Posts Tagged ‘scarlet paintbrush’

“If I had my life to live over … I’d dare to make more mistakes next time.”  — Nadine Stair

A view of Mount Ranier from the Box Canyon scenic overlook, where I finally realized I was headed the right way -- but in the opposite direction from which I had planned to travel. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Travels with Maggie

My plan was to enter Mount Ranier National Park through the Nisqually Entrance on the west side, visit Paradise Junction then return a few miles back to Cougar Rock Campground, where I had paid reservations for the night. I checked out my camp site on the way up to Paradise, and noted a nearby trail that I could hike the next morning

Scarlet paintbrush: Always take time to smell the flowers -- Photo by Pat Bean

 before backtracking to Highway 12 . I would still miss a good bit of the park but I had an appointment to keep in Southern Idaho and a lot of miles in between.

At Paradise Junction, I watched the film about the mountain in the visitor center, bought a few souvenirs for family members and then hiked a short trail for a view of the Nisqually Glacier. Though spectacular, it was a hot hike and I was glad to get back to my air conditioned RV where Maggie demanded a walk along the roadside before we moved on. Dogs aren’t allowed on trails in national parks.

 Back again in the RV, I was eager to get to camp and didn’t double check the route. My memory of the map recalled that the road simply looped around. I forgot I had no sense of direction. Somewhere along the way I zigged instead of zagged. While such is a frequent occurrence, I usually catch the boo-boo within a block or two. Not this time.

 So intent was I at watching the scenery and stopping to take photographs of sights, like the Reflection Lakes, that I had missed on the way up, that I was halfway across the park before I realized my error. Not wanting to backtrack at this point, I simply kept going. Sometimes you just have to go with the flow.

Silver Falls -- Photo by Pat Bean

I was glad I did. Otherwise I would have missed not only a spectacular drive all the way across the park, but Silver Falls and a visit to an old growth forest of hemlocks and firs near the Stevens Canyon Entrance. A walk through the Grove of the Patriarchs was ambrosia to this tree-huggers’ soul.

 Since daylight was close to ending at this point, I checked out the Ohanapecash Campground on the east side of the park and discovered it had vacancies. For a mere $7.50, using my Golden Age Passport, I camped in one of them. It would have cost me a lot more in gas to have driven back to Cougar Rock. Besides getting to see more of Mount Ranier than I had planned, I also had a head start on the next days’ travels.

This was a day that following a plan wasn’t in my best interests.

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 “As you grow older, you’ll find the only things you regret are the things you didn’t do.” — Zachary Scott. 

Mount St. Helens … Photo by Pat Bean 

Travels With Maggie
Looking out at the gaping mouth of Mount St. Helens from a point once known as Coldwater Ridge triggered goose pimples on my arms. I knew that David Johnston – the first to report the volcano’s eruption with the words “Vancouver! Vancouver! This is It!” — had been standing on this same ridge that deadly May 18, 1980, morning when the mountain exploded.

 I also knew from the many reports I’ve read about that day that those had been Johnston’s last words. Although six miles away from the volcano, he had still been directly in its blast zone. Johnston was one of 57 people who lost their lives to the angry mountain. 

 Johnston’s body was never found, and the ridge I was standing atop had been renamed in his honor, as had been the visitor center, the Johnston Ridge Observatory, that was built on the ridge so people like me could gaze on the mountain. 

Scarlet paintbrush colors the ground in front of a tree stump near the top of Johnston Ridge ... Photo by Pat Bean


It was a solemn moment for me as I pondered if the 30-year-old Johnston, a trained and enthusiastic volcanologist who knew the risks, would have thought his brief moment in destiny’s grasp was worth his life. I wasn’t sure. Could anybody ever be. 

Daisies once again flourish in the volcano's blast zone ... Photo by Pat Bean


I do know, however, the great respect I have for Johnston and others who are unwilling to hold back living their lives to the fullest. And as I look at nature’s beauty surrounding me, and the verdant life that has returned to Mount St. Helens, I’m also grateful that the fears I’ve overcome in my life have been less life threatening. 

 Travel has as much to do with internal discovery as it has with seeing the world. New places, new sights, new experiences wash away stereotypes. Standing here on top of this ridge, surrounded by tree stumps whose tops were swept away with the mountain’s roar and where a life was blinked out, touched my soul. 

 I know that for a long time to come I will think of this moment when I looked out on Mount St. Helens from Johnston Ridge. It will remind me both of how precious life is and how important it is to savor every moment because tomorrow may not come. 

 “Every man dies. Not every man really lives.” — Braveheart

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