake Recreation Area - Mount Saint Helens National Volcanic Monument WA
you might find of interest. St. Helens Bridge after 1980 eruption dramatically shows how the bridge, although not destroyed or buried, became totally incapacitated. There are many others on the Internet.

As I was departing Mount Saint Helens National Volcanic Monument, I made a stop at Coldwater Lake Recreation Area. Since the recreation area “closes” long after the visitor centers, I established my priorities. Coldwater Lake is a product of the Mount Saint Helens eruption. Debris from the eruption blocked both South Coldwater Creek and Spirit Lake’s natural outlet, the Toutle River. A tunnel from Spirit Lake to what now is Coldwater Lake was constructed to prevent flooding from an overfill of Spirit Lake by rain and snowmelt. As Coldwater Lake filled, the soupy mixture of rock, ash and forest debris created methane and smelled like rotting garbage. Invisible aerobic bacteria began eating the organic and chemical leftovers. When the oxygen level became depleted, anaerobic bacteria thrived. Five years after the blast, all the systems were in place to reclaim the newly created lake. Today, the lake is thriving. The “Birth of a Lake Trail” is an easy 0.5-mile scenic walk with numerous informative placards, boardwalks and vistas. A minutely (my opinion) more strenuous return can be made via the alternative route through the boat launch area. Both routes amount to a 1-mile round trip walk.

Saturday was Tacoma Day for Uncle Larry, with attractions that had originally been slated for my week in Auburn. My first stop was the Foss Waterway Seaport. This museum chronicles the area’s maritime heritage with exhibits from Native American canoes and paddlewheel steamers to early scuba diving and submarines. Railroading is noted as the transportation tool of the day after the water journey reached land. Getting the cargo from the ship to the train is not forgotten, and the sport side of the fishing industry exhibits boats, lures and outboard motors. Steam whistles and antique compasses sit near models of vintage sailing ships. Short biographies of some of the area’s early maritime movers and shakers are offered. This museum is a well done comprehensive look at Tacoma’s rich maritime history and is worth a 1-2-hour stop.

Next, I made a stop at the Washington State History Museum in, you bet ya, Tacoma. Why, you might ask, is the state history museum not in the state capital? I did, but got no answer. That separation is unusual but not unprecedented. Some of Washington’s natural history is revealed in a creative exhibit, “Car Trip of Catastrophes Route.” No, this is not Chevy Chase’s Vacation but is an examination of some of the state’s natural history events, from the creation of Puget Sound by the glaciers of the Ice Age to the eruption of Mount Saint Helens. Lumbering, shipbuilding and fishing are essential subjects while the role of Hanford in the development of the atomic bomb is discussed. The influx of immigrants outlines how various groups became assimilated and how some were ostracized. Extensive coverage of the discrimination against Chinese immigrants is provided. At the time of my visit, there were two temporary exhibits – “In the Spirit: Contemporary Native American Art” and “Gridiron Glory: The Best of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.” This state history museum rates “fair to middlin’” when compared to others I have seen but does merit at least a 30-60-minute visit while in Tacoma.

My final planned Tacoma stop was at Tacoma Fireboat No. 1. Most people would not be interested, but I have a unique interest and the firefighter’s pension fund supplies a check every month! A short distance before I arrived at the fireboat, I got a glance at signage for the Tacoma Chinese Reconciliation Park. I backtracked to the small, difficult-to-access park, got my curiosity satisfied and learned some history with a 20-30-minute stop.

In the mid-nineteenth century, Chinese immigrants were welcomed to help mine the gold, build the railroads and process the fish; but the depression of the 1870s changed all that. Amid the climate created by the federal Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, pressure was exerted on Tacoma city officials to resolve “the Chinese problem.” On October 3, 1885, the Chinese were notified they must leave Tacoma by November 1st. Most left before the deadline, but over 200 remained. On November 3rd, an armed mob led by the mayor marched the remaining Chinese to the Lake View train station where they waited all night in the rain. The next morning, they were loaded onto a train bound for Portland OR. Federal indictments were issued against the 27 members of the mob. The indictments were issued, rescinded (because women had illegally served on the Grand Jury), reissued and again rescinded. When the 27 returned to Tacoma, they were given a hero’s welcome. Cannon signaled the train’s approach, the town band played and, interestingly, a torch-lit parade followed. Was the parade organized by the TTT? The park provides interesting historical background, but I found nothing of “reconciliation.” I suppose it is thought that creating a park is sufficient appeasement.

