The drive down from Mt Hood National Forest into the Columbia River Gorge took us quickly from dense forest to a lush valley filled with orchards and then we spilled out into the Columbia River. Our friends had said we should stop at every waterfall along the river. We're glad we did as they were all different. A lovely evening spent in Portland visiting with our friends family, they were so welcoming and we were treated to “Pacific Northwest fish and chips” consisting of grilled Columbia River salmon with baked sweet potato home fries – delicious!
Our next stop was Mt. Saint Helens in Washington to see the devastation and change caused by an eruption in 1980. The visitors centre looks right into the cone of the volcano and has a great film depicting the eruption and how the vegetation and wildlife have slowly recovered. We spent the night in a dispersed camping area nearby. Luckily there wasn't another eruption.
Next we took another scenic route past Mt Ranier, then down out of the mountains to the wheat filled high plains of east Washington state and into Idaho. We drove up the Lochsa river for 100 miles winding up through this amazing gorge, a favourite spot for white water rafting and kayaking. It's amazing how much water is transported down these rivers in the spring from the melting snow above. Over the top of the Lolo pass, 10,000 feet elevation into Montana. We certainly have a heart felt respect now for the pioneers who travelled through these mountains on wagons.
Other friends from Missoula, Montana had sent a list of places to visit there. Julie especially loved the carousel.
After stopping at 3 historic ranger stations and the fire jumpers museum we feel like we've expanded our knowledge and appreciation of forest fire fighters.
Our last stop was Mt Rushmore, South Dakota. Not what you would call a natural beauty but we couldn't pass by without missing this American shrine.
So you can see we've driven a lot of miles, seen amazing and varied scenery and lots of sights. The best part is that we've spent almost 95% of our time on scenic highways, passing through small towns, stopping to see as many scenic views and points of interest, like the Teapot Dome Gas Station in Zillah, Washington,