After more than 30 years, I flew home to spend Thanksgiving with my family in Washington State this November. I flew into the Portland Airport for the first time, rather than Seattle. Mount Hood makes quite a statement, but I could see Mount Baker and Mount Rainier to the north in Washington on our descent.
The drive up into Washington along the Columbia River is beautiful. There is a shocking intensity of greens in every shade, with fir trees dripping moss and lichen growing on branches and trunks. Even in winter there is green everywhere. The air is filled with the resinous scent of sap from the trees.
We crossed the river and traveled up to Highway 12. The Mountain Highway winds around the base of Mount Rainier, providing views of the western face, southern face, and finally the eastern face of the mountain as it peeks through the hills and trees. The highway cuts through thick forests and previously logged areas, following along rivers and creeks. The road a twisty maze that passes through Eatonville, Morton, Randall, then Packwood. The smell of smoke from the local lumber mills in Randall and Morton is an acquired taste for most people.
There are other routes from west to east around the mountain. Skate Creek Road is for sunny summer days when people might want to stop and fish along the way. Going through Mount Rainier National Park is for guests in the summer, when there is no chance of the road being closed due to snow and time is abundant. The views are amazing, and we all have our favorite picture spots. Cayuse is the shortest, most twisted pass, and is often closed in the winter, but it used to be my dad’s favorite route when it was open. I think he liked the challenge of the switchbacks.
Packwood is a tiny town, the kind most people might only know as a place to stop for gas on the way up to Paradise Lodge on Mount Rainier or White Pass for a day or two of skiing. My family has a place just four miles past Packwood on the edge of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. It started in 1962 as a simple A-frame cabin, but over the years has been transformed into a comfortable home for my parents, and now my sister and brother-in-law live there with my mother.
There are goats, elk, and deer roaming in the foothills. At the cabin there are many elk, the rare mountain lion and an occasional rattlesnake in the wood pile to shake things up.
Coal Creek races just across the road from the cabin, creating the ideal white noise at night. It empties into the Cowlitz River at the end of the road down a short hill. The few cabins built next to the river were washed downstream in the 1990s, carrying belongings and pets. The pets, at least, were rescued.
The old National Forest campground just upriver invites walking. The campground was closed after being repeatedly flooded by the Cowlitz. The moss-covered arms reach out to keep me in a cave of green and brown, the muffled sounds as I walk silencing the noises in my head.
My family skied every weekend during the season and White Pass was our second home. I am no longer a snow bunny. I sit in lodge with a warm toddy or hot chocolate and watch others tumble or glide gracefully down the hill as I remember my own days of skiing through the snow-heavy trees.
This article was written for bellinghamairporthotels.com . They specialize in helping people find hotels near the Bellingham airport at affordable prices to make their stay or layover more convenient.