We’re trying to start our days much earlier than normal so that we can find campsites early and enjoy our evenings, rather than rushing to find one before sunset. Within 30 minutes of leaving our site we were going up Chinook Pass and heading into Mount Rainier National Park. As soon as we passed under the entrance sign, the views of Mt. Rainier were as clear as could be.
After we entered the park, we started descending in elevation and fog began to consume the road we were driving on until the views of the mountains were completely covered by clouds. We turned off and stopped at Box Canyon before we headed out of the southern end of the park.
Next up for the day was visiting Mount St. Helens. We saw some road closure signs right before turning on to the northern side of the volcanic national monument, but didn’t give them much attention since it seemed kind of silly to have snow on the roads at the end of June. We were dead wrong… the drive ended up taking us all day because it was an out and back road through the windy roads into Mt. St. Helens, rather than driving straight south toward a little town called Cougar. Even though it took up most of our day, the drive was well worth it because we were on the side of the volcano where the most recent eruption had occurred. The clouds never really cleared up around the top of the mountain, but the views were still stunning (especially because we could see Mt. Hood in Oregon for most of the drive). There was also a lake next to the volcano that’s risen in elevation by 200 ft. after the last eruption, and there’s hundreds to thousands of logs floating on top of the lake.
We spent the rest of our afternoon going all the way around the mountain to get to the southern end, the road closure to Cougar made us lose several hours. Before the day was over, we were able to make one last stop within the national monument and walk through the lower lava tube in Ape Cave. The cave is one of the longest lava tubes in the world, and was formed from a lava flow from over 2,000 years ago. Pretty fun, and bringing a headlamp is a must!