Highlights: Mount St. Helens; McMenamins' Olympic Club Downtown; Outlet Mall
Campground: Site 42; extra long pull thru; level cement pad; full hookups; CATV; Verizon & ATT LTE were strong; Good laundry; popular breakfast / lunch restaurant on premises; Near I-5 and 5 minutes from outlet mall;
Centralia is half way between Portland Oregon and Seattle Washington. In other words, half way between other places you'd rather be. This is a popular one night stop-over and is a great choice. Really good set up with the benefit of a great breakfast spot on site means you can get on the road with a satisfied belly easily. Centralia could be a base to visit Mt Rainier, Mt St Helens, or the coast – all about an hour's drive away in different directions.
Entering downtown Centralia as seen from La Trasca Mexican restaurant.
The downtown district is actually pretty interesting with many newer businesses in these old buildings.
After a couple busy stops it is always nice to have a nothing day, but by the second day I was itching to see or do something. Dreary cold weather forced us to sit one more day, so we opted to do laundry, a little shopping, and tried a highly rated Mexican restaurant for lunch and a local McMenamins (a very popular individually-themed brew pub chain mainly in the Portland area but stretching up to Seattle).
Mount St. Helens
By our third and last full day we took off to Mount St. Helens. I thought it was a little far for me to drive on a pre-travel day, but after sitting so long I decided to go. The drive was much easier than expected and well worth it. We had previously seen Mt Rainier (at 14,411 ' the tallest in the Cascades) and Mt Hood (Highest in Oregon), and we had seen Mt St Helens several times from the air flying into Seattle and Portland, so I didn't expect to be that impressed. I expected to see results of the volcanic eruption of May 18, 1980 – lava flows and barren hillsides but, it was much more spectacular than that.
A B&W perspective of Mount St. Helens
The views from several points are expansive and breathtaking and the story told from very good visitor centers were way more impressive than either of us imagined. We stood in awe at several lookout points looking into the gaping blown out side of the volcano as well as the resulting deposits of lava and ash. Near the volcano the land is being allowed to return naturally and there is a strong demarcation of where Weyerhaeuser replanted Noble Firs in the surrounding timberlands.
Several roadside stops give different views.
The most fascinating education for me was learning about the giant landslide that occurred beforethe vertical eruption. The vastness of that was impossible to visualize even when facing some still visible results.
We learned standing on high ground at the visitor center that the side of the mountain gave away before the explosion, filled the valley below and rose up to the point we stood.
Can you imagine the top and side of the mountain flowing to the point where I took this photo?
Sprit Lake lies up and to the left above the new thicker valley
Looking what was once a river of rock was just unimaginable. St Helens may not have the beauty of Rainier, but it is equally impressive in its own way.
Since the eruption, new rivers and canyons are being carved through erosion.
Recapping from an excellent article in Wikipedia:
“At 8:32 a.m., a magnitude 5.1 earthquake centered directly below the north slope triggered that part of the volcano to slide,approximately 7–20 seconds after the shock.The landslide, the largest in recorded history, travelled at 110 to 155 miles per hour (177 to 249 km/h) and moved across Spirit Lake's west arm. Part of it hit a 1,150-foot-high (350 m) ridge about six miles (10 km) north.Some of the slide spilled over the ridge, but most of it moved 13 miles (21 km) down the North Fork Toutle River, filling its valley up to 600 feet (180 m) deep with avalanche debris.An area of about 24 square miles (62 km2) was covered, and the total volume of the deposit was about 0.7 cubic miles (2.9 km3).
Most of St. Helens' former north side became a rubble deposit 17 miles (27 km) long, averaging 150 feet (46 m) thick; the slide was thickest at one mile (1.6 km) below Spirit Lake and thinnest at its western margin.The landslide temporarily displaced the waters of Spirit lake to the ridge north of the lake, in a giant wave approximately 600 feet (180 m) high.This in turn created a 295 feet (90 m) avalanche of debris consisting of the returning waters and thousands of uprooted trees and stumps. Some of these remained intact with roots, but most had been sheared off at the stump seconds earlier by the blast of super-heated volcanic gas and ash that had immediately followed and overtook the initial landslide. The debris was transported along with the water as it returned to its basin, raising the surface level of Spirit Lake by about 200 ft (61 m).”
Follow the link for more info:
The wildflowers made selecting my favorite view difficult so here are a few:
Why would I mention an outlet mall? Well it is one of the few things to do in town, makes for a good leg stretch, has an Eddie Bauer where I can't resist another hiking shirt or pant, and is a very short distance from the campground. Also worth mentioning was the Centerville Western Store at the north end of the mall. This had the largest collection of cowboy hats by far that we had seen on out trip. While I enjoyed trying them on in Tombstone, Santa Fe and other stops, I just look darn silly in a cowboy hat. But here, I couldn't resist again. I actually had one that I really liked, but as we didn't have any rodeos planned on this trip, I decided it wasn't a wise purchase, and I spared myself of any embarrassment.
Food and Drink:
Judy's Country Kitchen is at the front of the RV park and is an extremely popular breakfast to lunch spot (closing at 2PM). We only went the morning we were leaving which we could do thanks to their late check out time. Despite being busy, the waitress was friendly, the portions beyond our means to finish, and prices dirt cheap. A good stop even if you weren't staying here.
McMenamins' Olympic Club Downtown
McMennamins apparently buy up old historic buildings, return them to their former look and adding a brew pub functionality – such as old hotels and schoolhouses. This one was an old hotel/pool hall/brothel in the center of town. Photos on the wall from it's previous life were fun. We sat across from an old stove that was plainly visible in one of the photos. The menu was quite brief, but the food was pretty good and the beer was much better than expected. I had a really good IPA, Sunflower.
A small, colorful, home spun Mexican restaurant that is better than most and highly rated on Yelp. WE agree. A man who parked outside with a boat on a trailer said that he stops there every time he travels on I-5 through the area. We highly recommend this place.