From the park, I drove north to the Browns Point Lighthouse located in Browns Point Lighthouse Park- ya suppose! The surrounding park includes the history center, the boat house museum and lighthouse. Tours of the lighthouse, the keeper's dwelling and the other structures are given on Saturdays. I arrived and got a distant view of the small lighthouse but found no available parking, so it was off to my next destination, Tides Tavern in Gigs Harbor WA.

Forfeiting command and control to Informational Irene, my GPS, I ended up using the Washington State Ferry to get to the marina-side eatery. I had read the Cod and Chips was outstanding. That was probably written by some social butterfly reviewer who finds an establishment subpar if the waiting line doesn’t stretch down the street and around the corner. On a Saturday at supper time, it was pretty crazy, but being a party of one and dining at the bar has its advantages. Oh yes, the fish and chips are fairly priced and are very good but
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Washington State Capitol - Olympia WA
not worth a drive from hither and yon. Of course, if you can “soar like a (social) butterfly and sting like a food critic,” you might get “head of the line” privileges!

Sunday found me making a visit to the Washington State Capitol in Olympia WA. After Olympia became the capital city of Washington Territory in 1853, the city's founder gave the legislature 12 acres of land upon which to build the capitol. A two-story wood-frame building was constructed on the site, where the legislature met starting in 1854. When President Benjamin Harrison approved Washington's state constitution in 1889, he donated 132,000 acres of federal lands to the state with the stipulation that income from the lands was to be used solely for construction of the state capitol. The legislature formed the State Capitol Commission to oversee the creation of a new capitol. The commission held a nationwide competition to find an architect and construction began in 1893. With only the foundation completed, work was soon stalled by poor economic conditions. Remember the “Chinese problem” in Tacoma?

When the legislature finally approved an appropriation of additional funds in 1897, newly elected Governor John Rogers vetoed it. Rogers advocated the purchase of the existing Thurston County Courthouse in downtown Olympia, now known as the "Old Capitol." The legislature approved the new location and began meeting there in 1905. The "Old Capitol" became the location of all agencies of state government and within a few years the building was too small. The legislature formed a new State Capitol Commission in 1911 which decided a group of buildings should serve as the capitol rather than a single facility. Construction of the campus began in 1912. The Temple of Justice was completed in 1920 followed by the Insurance Building and the power and heating plant. After multiple revisions of the plans, the Legislative Building was completed in 1928. Additional buildings on the campus were constructed during the next several decades. The Capitol Campus was placed on the National Register of Historic Districts in 1974.

The Legislative Building, which houses the chambers of the Washington State Legislature and offices of several elected officials, has a 287-foot dome – the tallest self-supporting masonry dome in the United States. In the world, it is surpassed only by Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome, Italy; Saint Paul's Cathedral in London, England; Global Vipassana Pagoda in Mumbai, India; and Santa Maria Del Fiore in Florence, Italy. The 42 steps leading to the building’s North entrance and a 42-star flag displayed in the State Reception Room (one of four owned by the State) commemorate Washington’s addition to the Union as the 42nd state. The Flag Act of 1818 dictated the flag rules that there be thirteen stripes to represent the original thirteen colonies, a number of stars to match the number of states and, finally, that subsequent changes in the number of stars be made on July 4, Independence Day. Washington, the 42nd state was admitted on November 11, 1889; however, Idaho was admitted as the 43rd state on July 3, 1890. The next flag, becoming official the next day, contained 43 stars meaning there never was an official 42-star flag. Hmmm, I wonder who and what was behind that maneuver!

