The Ring of Fire

The Ring of Fire, a great country song by Johnny Cash (or Elvis take your pick) was all that was playing in my head this week. A fitting song describing what could be our fire pit, the fireworks show we watched or the two spectacular volcanoes we visited this week. Our Fourth of July vacation this year was just fantastic. We spent the first part of it in the south end of the state at Silver Cove RV Resort where we had easy access to Mt. St. Helens and all her glory. The second part of the week was spent at Alder Lake Park, a beautiful park close to Mt. Rainier. More importantly we were joined by friends and family for a holiday extravaganza and memories that will last a lifetime.

I was just 8 years old when Mt. St. Helens erupted and I remember it as clear as day. We were getting ready to go to church and our windows shook and we heard a loud explosion. Even though we were almost 200 miles north we felt nature’s fury. This was my second trip to Mt. St. Helens but the differences in the landscape are night and day. Nature will not be held back and has made a spectacular comeback. Even in spite of that, the differences between that volcano and the next are incredible. Mt. Rainier, the biggest volcano, the most dangerous volcano and the most recognizable Seattle landmark is surrounded in old growth forest. Trees go up for miles and miles. In comparison at Mt. St. Helens the young trees cover the hillside in bright green but still allow the sunlight to pour through making conditions perfect for beautiful wildflowers to cover the ground. It would have been even more beautiful had Mt. St. Helens actually made an appearance. Yes, we did not once get a glimpse of the mountain due to the weather in spite of the forecast being for sun, we got rain and 46 degrees. That just goes to show how un-predictable nature is. You gotta just roll with it however. I guess that makes for another trip next year with the hopes of better results. We didn’t walk away empty handed either as the visitor centers that litter the Mt. St. Helens scenic byway are all fantastic. We even saw an Elk in the distance at the Forest Learning Center.

In spite of all our long faces we managed to turn our frowns upside down later that night back at camp thanks to the help of  The Lego Movie! Everything is indeed awesome, especially at Alder Lake! Which was our next stop and the last stop for the rest of the week. Alder Lake is a really beautiful park and we had a really awesome site, perfect for hosting the 4th of July festivities. We spent the first couple days at Alder Lake on our own relaxing until family and friends arrived. Our second day there was sizzling hot.. so hot that the park was just packed with people (more that day than on the 4th) and we spent a lot of time in the air conditioning inside the trailer. We even pulled out our misters. Upper 90’s is too hot for this northwest girl (somewhere in Florida our family is laughing at us). We also decided to take a drive up to Paradise on Mt. Rainier since we didn’t get to see Mt. St. Helens. Like I said above, the difference between the two mountains are night and day. Just imagine that before Mt. St. Helens erupted it too was home to a huge old growth forest just like Mt. Rainier with trees everywhere. Even 34 years later the devastation on Mt. St. Helens is there for all to see(well when it’s not cloudy!).  Mt Rainier did make a showing that day however the mist and fog kept the summit hidden from view. It was still a beautiful drive up there and worth the trip.

We had yet one more sightseeing tour to do. We decided to take the Mt. Rainier Scenic Railroad at Elbe. This is something my Dad always wanted to do and we thought the kids would enjoy riding on a real steam train. This also became the first time I’ve actually wanted to write a yelp review because I was really disappointed. They should take the “scenic” part out of the name because there was not much scenery to be found unless you count really run down houses with refrigerators and toilets in their back yards. The most scenic part of the tour was supposed to be around Mineral Lake but even in spite of the map on the brochure showing the route around Mineral Lake we did not go that way. We just had a 20 minute stop at a small train museum, which was kinda cool but the amount of people(200 or so) packed into the train made the 20 minute stop ridiculously short. On top of that you had to rush back onto the train to get seats. The first leg of the trip we couldn’t even sit together in spite of being at the train 45 minutes early because there was no organization whatsoever on loading the train. People pushed and shoved there way on. We were one of the first ones there and one of the last ones on the train and we didn’t even get to sit together. At $25.00 a ticket it was so not worth it. They didn’t even yell “All Aboard!”. We had a better steam train experience at Disney World.

The rest of the week was filled with pure bliss. When we returned it was time to head out onto the lake. Our friends have a nice boat and they were gracious enough to haul us around in it all weekend. The kids had the best time out there tubing even with their nervous Nellie mom on the boat(I can’t help it.. I get it from my Grandma!).  We celebrated the Fourth of July at the park with a huge potluck with more family that came up for the day and later that evening the local residents put on a spectacular fireworks show that we watched from the docks. It was as good of a show as you would see in Seattle on Lake Union.  We are so fortunate to have such a great family and great friends who we all consider family. Every time we go camping we really have a great time. This was one of the best trips as we saw a lot of things and had a wild and crazy time on the water. It was a shame that a cloud was cast over the partying when the Sheriff’s department showed up in mass and the county dive teams arrived. We knew that something awful had happened on the lake. Sure enough the news trickled out that there was a missing teenager on the lake and shortly after we got home the news reported that they had recovered the body. A really sad tragedy that could have been prevented by taking the time to put on a life jacket.

We had such a great time this past week. It was the perfect way to celebrate the 4th of July. We can not wait to do it again next year.