In Travel

Whew! James, Adelynn, and I just finished our first big family road trip from Seattle to Portland, and I’d say it was a success. It had all the elements of a classic road trip: fun, sight-seeing, lots of driving, some crying and some yelling (all by a tiny little munchkin in the backseat), some snippy remarks (thanks to the tiny munchkin), some apologizing, eating out, and most of all some awesome memories made. The only thing it was missing was a breakdown of the car, but I’m happy we skipped that classic element.

When James and I decide to go somewhere, be it a wedding, a graduation, or in this case a concert, we always end up turning the event into a vacation. This is due primarily to my desire to see everything in the world, and James’s desire to live it up while we are out of the house. When we decided back in January to buy tickets to RUSH’s concert in Portland, Oregon on July 21st, I immediately started looking into taking side trips to Mount Rainier and Mount St. Helens. I figured they were on the way down, and I was kind of right, but mostly wrong. They’re actually quite a bit out of the way, but they were definitely worth the side trips. Anyways, we decided to visit Mt. Rainier on Monday on the way down to Portland, and Mt. St. Helens on Wednesday on the way back.

We also asked my sister and brother-in-law (and their little one) if they’d be willing to come to Portland for a day to babysit Adelynn for us while we were at the concert. They agreed, and my sister went to work planning their own little vacation, which ended up including the Oregon Zoo, which she asked me if we’d like to visit the zoo with them on Tuesday before the concert. We did, and so that’s another fun thing we were able to do.

To save costs, we ended up sharing one hotel room. Yep, four adults and two baby-toddlers in one room. This was going to be interesting.

With all of our plans in place, the morning of Monday, July 20th finally came around and James, Adelynn and I set off for Portland with our first side-trip to Mount Rainier:

Mount Rainier

Mount Rainier is probably my favorite volcano to look at from the air. It is huge, beautifully snow-capped, and a lovely cone-shape. Needless to say, I was pretty excited to see it up close. I scouted out easy hikes to take, learned which trails were stroller-accessible, looked up pictures of the different trails, and finally narrowed it down to three easy hikes. I pulled up directions and routed our course. The day was set to be smooth.

Well, our baby is no longer as easy-going as she used to be on road trips. She used to only speak up when she was tired or hungry. Now, she also speaks up when she is bored, which on this road trip was often. Adelynn likes to move and she was very bored just sitting stationary in her car seat as we drove a couple extra hours to Mt. Rainier. By the time we got there, James and I were both thoroughly exasperated with her whining, and were on each other’s nerves as well. My nice, smooth plan unraveled further when I realized that that national park is huge and Mt. Rainier not always in view. Since our whole point in going to the park was to see Mt. Rainier, we crossed one hike off the list since it didn’t afford a view of the volcano and was actually pretty hard to walk with a stroller, and traveled to our next destination.

The drive to the next location afforded several amazing views of Mt. Rainier and my spirits went up. We got out of the car several times for pictures and that made Adelynn happy. By the time we arrived at our hike, we were all in much better moods. We put Adelynn in the stroller and set off towards Myrtle Falls, a much nicer trail, and directly beneath Mt. Rainier.

The view from the falls was beautiful. It was a gorgeous day too. The hike took about 15 minutes to get to the falls, and all uphill. It really wasn’t bad though. We got some great shots and enjoyed being up there for about fifteen minutes before heading back.

Adelynn enjoyed practicing her walking at the visitor’s center before we got in the car and rather than heading to another hike, headed to Portland. She conked out shortly after we hit the road.


We spent another three hours in the car, with one stop for food and to stretch our legs (mainly for Adelynn’s sake who was once again hopelessly bored in the backseat, despite James climbing back there once again to play with her). We arrived at about 8:00pm, and my sister, brother-in-law and Adelynn’s cousin arrived shortly after we did.