The building is constructed of brick and concrete and faced on the exterior with limestone quarried from Wilkeson WA, while the floors and many interior walls are covered by marble from Alaska, Belgium, France, Germany and Italy. All lamps and Roman fire pots in the rotunda were made by Louis Comfort Tiffany, son of Charles Lewis Tiffany, founder of Tiffany and Company. They constitute the largest collection of Tiffany bronze in the world. The 10,000-pound, 8-foot chandelier in the rotunda is suspended from a 101-foot chain some 50 feet above the floor and features life-size faces, human figures and 202 lights. In days past and after business hours, a workman was suspended from a rope to change expended light bulbs; however, regulations now require that scaffolding be erected to change the bulbs. Once a year, that scaffolding is erected and ALL the bulbs are changed. The Legislative Building is also home to a large brass bust of George Washington. Over time, the nose on the bust has become shiny from visitors rubbing it for good luck. The tour guide was informative and, while not as ornate as most, the building is interesting. The Washington State Capitol is not a “ya gotta see this” attraction; however, while in Olympia, the Washington State Legislative Building is worth an hour or two of your time.

My next stop was the Washington State Vietnam Veterans Memorial – located on the capitol campus. The wall, as are most state Vietnam memorials, is a spinoff of the national memorial. The twist in this memorial is a map of Vietnam cut from the black granite. Only a couple hundred yards from the Capitol, you might as well stop for a minute or two.

Next stop, the Old State Capitol or “The Castle” as it is known locally. As noted earlier, the Old Capitol Building was built from 1890 to 1892 as the Thurston County Courthouse and served from 1905 until 1928 as the Washington State Capitol. The building has survived several disasters, after each of which it has been repaired. A fire in 1928 resulted in the loss of a central tower. After the 1949 Olympia earthquake, repair to the severely damaged building cost $1.1 million. On a Sunday, the building, now home to the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, is closed and tours on any day are unavailable at this time; however, I understand plans for tours are under discussion. After a few exterior pictures, “On the Road Again….”

A short drive to Tenino WA brought me to Wolf Haven International. Wolf Haven is a nationally recognized, nonprofit organization that has worked for wolf conservation since 1982 and has rescued and provided 200 wolves and mixed-breed wolves a lifetime home. Its mission is to conserve
Not All Gray Wolves Are GrayNot All Gray Wolves Are GrayNot All Gray Wolves Are Gray

Wolf Haven International - Tenino WA
and protect wolves and their habitat by rescuing and providing sanctuary for displaced, captive-born wolves; by offering educational programs about wolves and the value of all wildlife; by promoting wolf restoration in historical ranges; and by working to protect the remaining wild wolf population and its habitat.

The sanctuary offers a guided 50-minute walking tour that gives guests a rare, close-up view of wolves. Most enclosures house two wolves. The group paused by each enclosure while the tour guide offered background information about the wolves in the enclosure and educational information about wolves in general. For example, wolves were eliminated from Yellowstone National Park to protect the elk herds. The elk soon learned they did not have to continually relocate for protection and unrelentingly grazed near their water source – yup, overgrazed. Without photosynthesis, the plants died; and without plant roots to hold the soil in place, erosion occurred. Some of the eroded components were deadly to the fish, and the fish died. Ya-da, ya-da, ya-da. After wolves were reintroduced to the park, nature’s balance, in time, was reestablished. The visit to the sanctuary was interesting, but I’ll admit it is not a zoo and is not a “bucket list” caliber stop for the majority of the travelling public.

Heading back toward Olympia, I made a stop at Tumwater Falls Park in Tumwater WA. Tumwater Falls is a series of cascades on the Deschutes River near where the river empties into Budd Inlet, a southerly arm of Puget Sound. The falls created an impassable barrier to salmon until 1952 when a fish ladder was built by the Washington Department of Fisheries to provide salmon access to the newly constructed fish hatchery located immediately above the falls.

