Sunday: Olympia, WA

By the way, I should point out, no matter how far out of town you think KCI is located, Denver International Airport sits just as far away, and perhaps more. We landed in Seattle with rain, and a balmy 50 degrees. Seattle's airport public address system uses both English and Japanese. The signs are also written in Japanese. It takes an hour to drive to Olympia, the state capital, in my Taurus SE rental. The city has the same fascination with roundabouts as Lawrence. According to the news, I missed a 200-person fight outside a bar by 12 hours. Gasoline costs $3.34/gal. and a McDonald's value meal averages $5.25. I'm in the wrong business.

Monday: Olympic Peninsula

This is a much longer drive up Hwy. 101 than I anticipated. Stopping several times for pictures didn't help, nor did a detour down a gravel forest service road to see a waterfall. I encountered very thick fog on the drive up to Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park. Plenty of snow remains at 5,800 feet. Some tourists brought their sleds. Deer have no fear of anyone, and caper about as if none of us existed.

After descending to the lower park elevations, I took the trail to Marymere Falls. This part of the park is temperate rain forest, and a very peaceful walk. I saw a large elk, but it wouldn't cooperate for a picture. According to the news, all the bears have moved to the suburbs. I'm glad I didn't drive to Seattle and take a ferry. On the way back to Olympia, I saw an electronic ferry sign indicating a two-hour wait. That must've been all those Memorial Day campers returning to the city.

Tuesday: Mt. St. Helens

I left early, not knowing how long it might take to drive to Mt. St. Helens. The sun broke through today. I stopped in a wetland preserve first. My brother Mike would've enjoyed the noisy frogs. Inside the blast zone, vegetation grows slowly. 24 hours earlier, an earthquake collapsed part of the lava dome in the concavity of the mountain, sending ash 3 miles into the sky. Today the mountain slept quietly, aside from the constant wisp of steam rising from the crater. Mt. St. Helens is a somber place, with many reminders of the 1980 eruption, such as tree stumps, dried rivers of mud, rock and forest debris, and the signs listing those who died. I stood on the point where a scientist was last seen before the eruption.

The mountain seems exceptionally close; an eruption would kill a person in five seconds. Before doubling back and heading to the area south of Mt. St. Helens, I found the cheapest gasoline of the trip, $2.99/gal., in Woodland. In the afternoon, I drove by a long lake on the way to a trail and a waterfall. Had it not been Tuesday, the lake probably would've contained numerous boats. This area is beautiful, if you don't mind living in the shadow of an active volcano. On my afternoon hike, I snapped a beautiful waterfall picture. Snow blocked the shorter route to Ashford, so I had to double back again, and take the long way.

Wednesday: Mt. Rainier

First, if you ever end up in tiny Ashford, visit on a Tuesday night, like I did. The Highlander Bar features three fat tacos for $3, and $1 beer on Tuesdays. It's cloudy again when I wake up Wednesday, so the top of Mt. Rainier is obscured. Still, it is a monstrous sight when driving in that direction. I hiked one of the trails, starting around 4,800 feet, without snow. By the time I reached 6,000 feet, the snow was everywhere. I felt like a real mountain climber, carefully crossing steep, icy slopes, and trying to find the trail.

At one of the visitor centers, I watched a 29-minute video, of which 27 minutes is spent telling the viewers what great danger they are in by sitting there. Rainier is an active volcano, though the greatest dangers are landslides. The first European to write about seeing the mountain (A British man, sailing along the Pacific coast in the 1790s), named it Rainier because he owed a lot of money to a man named Rainier.

Thursday: Snoqualmie Falls

I drove to Snoqualmie, passing many tiny farming towns along the way. Snoqualmie hosts the Satish Lodge, which sits atop the Snoqualmie Falls, easily the most impressive waterfall of the trip. It was also a major landmark in the Twin Peaks television series. I hiked down to the river bed, ignoring the warnings from the hydroelectric station, choosing to sit on the rocks for a while.

Afterward, I drove to nearby North Bend, and ate lunch at Twede's Cafe ("Double R Cafe" in Twin Peaks). That represented the best meal of the trip (Italian Burger, garlic fries, and the specialty - "damn fine cherry pie"). I made it to Renton (Seattle suburb) by 2:30 p.m., despite the traffic jams. In Seattle, everyone is going your way, 100% of the time. Geography limits the sprawl in some directions, so Seattle is much longer than it is wide. I dubbed Renton "office park central, because no matter where I drove in Renton, I saw one office park after another.

Friday: Seattle

I drove to the Space Needle around 1:00. I snapped a picture against a blue sky, but as soon as I reached the observation deck, the rain returned. I even saw a bolt of lightning while standing on the outer deck. The area around the Space Needle contains a small amusement park. As soon as I reached the ground, the sun came out again.

I walked down to the Pike Place Market, a very crowded pedestrian shopping area. The smell of raw fish didn't exactly entice me to stick around. I drove to the other side of downtown for the Mariners game. The weather stayed nice and the roof stayed open at Safeco Field. Safeco Field serves items like sushi and fish tacos, but I'm not that adventurous. I wore my Royals hat, winning the pity of people sitting around me. The Royals managed two lousy hits off the light-throwing, 43-year-old Jamie Moyer. Seattle 4, Kansas City 0. The game nearly ended in less than two hours, which is lightning quick for a baseball game.

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