In 1967 my father bought a Pontiac Catalina and a dingy old travel trailer and took his girlfriend, my brother and me on a road trip. Over the next 8 weeks we drove 13,498 miles, visited 51 parks, and saw wonders like geysers, redwoods, grizzlies, and the Summer of Love in San Francisco. The trip made an indelible impression, cementing my appreciation for the natural world and the American landscape. This summer Pamela and I hope to repeat the experience for our family.

Sunday, July 25, 2010


July 23

7:15 Dave visits the largest spruce tree in the world, a five minute walk from our motel, and he does that before breakfast.

9:00 Rest of family pays respects to the three. It's huge! 56 feet in circumference, 191 feet tall. Estimated to be 1000 years old.

9:45 Stopped at Lake Quinalt Lodge for coffee. It's a beautiful WPA-era building. Pamela and Dave start planning a return visit.

10:15 Take a loop trail through the rain forest. Lots of undergrowth and big trees, though we see no ferns bigger than a sub-zero. (Yesterday a ranger promised us ferns as big as houses, or at least VWs.) The trail crosses a nice stream several times and we have several rounds of Pooh sticks. Linden wins 2-1-1. In places lots of the big trees are downed, their rootballs turned on their side and 15 feet around. A huge windstorm in 2007 with sustained winds of 90 mph took down all the trees.

11:30 Stop for a short hike to the largest red cedar in the world, 63 feet in circumference. It's mostly hollow inside. The hollow space goes up a hundred feet or more and has a cathedral feel. In many places wood is shaped like stalactites. It's a very cool hike to this tree, with lots of big trees festooned with moss, their trail winding through their roots.

12:00 Say goodbye to Olympic National Park.

1:00 Stop at a miserable supermarket in Aberdeen for picnic provisions. After leaving, we have a rolling picnic of salami, cheese, bread. We've been amazed at how widespread good bread is these days. Sadly, no good bread at this store in depressed and depressing Aberdeen.

3:15 Stop for gas and a driver change as we begin the drive up to Mt. St. Helens.

4:10 Stop at the John Ridge Observation Center to see the mountain. Listen to a ranger talk and learn many interesting facts about the blast at St. Helens. If you stacked the debris from the explosion up on a football field, it would stretch up 150 miles.

7:15 Stop outside a restaurant in Portland called Pok Pok. Pamela says it's a good place and that must be true because it's a two hour wait to get in.

7:40 Stop outside another good restaurant with a very long queue out the door. We give up on the good restaurants and go to a Mexican place across the street. Food is adequate and we sit at a table on the street, which is fun. We are in a very lively part of Portland. Lots of people, mostly young, on the street.

9:15 Check into the Double Tree Inn in the Lloyd Center part of Portland. Pamela was able to score a very reasonable room rate through Price Line, since we had not made arrangements before this afternoon. Listen to Jane Eyre before retiring.

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