8/23/2018 to 8/25/2018
Visiting Mount Rainier National Park, Learning About Wind Power, And Exploring Ellensburg, WA
Thursday 8/23/2018 Today we traveled 200 miles from Pacific City, Oregon to Olympia, Washington. We went a little further on the 101 along the coast and then headed inland through the Tillamook State Forest to catch Route 5 in Portland, Oregon, and then north towards Seattle. We don't really have anything planned in Washington but need to get close to Seattle to catch interstate 90 and head east. We are staying at The American Heritage RV Park near Olympia, WA for three nights. It's a pretty nice place. It's almost like a state park with the sites surrounded by trees and vegetation. I had a little bit of trouble backing into our site. The roads are narrow and the site was a 90-degree back in. I had to ask the camper across from me to move his truck to give me more room. Once we were settled in, it was a very nice site.
Friday 8/24/2018 We were 83 miles away from Mount Rainier National Park and decided to go see it. It took over two hours to arrive. The temperature wasn't too bad at the entrance to the park (around 60 degrees) but the further we drove up the mountain the colder it became. (around 38 degrees) Brrrrrr....... The mountain is 14,411 feet high and is the tallest mountain in the Cascade Mountain Range. It is a volcanic mountain and is considered to still be one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world. Because of its large amount of glacial ice, Mt. Rainier could produce massive lahars that could threaten the entire Puyallup River Valley and poses a grave threat to the southern sections of the 3.7-million-resident Seattle metropolitan area. A lahar is a violent type of mudflow or debris flow that flows down from a volcano. We entered through the ranger booth and drove several miles into the park to The Paradise Visitor's Center. The parking lot was full and we circled around it many times hoping someone would leave but after 20 minutes or so we gave up and drove a short way down the road to a secondary parking lot and were able to find a place to park. After a short uphill walk, we made it to the visitor's center. We watched a short movie, visited the gift shop and walked around and read their informational signs. The plan was then to walk behind the visitor's center on a couple of paths that lead to different scenic areas where you can view the mountain. It sounds like it would have been a sight to see - only when we arrived the entire mountain was covered in a thick, massive layer of fog. Visibility was about 100 feet. We did take a mile, round-trip walk through the meadows and saw a waterfall. We walked a little more and then found the lodge and walked around inside. It was a beautiful, old lodge made out of logs. I imagine it is quite expensive to stay there. A lot of people were just hanging around in the common area probably hoping that the fog would lift. We walked back to the visitor's center parking lot which was now full of our Chinese Tour Buses that seem to follow us everywhere and since it was late afternoon, we decided to head back to the trailer. On the way back down the park road, we stopped at several look-outs. One was a walk down a nice, pine-needle path that began with an old stone bridge and led to a spectacular waterfall. Another was an area where at times there is a huge flow of water but now was just a small stream surrounded by rocks. Eventually, after several stops, we made our way back through the entrance booth, back to warmer temperatures and started our two-hour drive back.
Saturday 8/25/2018 & Sunday 8/26/2018 Saturday was just a rest and relaxation day in this great campground. We really enjoyed this RV Park and wished they were all this well maintained and the employees as nice and helpful. Sunday morning we packed up and headed to Ellensburg, Washington which was about 158 miles. We had to cross over the Cascade Mountian Range on Interstate 90 at The Snoqualmie Pass which is at an altitude of 3022 feet. As we traveled higher it started to rain and again was very foggy. But once we got near the bottom it cleared up and the sun was shining. Something we haven't seen in quite a while. I booked two nights at The Yakima River RV Park near Ellensburg, Washington. This RV park was also very nice but not wooded like the previous site. After setting up, we drove into town for fuel and passed a self-serve car wash so I just had to stop and wash the truck. Then it was just back to the trailer for the evening.
Monday 8/27/2018 We didn't have anything planned in Ellensburg but I usually use the Trip Advisor app to see if there is anything to do in the area. According to Trip Advisor, the #1 thing to see near Ellensburg is The Wild Horse Wind and Solar Facility. The tours are free and they have them twice a day, 10 AM and 2 PM. I've always been interested in learning more about wind energy so we drove about 20 miles to take the tour. The facility and wind turbines are located high up on the hills outside of town. As we got closer you could see at least 100 of the turbines. We arrived at the building about 10 minutes early and there were only two other cars in the parking lot. This was a beautiful clear day and we could actually see Mt. Rainier in the distance from the facility. The facility looked like it was new. As it turned out we the only ones there for the 10 o'clock and we received our own VIP tour. The other two cars in the lot were the employees.
Our tour guide was very knowledgeable quoting all kinds of facts and figures. She explained how the company purchased the land, built the wind turbines, how they worked, and many other facts. She showed us how the turbines produced electricity and we even got to walk inside the base of one of the windmills and see the computer that controls it and the ladder that the workers use to get to the top. I was amazed at how much each one of these cost, around three million each, and they have 149 at this site. These things are gigantic when you are standing right next to them. One of the pictures below shows me standing next to one of the blades. These turbines are 351 feet high and weigh 223 tons. After the tour, we walked around the facility reading the displays and watching the videos. These turbines were built in Denmark and shipped to Vancouver, Washington and then trucked to the site. The one video shows the process of shipping and then building these on site. Quite an engineering feat. All in all, I felt that this was a great place to visit.
After the Wild Horse tour, we went back into Ellensburg to explore the town. The first thing I did was stop at the Valvoline Instant Oil Change. I've been putting a lot of miles on the truck and it was time for an oil change. Then we found a local pasta restaurant and had lunch. After lunch, we walked around town. Ellensburg is an old western town and they have a rodeo every year. It was actually taking place right after we leave. Another thing we noticed as we were driving around is the huge amount of hay that is grown here. We saw so many hay storing structures all throughout the surrounding area. I did a google search and it seems that Ellensburg and the surrounding Kittitas Valley is internationally known for the hay that it produces. There are several local hay brokering and processing operations that ship to Pacific Rim countries. One of the photo ops in town is the "Ellensburg Bull". We just had to get our picture with it. Another interesting thing to see is the western art that is painted on some of the old historic building throughout the town. We also toured a small museum that highlighted what made the town. It had lots of artifacts from old Ellensburg business and citizens. Ellensburg is a very clean and quiet small town and it was fun walking around it.
We got back to the trailer about an hour before sundown so we took a short walk along the Yakima River and watched the sunset.
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