Leopold Schmidt, a successful brewer from Montana, came to Olympia on a business trip and was told about the spring at Tumwater. He investigated and returned to Montana to sell his existing brewery. Schmidt bought 5 acres of land along the Deschutes River and opened Olympia Brewing Company in 1896, just before the discovery of gold in the Klondike in 1897. Schmidt died in 1914, just weeks before voters chose to outlaw alcohol sales in the state. Making and marketing fruit juice and jams was not enough to keep the business open, and it closed in 1921. Schmidt’s sons sold the brewhouse with hopes for future reacquisition. In 1933, after Prohibition had been repealed, their hopes materialized. The Schmidt family continued to run the brewery until 1983. After Schmidt control, the brewery remained in business for another 20 years under several corporate owners but closed for good in 2003.

In 1962, Olympia Brewing Company donated 15 acres of land surrounding the falls to the Olympia-Tumwater Foundation, and Tumwater Falls Park was created. The park houses a one-half mile scenic loop trail with interpretive signs featuring pictures that illustrate the history of the area and receives 200,000 visitors annually. Tumwater Falls Park is open to the public and free of charge. The locals know it well, but Tumwater Falls Park might be one of the best kept tourist secrets in the State of Washington.

I had heard about a crab melt that is offered up at Tugboat Annie's in Olympia. The Crab Melt is a combination of Rock Crab, artichoke and cream cheese topped with melted cheddar and served on a choice of sour dough, rye or wheat bread. I was quite hungry and was considering a couple of the interesting appetizers; however, as I was perusing the menu, I spotted a Banana Annie, deep-fried-coconut-crusted bananas topped with a couple scoops of vanilla ice cream and hot buttered rum sauce. Not knowing how many hunger pangs a Crab Melt would placate, I decided I would give Banana Annie a try if I had a post-Crab Melt empty spot. After all, if a dieting fella’s gonna stumble, he might as well land in hot buttered rum sauce! I expected the Crab Melt to be a sandwich, somewhat like a tuna melt; however, it was served open face. It was, as advertised, tasty but the portion was totally inadequate for my “haven’t eaten yet today” appetite. Bring on the Banana Annie which is my recommendation for Tugboat Annie patrons.

I finished my desert and asked my server for the check. He told me “that gentleman” (at the table five feet away) had taken care of my bill. I looked toward the table the server had indicated, and the man’s female companion said, “Thank you for your service.” I expressed my gratitude and told them that hadn’t been necessary. I made a detour to their table on the way out. We shook hands and chatted for a moment before I departed. Shortly, I felt a tinge of guilt for ordering dessert. That was quickly followed by a feeling of, “You sure picked a good day to splurge, Uncle Larry.” My thanks, again, to the anonymous couple.

Tuesday, August 1, my last day in Olympia, found me heading back to a (somewhat) previously visited attraction – Mount Rainier National Park. My first stop was a fire-watch vantage point – Sun Top Lookout. From Enumclaw WA, I travelled east on WA 410, the Mather Memorial Parkway AND the Chinook Scenic Byway – please, don’t ask me!!! After turning right on Forest Road 7315 and driving about 10 miles up the well-groomed (for the most part) gravel road, I reached Sun Top Lookout and its adjacent picnic area. There was a car already on site. I parked and headed for the lookout where I found a fire watch volunteer. We had a nice chat as he surveyed the countryside with his binoculars, and I absorbed as much beauty as I could. On a clear day the view is superb, and I had a very clear day. With Mount Rainier only 10 miles to the south, the views are breathtaking. The lookout was built in 1933 and is open to the public during the day. I went back to the truck, got the Subway sandwich I had bought in Enumclaw and sat at one of the picnic tables. That might be the best Subway I have ever eaten!

My next stop was Crystal Mountain and the Mount Rainier Gondola. Crystal Mountain is a ski resort but, quite commonly these days, does have a limited list of activities available in the summer months. I rode the gondola at Lake Placid NY in 2012 – Brilliant Foliage Beneath Mostly Cloudy Skies in Lake Placid NY – but surely did not have a Mount Rainier vista awaiting me at the summit. On the way up, a retired gentleman from British Columbia and I were the only occupants in the car and had an interesting conversation about the ALCAN or Alaska/Canada Highway. The ride is nice, and the views are worth the price of admission.

