Westward Wanderlust Day 11
Fire Lane near Olympic National Park, WA
July 20th, 2012
The morning seemed exceedingly bright. Not the golden, luminous, bright light of a sunny day, but the strong, concentrated shine of white light. It was intense, and slightly harsh coming out of the dull dark of sleep. The sky was completely overcast, casting an ashen sheen over the morning. It was apparent that it had rained during the night, and it was probable it would rain again before the day was out.
Since the majority of today was going to be spent in the car, we took some time to enjoy our coffee and admire our surroundings, despite the pallid sky. As we walked the edge of the dirt road, we realized that our “campsite” was situated on a ridge, covered in Sitka spruce and big leaf maple. We peered down the hill and could see nothing but a dense forest of green, brown, and grey. The trees were tall and slim, their leaves and needles clumping near the treetops. The lower branches reached out only a few inches, completely covered in fat ribbons of brown moss. The countless vertical stripes of grey tree trunks spread far beyond our line of site, giving only a suggestion of how many trees contained us.
As we finished our coffee, we shot a few rounds from D’s .22 pistol, which we brought along for backcountry safety. Though the pistol has stayed stowed safely beneath the seats the entire trip, we wanted to be ready in case we did decide to do some backcountry hiking or camping at any of our future destinations. The .22 went back under the seat and I was pleased with the enjoyable, albeit unconventional, start to our morning.
It was a long mossy drive down the path we had carved in the dark the night before.
Today was spent working our way through the ENTIRE Beastie Boys catalogue and driving through a snaky string of small Washington towns. There was intermittent rain all day, some fog, and many heavy, grey clouds crowding the sky.
When we arrived at Mount Rainier, it was 47 degrees and raining.
As we followed the road through the park, it became clear that actually seeing Mount Rainier was going to be impossible.
We drove up to Paradise, elevation 5,420 feet, and confirmed this disappointment.
Even though we hadn’t really involved ourselves in much physical exertion today, we both felt exhausted. Maybe it was the cold wet weather seeping into our bones. Maybe it was the letdown of driving all day to get somewhere that we couldn’t really enjoy. Maybe it was just time to get out of the car for a while. Whatever it was, we weren’t exactly overjoyed at the prospect of camping in the damp chill that had settled around Mount Rainier.
We drove from hotel to motel to inn to resort, finding very few choices that were available as well as within our price range. We finally stopped at a place called Mounthaven, combination RV Park and cabin collective. As we pulled in, we passed a group of teenaged boys playing basketball in the fog. They stopped and watched us slowly creep past their makeshift court. Their heads turned gradually from us back to their game, but not until they made it clear that they were examining our arrival. Virtually every inch of wood, rock, and roof in Mounthaven was covered in moss. Life was slow here, but persistent. We rolled past a brown building, the roof defeated by moss and covered with a mass of children’s wagons and tricycles, a plastic hobbyhorse in the heart of the immobile herd. The walls were adorned with a variety of saws, shovels, wrenches, pulleys, a few baskets, and the occasional scooter or yoke. D and I looked at each other. Is that one of the cabins for rent? We pulled up to what looked to be the main building, and I jumped out to check for vacancy. I jogged along the moss-edged path a brown cabin embellished with an array of wind chimes, bird feeders, sun spinners, and antique gardening tools.
I opened the door to a small, warm room lined with books, maps, board games, and movies. It seemed more like someone’s living room than a hotel lobby; no stark reminders of one’s being in a strange, unfamiliar place, but a cozy, welcoming atmosphere that made me smile. There was a small desk on the far side of the room and an open doorway. The gentle, grinning face of a man appeared in the opening. He was eager to assist me, yet relaxed and interested in what brought us to his doorstep. (As fate would have it, he had family who live in Wisconsin!) Craig was most sympathetic that we had driven all this way and not been able to see the mountain. And yes, he had just the thing for us. The only “cabin” available was actually a cabin-like room that was attached to the main building. Not only was it vacant, but it also had a fireplace, a kitchenette, and a hot shower to wash the chill of the evening fog from our skin. Sold! Mounthaven is owned and managed by Craig and his wife Joan, an incredibly sweet and accommodating couple who were more than happy to set us up with cabin “Oak”. They assured me that the weather forecast for tomorrow was promising and wished us a pleasant evening. The haven is also patrolled by Scraps, a thick grey calico, whom D observed to be “the scrawniest fat cat ever”.
We happily settled in to our cabin. Our room was equipped with a selection of teas and hot chocolate along with newspaper-bundled kindling and a pile of firewood. D and I enjoy camping, have no problem “roughing-it”, and have no complaints about the combination of car camping and sleeping under the stars that has dominated this trip. It has been fantastic. But sometimes, there’s just nothing better than a long hot shower followed by a night in front of cozy, crackling fire.
Tomorrow, we would take another shot at Mount Rainier and then head to Mount St. Helen’s. Fingers and toes crossed for clear weather!
Westward Wanderlust Day 10 Soundtrack:
The Beastie Boys – The entire catalogue…no, seriously, we listened to it all!