Oregon Zoo

We all had a restless night, probably because we were all concerned about not moving too much so as not to wake each other or the babies (or at least that was my concern). After we ate, we got ourselves and the babies ready for the day and then headed to the Oregon Zoo. I have to say that this zoo is probably the prettiest that I have ever been to. The foliage is dense and lush and appropriate to each continent that each animal was from. The North America area was especially impressive. The exhibits were less impressive as they were rather small and not many good angles from which to see the animals (making it so everyone crowded around one area), but it was still fun all the same. Adelynn wasn’t really too interested in the animals; she wanted to walk around and touch all the other kids her age. However, her cousin liked the animals and seemed to have a really good time. I did get a couple good shots of Adelynn looking at some animals though, as well as some shots of her walking around:

After the zoo, Adelynn conked out in her car seat, and we all took a nap back at the hotel. Then, James and I got ready and then left for the RUSH concert.

Rush Concert

The concert started at 7:30, but we left at about 5:15. I wanted to get there with plenty of time to spare because I was certain downtown Portland would be swimming with rush hour traffic and we still needed to get something to eat. Traffic going into Portland actually was pretty good and we got to the Moda Center (where the concert was being held) within about 25 minutes. We parked the car, then walked twenty minutes to Chipotle for dinner. I think it was my first time eating at Chipotle and it was quite delicious.

We headed back and arrived with some time to spare before the concert. After finding our seats, we asked a kind man to snap our picture and about fifteen minutes later the concert began. And oh man, the excitement that the crowd exuded was quite exuberant. I’ve been to concerts before, but I think this crowd is the most excited I’ve ever seen. Many people stood for the entire concert and air-guitared, air-drummed, and/or sang with every song. James often tapped along or air-conducted to the music (half the time I don’t think he was conscious of doing so). I am not as familiar with RUSH’s music, but I did enjoy the couple of songs I know (“Tom Sawyer” and “Closer to the Heart”) as well as acquaint myself with a couple new favorites (“Subdivisions” and “Clockwork Angels”). I was thoroughly impressed with their instrumentation, which showed off their technique, musicality, and artistry. The drummer was especially impressive with his massive drum kit. For the first time in my life, I enjoyed, and indeed looked forward to, drum solos.

When the concert ended and the ringing in our ears stopped, we headed to VooDoo Doughnuts because we had both heard so much about this little donut shop with their amazing donuts, and we just had to check it out for ourselves. The shop is small, but a line had formed outside of it with people waiting to get into the lobby. The line moved quickly though, and we soon found ourselves quickly scanning the menu before it was time for us to order. James ordered a raspberry donut and I ordered a plain glazed donut topped with vanilla frosting and crushed oreos. It was absolutely delicious. I thought about it often the next day on our drive back home to Everett.

Mt. St. Helens

After a quick breakfast, we said goodbye to my sister’s family and hit the road to Mt. St. Helens. Adelynn slept for a decent portion of the drive, but when she woke up wasn’t as cranky as she had been on the way to Mt. Rainier so the drive was more enjoyable. In fact, she snuggled and hugged her baby for a good portion of the drive. It was adorable.

When we arrived at the Johnston Ridge Observatory, the visitor’s center closest to the volcano, it was completely foggy. We had not seen Mt. St. Helens the entire drive, even though it should have been in plain view several times. Now, with the huge volcano only 5 miles from us, the fog was still so dense that we could not see it. Indeed, we could not see more than 25 feet in front of us.

As we drove up, I noticed that everyone heading into the observatory building was wearing thick jackets. I checked my car’s monitor for the outside temperature and it said 48 degrees Fahrenheit. My jaw dropped. Adelynn had a thick jacket that I always kept in the car in case of emergencies, but James and I had nothing. It was the end of July! I had only packed summer clothes.

We got out of the car and into the crisp, chilly air, put Adelynn in warmer clothes and then hurried up to the observatory. I was grateful to see other people in shorts, but James and I were probably the only ones in short-sleeve shirts.

