We took a three day pause from our three week trip around the northwest to cavort with my brother and family in Sammamish, a foresty suburb east of Seattle, wherein I ate all of my popcorn allotment for the remainder of 2019. Downton Abbey and Ad Astra, both highly recommended.
Our first day on the road again, we drove south to Portland, but the long way, around Mount Rainier. Spoiler alert: it rained steadily all day so that we did not see Rainer. Not a whit. It begs the question of whether it was worth spidering around all the curves and loops in fog and clouds when we couldn’t see the main attraction. Why not just take the interstate?
Above the Clouds
The weather is the weather, especially in the Northwest. While residents often tell you that it really isn’t as bad as the statistics say, and that it’s great when it’s sunny, the region is famous for rain. On this trip, we lucked out on a lot of clear skies in Victoria, Tofino, and along the coast, so time’s up. It’s just going to rain, as it often does.
When you can see Rainier, Denali, Krakatoa, or the odd yak, it’s wonderful, but there is plenty of beauty out there in October even without the money shot. The bonus on the roads driving around Rainier in Weather was very few cars. The scenic view parking lots were empty. On the other hand, no tourists meant no open Visitor Centers. We were lucky enough to score a (hopefully) car-friendly sticker from a dimly lit general store, and somewhere near the tiny metropolis of Morton, Washington, there was a really good coffee place. Serious coffee.
But the road twists around and up into the glacier-carved gorges goes up high. By the time we had corkscrewed around a few thousand feet, we passed patches of non-rainy spots that showed we were clearly above clouds. At one point, we went through the mist, around turns that I suspect would have made my timid heart pound, but all we could see was fog. Then, it cleared and we were above it.
No Yellow Like a Fall Yellow
And the fall colors were out. Sure, New England has more colors, but the Northwest may be second in drama as a region overall. Water on the leaves sharpens the tint. As we passed by forests with rain-darkened trunks, the gold leaves popped on bushes climbing up the hillside.
Birds and animals like the rain, too. I think I heard as much birdsong as I took photos above the gorge as I had in the suburbs the past few days. The sound of rushing water and pattering raindrops was audible without all the traffic noise that usually dampens it. Plus, no sounds of car doors slamming or children whining; we are back to the days two weeks ago when we went through the redwoods and the sound is swallowed by Mother Nature.
We never saw Rainier but enjoyed one spectacular view after another of white shrouded mist, clutching the fir trees, and reflecting off the waters.
We finished our trip back to I-5 by driving west through southern Washington pastures. One grassy lea was full of black and white cows and one brown creature, horned, way too shaggy for an American cow, but not shaggy enough for a bison. We debated for several minutes and the verdict was: yak.
“Pretty!” said my traveling companion, as we traversed Mossyrock Dam, with yet another beautiful view of water and hills. It was the 27th View of the day, but I was right with her. I never get tired of what nature has to offer, even if it’s not a 15,000 foot mountain and even if it rains on the camera.