Back in the truck, I made stops at Tipsoo Lake, Box Canyon, Bench & Snow Lake Trail, Sunbeam Creek, Reflection Lakes and Mossyrock Dam. Tipsoo Lake, Box Canyon and Bench & Snow Lake Trail were all planned stops whereas the last three were “there’s a rose, better go smell it” stops. Allegedly, the reflected views of Mount Rainier on Tipsoo Lake areBox Canyon is another short walking trail without wildflowers but had the accompaniment of
Lounge Chairs Are Provided – First Come, First ServeLounge Chairs Are Provided – First Come, First ServeLounge Chairs Are Provided – First Come, First Serve

Crystal Mountain Gondola - Enumclaw WA
a constant, usually faint, roar of water rushing through the narrow canyon.

The kiosk at the Bench & Snow Lake Trail trailhead held a surprise. My resource conveyed a 300-foot elevation gain, but the kiosk advised a 700-foot elevation gain. With a one-way distance of 1.25 miles, a 300-foot elevation gain is a 4.54%!g(MISSING)rade; whereas, a 700-foot elevation gain calculates to a 10.60%!g(MISSING)rade. The first is very doable, the second – well, not nearly as much. So, Uncle Larry, let’s go see what happens. The walk along the ridge from the trailhead had some ups and downs and reached a vista above Bench Lake. My information (as well as that at the kiosk) showed the trail passing very close to the lakeshore which meant I had a significant descent to reach the first lake. Not knowing the elevation change between Bench Lake and Snow Lake, I just wasn’t willing to make the commitment. If I had known the connector portion of the hike was flat and I would get a two-for-one, I would have made the descent; however, Bench Lake alone didn’t look to be worthy from my vantage point, and the connecting trail to Snow Lake was an unknown. I
Down Thar Is Bench Lake, Har HarDown Thar Is Bench Lake, Har HarDown Thar Is Bench Lake, Har Har

Bench & Snow Lake Trail - Mount Rainier NP WA
decided to save some heartbeats and headed back to the truck, took some pictures along the way (including Mount Rainier from a different angle) and enjoyed the wildflowers. Regardless, I had a nice walk without getting my “leather lungs” all stressed out.

Sunbeam Creek is a small roadside waterfall I happened upon, but Reflection Lakes is worthy of placement on the tourist’s agenda. Informative placards at Reflection Lakes explain how the pristine lakes were converted into tourist traps, stocked with non-native fish and overused to the point of ruination. In the 1970s, the lakes were closed to boating, fishing and swimming, and revegetation of the spider web of footpaths and bare ground was begun. The lakes still are in the recovery process. I just happened to pass by Mossyrock Dam as Informational Irene was guiding me home. Placards outline the construction of the 605-foot tall, 1,667-foot long concrete dam and discuss the typical dam woes – most notably the displacement of people. I had a full day and light was waning by the time I reached the RV park.

Olympia was a very busy stop. Some of the attractions I had originally planned to visit during a week-long stop in Auburn
Can I Rename This Reflectionless Lake?Can I Rename This Reflectionless Lake?Can I Rename This Reflectionless Lake?

Reflection Lakes - Mount Rainier NP WA
were transferred to my Olympia agenda. That also meant a little longer drive to reach the attractions. There is a lot to do in Olympia and nearby Tacoma that should keep almost any tourist busy for several days. The RV park personnel told me of several “off the grid” local attractions. After I had merged all the attractions from Auburn and Olympia onto the same piece of paper (actually the same computer screen), I realized I had plenty to do without any additions. Regardless, I did visit a couple of them, most notably Tumwater Falls, and was glad I had asked for the input of some locals.


Additional photos below
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Foss Waterway Seaport - Tacoma WA
Modern Mules Pulled the Salmon Around on the DockModern Mules Pulled the Salmon Around on the Dock
Modern Mules Pulled the Salmon Around on the Dock

Foss Waterway Seaport - Tacoma WA
The Detail Is IncredibleThe Detail Is Incredible
The Detail Is Incredible

Foss Waterway Seaport - Tacoma WA


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