Cross-Country Travel, Chapter 4

This part of the trip starts after I had been in San Francisco for a week with my parents and my sister. My parents and I headed out for Olympia Washington from San Francisco via the coastal route. The coast of California and Oregon were beautiful, but also VERY foggy. So foggy that one town we went through had an all-time high temperature of 69 degrees. From the coast we headed into the Columbia River Gorge. The scenic drive has many waterfalls. The Columbia Gorge, as it turns out, is also a wind-surfing “Mecca”.We got to my aunt and uncle’s in Olympia, Washington in the evening, and then next morning, we all took the ferry to the San Juan Islands (Yes, San Juan all the way up in Washington). The islands are actually farther north than the southernmost points in Canada. Although the islands are a tourist trap, they also keep their own charm. Surprisingly there are farms still dotting San Juan Island (a 12×3 mile island). On the island we went on a whale watch with Captain Jim and went sea kayaking. In the hotel I almost asked a guy if he was from Massachusetts; I overheard him talking about Everett, Auburn, and Burlington. Come to find out those are all towns in Washington.

For the next couple weeks, I spent time with my parents and relatives in Tacoma and Olympia. Mostly we did a lot of hiking, including a hike on Mt Rainier up to the Muir Base Camp, and an overnight to the top of Mt Adams. From the Adams hike and campsite (little yellow dot in the middle), there were incredible views of Mt. Hood, Mt. St. Helens, and Mt Ranier. We also did a smaller hike up Mt. Eleanor, a very popular mountain with an incredible view. I also did a drive around the Olympic Peninsula and checked out the Hoh Rainforest, yup, there’s a rainforest in Washington.

After my parents flew back to New Hampshire, my cousin and I headed up through Concrete, WA and did a couple hikes in the North Cascades. These mountains were a lot different than the other mountains I had hiked in WA, with thick forests, including lots of green-leafed plants, and a very humid (though cool) climate. It was mostly cloudy the whole time, but the landscape was incredible when the sun broke through. Both hikes we went on led to old fire towers which are maintained for sleeping in, fully stocked with food. The weather was so cold and wet at the first tower that we stayed inside for a while reading the old log books. People get creative when they have a night to spend in an old firetower, and log books from the ’60’s had been typed. My favorite entries (Skim the first entry, read the last.).

I then headed toward San Francisco. I attempted to drive to the new visitor center at Mt. St. Helens, but ended up driving on the wrong road, and drove the long way around the mountain, almost ran out of gas, and didn’t even get the good view. I headed down through Crater Lake National Park, but due to fires in the area, I could barely see to the bottom of the lake. As I kept heading toward San Francisco, I noticed Lava Beds National Monument. I couldn’t resist more caves (lava tubes actually). I broke all the rules of caving, and did a little exploring by myself, without telling anyone where I was going, but the caves are not that big, and the park sells a great map. On the way out of Lava Beds, I drove to Glass mountain. It’s a very interesting, desolate spot filled with Basalt (closeup) from a lava flow.

When I got to San Francisco, I hung out with my sister, and did a little more exploring of the bay area. I was in San Francisco again so I could fly back to NH for a week. Luckily, I got to San Francisco a couple of days before my flight, so I had time to make a police report and get my car fixed after it was broken into. I had a sinking feeling when I didn’t see any reflection off my windows, as I walked up to my car on the street one morning. Luckily the full $748 of glass was covered under insurance (I’m still working on gettin all the $ for the stolen stuff). That night, when I went to get gas, so I could visit a friend, the gas attendant took my credit card and wouldn’t give it back. This lead to a heated discussion, but he couldn’t explain clearly why he was taking my card, and said something about the police coming. I finally realized that a bag with my passport, a credit card, and some bank statements had been stolen. I found out later that an “odd” guy had called my bank and led them to report my card stolen. Turns out the guy had found my bag in the park, and was just trying to find me so he could return it to me (which he did).

I flew home to NH for a week, then when I got back to CA, I headed to Las Vegas to pick up a friend from home. We headed up to northern Nevada to go to Burning Man. Since Reno was on the way to Burning man, we decided to stop there, figuring it would just be a small Las Vegas. Not so. Reno is a seriously depressed Las Vegas. Burning Man is pretty indescribable, so I won’t try too hard. Basically, there were about 29,000 people (yeah, that’s the right number of 0’s) camped in the desert on a dry lakebed in a couple thousand acre pentagon, called “Black Rock City.” It really is a city, complete with an airport, DPW, and newspapers. The best part of Burning Man is definitely the creative artwork, including “art cars,” “theme camps,” and “art installations.” The whole thing culminates in a 200 ft tall wooden man with a Neon outline burning in a big fireball, and collapsing. Like I said, it’s pretty indescribable.

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