Mt. St. Helens stayed covered in clouds for most of the day. James and I are stubborn though and decided to wait them out. We took turns watching both informational films in the observatory, and visited every exhibit. Adelynn was thoroughly fascinated with her stroller and indeed became something of an exhibit herself as she pushed it around the observatory floor. One ten-year-old boy was particularly fascinated with her abilities and kept shouting for people to look at her.

Eventually, the clouds cleared enough that we could see the top of the mountain. I had been scoping out good camera areas outside, and was on top of a hill above the observatory. When I saw the clouds clearing, I ran as fast as I could in my flip flops back to the observatory where James and Adelynn were waiting. By the time I’d gotten them up the hill though, the cloud had moved back and the top of the mountain was once again obscured. I was so frustrated.

We stayed at the top of the hill where Adelynn enjoyed playing with some tall grass, pushing her stroller, and swinging from James’s arms.

Finally, the clouds parted enough that we could see the top of Mt. St. Helens again. One cloud stubbornly stayed in the center of the crater so that we could not fully see into it. We enjoyed the view anyways though. Mt. St. Helens is truly gigantic. The pictures do not do it justice at all. If you only see one volcano in your life, this is the one to see. I love Mt. Rainier, but Mt. St. Helens is truly incredible.

All of the area around Mt. St. Helens, and even the volcano itself used to be lush with vegetation. Now, since the 1980 eruption, it is completely barren. Trees that were blasted from their roots, or pulled up from the ground all together, still lie in the valley, with the stumps still standing, completely dead from the blast.  Vegetation has begun to regrow, but the volcano, once magnificent and even larger than it is now, and the surrounding area tell an incredible story.

Dead tree stumps are scattered throughout the hillside

Prairie Lupine was the first thing to

repopulate the area after the 1980 eruption

It was especially fun for me to overhear conversations of elderly persons visiting with their family, describing to those younger to them what Mt. St. Helens looked like before it erupted. I remember hearing one lady say, “You should have seen it in it’s heyday. It was so beautiful. Now it is ugly. I mean look at it. The crater used to be way up there, a perfect cone. Now, it’s down there, and really, that’s all the mountain is now. Just a crater.”

I was in-awe of what Mt. St. Helens is now and the story that that crater told of the 1980 eruption, and wanted to turn to her and say, “You’re wrong. Mt. St. Helens is beautiful now. Look at what it tells us about the forces of nature; forces that we stand on every day and don’t even think about. Look at what those forces did to this valley in less than a minute. That’s powerful; that’s beautiful.”

But I didn’t. I think I’m right, but I think she is also right. I think for me it would be like Mt. Rainier blowing it’s top and being half the size it is now, with a huge crater that traveled halfway down what was left of it. It would be so different, and I’d visit it and hear people oohing and ahhing about what a powerful eruption that was, and oh look at that big crater, and wow what an amazing mountain, and all I would be able to think was, “You should have seen it in it’s heyday. It was so big and so beautiful. It’s only half of what it once was.” And I would be wrong. But I would also be right.

Mt. St. Helens before and after the 1980 eruption.

Photo credit:

On our way down from the ridge and back to the observatory, Adelynn fell completely asleep. Poor girl was completely tuckered out from hanging out at the observatory all day, waiting for her parents to be done waiting for a cloud to move.

Returning home

The drive home was excellent because Adelynn slept for most of it. When she woke up, she was happy and chipper. We got home around 7:00 pm and Adelynn and I played as James brought up the stuff and then we unpacked as much as we could before putting her down for bed and relaxing for the evening.

Overall, it was a great road trip. I’m grateful we were able to make the decision to go to Portland for the RUSH concert and then had the time and additional means to visit the zoo and to travel to Mt. Rainier and Mt. St. Helens as well. We recognize that we are very blessed and that Heavenly Father has given us these blessings. We are so grateful to Him for the opportunity He gave us to listen to good music and to see His creations and to see it as a family. I hope we will have many more fun, adventurous family road trips in the future.

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