Seattle – Astoria1 (320 miles)

I found last nights hotel on Lake Union by using The Force and decided to treat myself to a king size bed and then, once checked in, headed down to the Pike Place Markets2 for some food and libations. I sampled a couple of local ales in the Virginia Inn before having wild Alaskan salmon with saffron risotto and blueberry mojitos in Amber (the choice of which was nothing at all to do with my crush on Amber MacArthur). I rounded off the night with a Springbank in the Whisky Bar before turning in for the night.

After breakfast and a spell in the hot tub, I toyed with the idea of staying for another night but then thought better off it and decided to try and get a haircut before leaving. I was planning to have my now golden locks shorn completely but could only find a salon where the lovely Kelly decided to do her own thing. She was hot so I didn’t argue and ended up with a shampoo and nice trim for less than ¬£10 (without tip) which I found surprising.

Before I left however, I did make use of the Wifi to plan my route to Mount Saint Helens and onward to Astoria being devoid of any form of Washington State map as I was. I have since fallen out with Google Maps and their driving directions. Mount Saint Helens is not very well signposted from the freeway so after exiting at junction 21 and asking at the local tourist information hut I was slightly miffed to be told that I needed to head back northwards to junction 49 (especially after noting heavy traffic in that direction – damn you karma) but at the same time I was very grateful to the delightful Virginia for the pointers to Astoria and the Oregon State map that she furnished me with.

Thankfully the traffic had eased and I made a mockery of Virginia’s estimated two and a half hour time to the Johnston Ridge Observatory, partly thanks to the roads being strangely quiet off the Interstate. I expected a route to National Monument park to be busier but I soon found out what everybody else obviously already knew: anything above 3000 feet was shrouded in cloud and mist – all I could think of was John Carpenter’sThe Fog and I locked my door accordingly. Below this elevation the scenery was jaw droppingly spectacular and I enjoyed having the road to myself. I may not have had this higher up but I just couldn’t tell as the visibility was down to 20 feet in places.

Once at the summit my view was obviously severely hindered by the weather conditions. Mount Saint Helens is only five miles away from the observatory but I was merely staring into a void. The visitor’s center was mildly interesting but I still left feeling highly disappointed. I’ve been traveling for just over a month now and to wait this long for something to not go to plan was unexpected.

I headed cautiously back down the road and onto the Interstate pausing for gas before pointing crossing tthe Lewis and Clark bridge into Oregon and pointing myself west to head to Astoria. The evening sun lit the forest behind me beautifully and I had to keep reminding myself to look away from my mirrors.

1 If you’re wondering why Astoria sounds familiar to you it’s probably because that this is where The Goonies was filmed. All together now: “Hey you guys!”

2 This is the location of the first ever Starbucks.

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