Friday, June 30, 2017

Ridiculous Road Trip #1, Part 17 - Mt St Helen

Back to Part 16.

June 5
Mount Saint Helens was the goal for the day. We got on the road early and made for Lewis and Clark State Park. At 10:30 am, we dropped the camper in a (ridiculously overpriced) primitive walk-in site, then made our way to the self-pay station. I dropped the registration and the $25 check in the pay tube, then noticed the sign that said we needed to use the yellow phone to make a reservation if we checked in during business hours. There was no yellow phone in sight. We eventually found the yellow phone at the park entrance, called the reservation line, and found out that we couldn't make a reservation (for the spot that we had already set up in and paid for) until 2 pm. "Even I have already set up our camper in a walk-in site that can't be reserved, and have already paid?" It did not matter, I still had to call back after 2. Sigh.

We gave up on the ridiculousness of the Washington State Park nonsense, and made our way on to Mt St Helens.

As we drove along the winding road to the Johnston Ridge Observation, we pulled over to check out to an overlook and decided to hike the half mile to the Visitor Center at Johnston Ridge. 

The trail was...narrow. 

At the Visitor Center, Doug again posed the question, "Why pine cones?". This time, we were talking to a ranger who found the question as fascinating as Doug did. Ultimately, he came up with some ideas that satisfied Doug. Gymnosperms, the group of plants that include plants that form cones, are evolutionarily "older", and one might consider that pine cones are more primitive than the seed dispersal of angiosperms. Cones also stay closed to protect them from animals and from weather.

Twenty years ago in grad school, my Bus had driven long hours to take in this view of Mount St Helens, but the day was so overcast that we couldn't see past the railing.

It took me two more decades before I got to view this side of Mount St Helens!

And then I mushed it. 

Then we headed back along our trail back to the truck. 

And somehow the trail back seemed more narrow. 

And oddly steeper...

Especially with creative photo taking.

On our drive back out, we decided to do one more hike on the Hummock Trail. 

We also made a roadside attraction stop on our way back to our campground. This little A-frame cabin was completed the day before Mt St Helens blew back in 1980. It used to be a two story cabin. During the mudflow triggered by the eruption, the first floor of the cabin was filled with mud and ash. This has become a roadside attraction along with the addition of a Bigfoot shrine. 

Please prepare yourself for this rant.
Back at the campground, we decided to be good rule-following people. We used the yellow phone at the park entrance and called the reservation line again. It was a bad choice on our part. The reservations person took all my info, then confirmed that I had paid $30. Confused, I replied that we were using a $25 site, and that I had already put that payment in the pay slot early this morning. I lost that argument with the reservations person, who told me that I needed to drop the remaining $5 into a new self-pay envelope labeled with a new reservation number. And that she had added that note to my reservation in the computer. Grrrrrr. 

We drove back to our site, took pictures of the "economy" code on our site, the payment scale posted on the board, and the screenshot of the online page that all confirmed that our site was indeed $25.

Did I mention that this tiny non-electric, non-water, no dump station, additional charge for showers, campsite was TWENTY-FIVE DOLLARS?!? Then we hiked back to the yellow phone, ready to do battle. 

I called again, gave my info and explained the situation to a new  operator. She paused for a few moments, then asked what town we were near. I guessed at the one I thought was correct, and the operator said, "Ohhhh. I think I understand what the problem is." It turns out that there was a Lewis and Clark State Park AND a Lewis and Clark Trail State Park in the Washington State system. The previous operator had registered us at the wrong park, and the other park was even more expensive than the one we were at. I was put on hold, as Doug paced and rolled his eyes at the ridiculousness of the situation. Eventually the operator came back, went through the whole reservation process again, put me on hold for another five minutes, then came back on the line with further weird instructions. We needed to fill out another self-pay envelope with all of our information, put on another new reservation number on it, and drop it in the pay slot. Bemused, I confirmed that she wanted me to drop an empty envelope in the pay slot. Yep. She did. Sigh. 

Regardless, we were determined to enjoy the evening. We managed to toast ourselves on our seventh wedding anniversary before the mosquitoes drove us into the camper. 

Needless to say, we will never visit Lewis and Clark State Park in Washington ever again.

Up next, Part 18.

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