A Rambling Wanderer Explores Wind River Highway, Ape Cave and the Magnificent Mount St. Helens

By Lori Roach

With absolutely no time on our hands, we decided to ditch the work that was trying to demand our attention. We needed an adventure!

Within 15 minutes of saying, “should we go for a drive?” we were in the car and driving toward Wind River Highway, with our map, some snacks, and of course our cameras and cell phones. 

The drive along the mighty Columbia River was breathtaking as always. The town of Carson promised good food and new experiences, but not for today, today we were headed to the mountains, Mt. Saint Helens to be exact. 

Along the way we came across Carson National Fish Hatchery where we stopped to learn about the migrating salmon. We stepped into the laboratory trailer and watched as machines weighed fingerling salmon and clipped their fins. Clipped fins identify the fish as hatchery raised, letting the fisherman know these are not wild salmon. Wild salmon are not legal to keep. 
With more salmon knowledge than we will ever remember, we hit the road again. 

Wind River winds its way through the mountains, trees hug the roadside and create makeshift tunnels, the air is crisp and clean and we find it easy to relax and enjoy the day. 

We drove right passed McClellan Viewpoint and caught a slight glimpse of Mount Saint Helens, so we quickly turned around and spent some time there, taking in the breathtaking view and capturing it with our phones and cameras. 

It is hard to believe it has been 40 years since Mount St. Helens’ ash covered our vehicles with a light dusting of ash in Elgin, Oregon where I grew up, 289 miles from the mountain. The eruption on that day wreaked havoc on nature and stole 57 lives in a split second. 

For such a horrible act of nature, the mountain looks serene and peaceful...beautiful. 

Our next stop along the way was at the Northwoods Store and Campground, where we met owner Zack McCarty. The store has all the essentials you might need if you are camping in the area, or just stopping by to grab something that will calm your growly stomach. The campground has 15 campsites and four cabins. For more information visit www.eaglecliffcamp.com or give Zack a call at 360-558-1431.

Back on the road again, stopping from time to time to take in the view of Swift Reservoir, which we travel beside for miles upon miles. Swift Reservoir is on the Lewis River and was created in 1958 when Swift Dam was built. 

As we drove along we kept seeing signs for Ape Cave. This become our new destination, so when we pulled into the parking lot we searched for our flashlights and found two small (very small) in case of emergency flashlights, and made our way to the entrance of the cave where we met several young men who had just made the trek into the cave and back out again. Their huffing and puffing made me realize I was not ready for this kind of adventure on this day and I was thankful that our emergency flashlights did not even light the way for 2 feet in front of us. We would have to venture into Ape Cave on another, more prepared day.