Let's see. I've been going to Portland with Amy for... uh... forever. Well, maybe it's only been about 16 years. Regardless, each time we drive south one of the few highlights is seeing the mountains along the way.
Mt. St. Helens appears over the fields about half way down. It's just a hazy hulk and so much less prominent than Rainier or even Hood. For the last few years, I've hoped it would work into our plans to visit the Johnston Ridge Observatory, but it's a solid hour off I-5.
However, when we're on a road trip, everything's on the table. Unfortunately, we were a little late leaving the table at home. The Observatory (aka "Visitor Center") closed at 6pm. Amy was not interested in missing the great movie they showed so she flew low. I'm not going to say any speed limits where broken, but she certainly pushed hard to get us there in time for a quick visit before closing.
The movie was great and even better, all three of the kids really understood what happened when the mountain blew. We were hustled through the rest of the exhibits in the visitor center since it was closing time, but we could easily have spent an hour or more inside. Just like the movie, each exhibit had something for each level from a six year old boy ready to jump into the crater to a... well... however old I am guy who had looked into the crater from the rim.
Once we were finally escorted out, we did a quick little walk of maybe a mile that had us looking straight into the crater. The kids stared and stared for a few minutes, then they were off. I had a Superman-Niagra Falls moment as Henry started climbing a railing, but that was quickly remedied. Most gratifying was Amy's interest. She's not known for her mountain lust, but I caught her gazing toward the shattered hill and even taking a few pictures sans family.
I think the only negative to the side trip, other than it took about three hours and had us arriving in Portland quite late, was that Amy and Lilly broke one of our most important rules when they started hunting for a Christmas tree. Not cool. We may have to delay the beginning of seasonal music as a penalty. Plus, their choice of trees was about 25 feet tall.
Based only on this first day of the road trip, it was looking like it was going to be a great week.