When you travel to the Pacific Northwest and you are driving north on US 5 up through Oregon, you start to see a different world and people who adapt to that different world. Portland has a cool vibe and people are really into their cycling, skiing, hiking, all things outdoors even in the foulest of weather. They have a great mindset that the weather never spoils their fun and they have the gear to ride, ski, hike and never think a thing about it. Those storms that come raging off the Pacfic dump Biblical proportions of rain and big time snow in the Cascades. Mt. Hood is probably the best known for sking in Oregon and it is the home to some fabulous summer skiing as well as race camps all year long. But in the winter, you can have some helacious days there with heavy wet Cascade snow where you can’t even see the summit. A dormant volcano, Hood stands among several dormant and not so dormant volcanoes which stick out of the skyline. Mt Bachelor near Bend gets its fair share of Cascade dumps as well and is a real man’s resort.
But perhaps the most startling and breathtaking view of any “volcano” is to keep driving north and head into the state of Washington and see the Great and Powerful Ranier. There is no man behind the curtain here. Ranier stands alone in majesty and overtakes you in the oddest of places. The first time I saw Ranier,I was driving in Seattle and as I turned the corner on a nice sunny day(unusual), it hit me right in the face. Wow!!! There it is- the Great and Powerful Mt. Ranier. Seems like you can’t escape it either. You drive downtown or along the coast, and it seems that wherever you turn, Ranier stalks you. Wow!!! There it is again. The picture above gives you an idea how it stands alone above the city landscapes in the Seattle area. Perhaps the best view of all besides climbing the darn thing is to see it from the northeast corner of the Mt. Ranier National Forest at Crystal Mountain Ski Resort. http://www.crystalmountainresort.com Crystal is in of itself a remarkable place. Not far at all from the city of Seattle, you actually drive through several different forest formations on the way to the ski area at the top. I have seen guys playing golf in the valley, witnessed the moss covered trees and then watched as rain turned into fabulous deep powder at the area. When you take the gondola to the top, on a clear day, you are witness to Mt. Ranier in all of its glory and it almost takes your breath away. I have seen a lot of mountains in my day but perhaps not as striking as Ranier on a clear day. Colorado has, I believe, over 40 “fourteeners” which are 14,000 ft high peaks but in the Washington and Oregon area, these fourteeners like Ranier, stand alone among the Cascade Range. When you make your way over to the High Campbell lift on the upper left side of the resort, you climb even higher than the gondola and have a magnificent view of Ranier and Mt. St. Helens 100 miles or so as the crow files in the distance. High Campbell is an old fixed grip two seater chair that always scares the crap out of me as it climbs up to the top. These volcanoes are pretty magnificent and when you strap your boards on to take a run down the High Campbell area or the Green Valley, you have to get your mojo back because you feel like you are a little dizzy standing in the middle of greatness. Crystal has some steep runs and you have to pay attention to what you are doing when you ski there. Lots of snow, lots of steeps and a magnificent area all in its own.
At the end of the day, when you have skied yourself into a state of utter fatigue, you can make your way back down the mountain and my vote is to head to Tacoma. A cool little city with a great brewery “The Harmon” http://www.harmonbrewingco.com Great seasonal beers on tap and really tasty food. My two local friends Jenni Beigh and Ray Adams introduced me to the joint and I don’t miss that experience when I am in the Seattle/Tacoma area. It is great to have some local buddies not only to show you the cool/offbeat places like the village of Issaquah, but also these cool little breweries and coffee places. Coffee reigns supreme in Seattle. The neat thing about Seattle/Tacoma is that you can do everying there. The ocean is right there and the mountains rise majestically from sea level. No wonder REI originated in Seattle because of all the outdoor activities and emphasis on that style of living from the locals. I have skied in the pouring rain there, mountain biked at Tiger Mountain in blistering heat, and had some of the best power skiing as well there. If you don’t like the weather, wait a few minutes and it will change. If you have not been to Washington and Oregon, put it on your bucket list. Really neat states and fun outdoor loving people. Thanks for reading.