Monday, October 4, 2010

Day 14 - Mount St. Helens to Redmond

Today I will ride the last 50 miles to Mount St. Helens Observatory and then back to Redmond, Oregon to join my brother at the BMW MOA.  Today is supposed to be the highlight of my solo ride up north, I have been anticipating the trip to the volcano observatory for quite some time.  I was still living in South Africa when its catastrophic eruption on May 18, 1980 happened and I still remember seeing the eruption on TV the hash plume rising into the sky eventually reaching 12 to 16 miles (20 to 27 km) above sea level.
I had a beautiful and sunny day ahead of me and since I took so many photos I will use the photos to describe my ride. I got up early and after a quick breakfast at a nearby fast food restaurant I headed East on route 504 to cover the 50 miles to the observatory in a slow rising and winding road that leads you up the Cascade Range.

My first stop was at the Mount St. Helens Forest Learning Center where I was told if I watched the area down below carefully I might see some deer or elk.  I stood on the overlook carefully scanning the forest and the area where ash and debris had flowed downstream below me with the camera at the ready.  It took me a while but my patience paid off when I noticed little specks moving.  My camera has a 15x zoom and when combined with the digital zoom it's almost like a telescope.  Below are the results of my patience, a few elk passing by.

I continued up the road and stopped a little later when I see deer on the road, by the time I took the camera out they were already running up the hill away from me.

I reach the Observatory and spend some time inside reading about the eruption and destruction caused by the volcano.  Inside stood a huge tree snapped in half by the explosion.

I move outside and climb a little hill outside to get a better view of the caldera and catch a squirrel going about his business trying to get food out of the tourists.  The little fellow was courageous coming within inches of my hand.

The view is amazing from this side of the mountain, the horseshoe shape of the crater being created when the peak blew off.  The crater looks so close but is 5 miles away from the observatory.

As I walk around I see lots of examples of the destruction on that fateful day, trees snapped in half and entire trees uprooted from the ground.

The ground is so white that it's difficult to get a good photo with so much light but I get a beautiful shot of Mt. St. Helens with some beautiful purple flowers in the foreground.

This side of the mountain has been reseeded and you see new trees growing everywhere.  I left the observatory area and made my first stop at the Coldwater Lake.  The area was quiet and serene, I stood at the edge of the lake gazing at the clear water and wondering what it must have been like on the day of the eruption.

I left Mount St. Helens and pointed my GPS to the next big mountain, Mount Hood in Oregon, about 160 miles away.  The ride from the observatory down Interstate 5 past Vancouver and skirting Portland was uneventful and I made quick time.  I aim for route 26 also known as Mount Hood Highway just outside Portland and head towards the famous Timberline lodge. The huge lodge is famous for being the exterior facade of the Overlook Hotel in The Shining movie with Jack Nicholson. The inside of the lodge in the movie and the maze were filmed somewhere else.

The beautiful lodge, built in the late 1930s is a National Historic Landmark and sits at an elevation of 5,960 feet (1,817 m), within the Mount Hood National Forest and is accessible through the Mount Hood Scenic Byway. It's an amazing structure inside and I admire the wooden columns that hold the building together.  In winter it's a major ski resort.

I grab a cup of coffee inside and then move outside climbing on foot another quarter of a mile up the slope.  It's a steep climb that leaves me out of breath, the altitude not helping my aging lungs.

The views are breathtaking and I spend some time admiring the view of the surrounding mountains and the snow covered slopes.

I leave the mountain and continue south on route 26 for another 55 miles until I reach Warm Springs located in the Warm Springs Indian Reservation.  I had left the mountain with the temperature in the 60's and by the time I had reached Warm Springs it had climbed to the mid 90's.  I pass the Indian Head Casino, the scenery having turned from forest to a very desert like environment.

Just south of Warm Springs I see a sign pointing towards the Pelton Regulating Reservoir, I followed my instinct and it turned out to be one of the best roads to ride, completely devoid of traffic.  I make my first stop at the campsite by the reservoir.

I leave the reservoir and the road winds up the side of the canyon until I reach the top of the mesa where it offers a beautiful view of the reservoir and campsite down below.  Two ADV riders see me on the side of the road and stop to see if everything is okay with me, I thank them for stopping and they continue on their own adventure.  I wander along the edge of the mesa always cautions of the steep drop to the bottom of the canyon.

It was getting late and I still had a way to go to Redmond, I continued down some back roads making my way back to route 97 where I continued south just south of the town of Madras.

I stop on the side of the road to watch a beautiful sunset and take pictures of the bike with the long shadows crossing an empty road.

I stay on the side of the road immersed in my thoughts just gazing at the beautiful sun disappearing behind the mountains.  What a beautiful trip I've had so far, I'm a very lucky guy to be able to experience what this beautiful land has to offer.

My next stop is a few miles down the road when I spot a beautiful mansion, obviously a successful farmer.  I snap a few pictures and continue south.

My last stop before I return to Redmond is at the Peter Skene Ogden State Park a few miles north of Redmond.  I walk along the bridge spanning the ravine as the sun quickly sets in the horizon.

I call my brother and invite him to join me for dinner but he was busy watching some band play at the event concert, plus he had already had dinner earlier on, his loss.   I head to the Fountains Bar and Grill where I have a nice juicy steak and a local beer with the very friendly waitress for company.

I return to the BMW MOA (Motorcycles Owners of America) campsite and join my brother at the concert, having ridden 250 miles from Mount St. Helens to Redmond through some amazing countryside.


  1. I didn't have the time (or better: vacation days) left to ride to Mount St Helens when I was on my Washington/Oregon road trip, hence his set of pictures is both for me, a special treat and big regret, that I couldn't do it.
    I noticed that you seem to be pretty lucky with the weather.
    We have a saying in German: When angels travel, heaven smiles...

  2. You r truely living the dream!! How lucky u r to have such an understanding wife and family that understand your need for freedom and adventure!! Good luck on your travels and be safe!!

  3. SonjaM
    Thank you for the German saying, I like it but I'm not sure about the "Angel" part ;-) Yea, I was lucky with the weather, only got 2 rain days out of 23 days on the road.

    Thank you. Yes, I do have a wonderful wife and family that understood I needed to do this trip. I'm trying to get my wife to follow me on some of my trips but first she needs to get her license.

  4. George, got your comment on my blog about Hwy 50. I really like Hwy 50, we were on a 500 mile day from Grand Junction to Ely and arrived well after dark.
    I'm flattered that you follow my blog and I will follow yours from now on. You have done some great trips.

  5. Nice leg of your trip, and wonderful photos once again. I love eastern Oregon, but don't often make it over the mountains to visit. I may have to borrow your route for a weekend ride sometime. :)

  6. Bluekat, if you go make sure you take the Warm Springs Reservoir detour, you will be amazed at how nice that detour is. Go to the dam and then continue forward, do not turn around.

  7. Wow. I so want to ride that area of the USA. Mt. St. Helen is an amazing site. You take great photos. I love the bridge. It is great to get to see wildlife - difficult at times to get got photos, but still fun to see.

  8. Motoroz, Thanks. I would have loved to have more time to hike to the crater. Yea, wildlife is always difficult to catch, they will be in the middle of the road but by the time you get the camera they are running away ;-)