It took me nearly 30 years of living close to Mount St. Helens to visit this national histoiric site (and active volcano) that is a short journey away. It took even longer and a trip from Marianne out to visit in order to travel an even shorter distance to Mt. Rainer, one of the symbols of our state.
We started out early, having prepped the day before. Travelling with children requires a bit of planning, but taking 4 children, one of them 2 months old requires even more. Plenty of stops for “potty” and diaper changes, packing a cooler with snacks and lunch, change of clothes, CDs and other items for when children get bored of looking out the window, and the usual trip planning. Placing a small wrinkle in things was the fact that our van simply couldn’t hold everybody, so we had to take 2 vehicles. With 4 children (1 in a “baby bucket” and 3 in car boosters) there was space enough to fit two adults, not three.
Laura and Marianne took our second car (a 1985 Volvo sedan) with two of the kids in the back seat, while I took our minivan with one of the kids and the infant. Throughout the day we would switch which combination of two kids were in the Volvo, but I always had Xavier and one of the others.
Leaving at about 8:45 in the morning (only 45 minutes after we had planned to leave, not bad) we journeyed south and a little eastward for a few hours. We couldn’t go too fast, partly because we were attempting to stay within eyesight of each other, but also because Laura and I are a little bit more cautious when driving with our kids in the car, especially on two-lane highways. It was a beautiful drive once we got away from “civilization” and started moving uphill. We finally arrived at the Paradise Henry M. Jackson Memorial Visitor’s Center around noon.
Because we had 4 small kids, we knew we wouldn’t be able to do a lot of hiking. A quick trip to the visitor’s center to get a look at what was available to do and some lunch, we headed out. It was a short walk, about a half mile each way, and on a paved path, but it got the kids out and closer to the mountain. They thought they were hiking, and it’s a matter more about creating a positive experience than an authentic one, especially with a 4 year old who didn’t want to get out of the car.
Walking up to Myrtle Falls didn’t take long, really, and the walk back was even shorter (downhill). Sadly that was going to be the extent of our time on the mountain. A trip to the gift shop to feed my addiction of key chains and refrigerator magnets and we were off. Leaving Mt. Rainier, we were going to be going around the “other side” rather than simply retracing our route home. This would result in a longer drive, and it was approaching 1:30 or 2pm so we needed to get going.
A couple of “pit stops” along the way, some planned and some not, resulted in arriving home later than we had expected. We were hoping that both Ciárán and Xavier would nap in the van on the way home in the afternoon, and that was going fairly well. Then we had to stop for some construction taking place. The van not being in motion woke up Xavier, who started to fuss and cry, which in turn woke up Ciárán. He then started to be upset. Since he just turned 3, he still really does need to take his afternoon nap.
Since we were rather far removed from cell phone towers, the reception was intermittent at best. When we did finally reach a location with a cell phone tower, I received a text from Kyle that he needed to speak to me as soon as possible. Since it was approaching 5pm, the question of dinner needed to be addressed. We pulled over in a vacant lot in the next town, and I talked to Kyle, helping deal with his computer issue. I used my phone to locate and navigate to the nearest Red Robin for dinner. I [heart] Droid. Thankfully the kids were all fairly well behaved at dinner despite it being a long day, and mostly cooped up in a car.
Arriving home about 7:30 or so with no accidents (though Ciárán was saying that he “needs to go POTTY!” for the last 20 minutes was a bit unnerving) made for a successful trip. This would also prove to be a decent dry run for our upcoming trip to the Olympic Peninsula.