Rightfully so... the first part we were blessed with a visit from my brother-in-law all the way from the east side of the USA.
Most of the activities were done by my hubby and I chose to stay home for most of it. A whirlwind visit to Mt Rainier, visits to Pikes Place, downtown Seattle landmarks and tours etc... I am just not a high activity person and "once is enough" when it comes to city things. It also saves us a bit of cash for our next guests in 3 days arrival, and allowed Hubby and his brother some brotherly bonding time without having a wife to drag along. I know I appreciate sister time when I can get it.
I did join in in some things that I had been wanting to do or would do again (nature stuff of course). A first time visit to Mt St Helen's, a trip to the coast (been several times but who doesn't enjoy the coast?), and another visit to Northwest Trek (which turned out even better than the 1st time). And on his last nite here, we got to finally have the 1st campfire cook-out of the summer! I know, a bit late but, we've been kinda busy this summer. It was so nice to have him visit and hope he can come again another summer.
Time for a travel review...
If you only have a day and it is your 1st time... Go to the Johnston Ridge Observatory.
This is only 5 miles from the crater and right smack dab in the blast zone. From here you can visit the center, watch films, read survivor stories, hear Ranger talks and go on Ranger guided hikes. This is THE premiere vantage point and learning opportunity for a day trip. Oh, and you can hike to Mt Adams from here (more than a day trip by the way).
It is not as easy to drive around this mountain as it is Mt Rainier. Mt. St. Helen's , although a smaller park, has a huge protective zone! This means you have to drive back out and all the way around to get to each of the other areas of the park from Johnston Ridge. Making for a 3 hour drive to the next section from Johnston Ridge, not including scenic stops along the way. And, you will want to stop. Along the road there are several vantage points and historic information from both the park and commercial ventures (much of the mountain was logged in the 1980's). A few commercial stops along 504 are the Forest Learning Center at mile marker 33 and the edge of the blast zone viewpoint and bridge around milepost 29 - the Hoffstadt Creek bridge and lookout point.
This area of St Helen's is amazing. It is fairly windy and the views are great (for now) because of the lack of old growth forest that was here merely 30 years ago. What a great opportunity we have here in the USA to be able to witness such a vast geologic history! We have old growth forest and ancient canyons to new-birth and re-birth of Earth like St Helen's.
Ocean City is OK. If you are camping, by all means get a pass and go to the park. But, if you are going for a day trip to the beach... go south of the park down 115 onto Ocean Shores Blvd. into the town of Ocean Shores, visit some shops maybe and just drive onto the beach from one of the 2 access drives (Please know how to drive on the beach people!! We saw way too many people sink their vehicles and get stuck. Geesh! - Use some level of common sense.)
Now, it is not a pristine beach by any means. That's what you get when vehicles are allowed. There was an oily sheen on the "sweet spot" of the beach and who knows what other vehicular fluids and pollutants. There was also the pre-composted product from the business end of the horses (which is way cleaner than what the vehicles leave behind but the gross factor is still there). Considering the volume of humans, the beach was fairly litter-free which was the biggest, and most pleasant surprise.
Anyways.. pack a picnic lunch (don't litter you slobs), kites, a change of clean clothes, SUNSCREEN, and whatever else like... beach toys a shade tent to sleep under, wet-suits for boarding (the water is cold all the time) and just have some beachy fun.
The 1st time I went was in the late spring and it was good. Now it is late summer here and it was even better. I want to go again in the fall for the Elk Rut and in the winter when all the undergrowth is gone and get a new perspective of the wildlife.
A collage of the little guys...
from left to right and top to bottom...
Virginia Opossum - recent introduction to Washington in about the 1980's.
Carnivores... from left to right and top to bottom...
Grizzly bear - sleepy bear. Grey Wolf. Black Bear!!!! Bob cat - here kitty kitty. Coyote - mangy mutt.
Birds... from left to right and top to bottom...
Golden Eagle, Barn Owl, Bald Eagle, Snowy Owl, Crow
Herbivores / the Big Game Boys... from left to right and top to bottom...
Moose (one year old), Bison (very old), Bighorn Sheep, Caribou, Roosevelt Elk