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  • Writer's pictureInger and Jeff Latreille

A Camphost With the Most

~Saturday, October 15, 2022~

Day 853 (Travel Day)

Though the air quality is worse at Mount St. Helens than where we are, we chose to head there anyway. Being Day 4 at our campsite near Mount Rainier, with very little sun to speak of, we knew our batteries on the rig were just about out of juice. Pulling in only .05 amps (normal is around 6.0 when the panels are in full sun), we don’t know how we maintained power this long, especially since we hadn’t run the generator much. With about 6” to go of putting the trailer’s last slide in, the batteries died. Son of a gun. Just when everything was packed up and ready to go. We had 2 options…connect the trailer’s plug to the truck for power or use the generator. Jeff decided on the latter. Running it just long enough to get those 6” in meant we could immediately hit the road instead of waiting for the generator to cool off.

Once we descended onto the Highway 5 corridor, the air quality reading escalated to over 200, reminding me of the horribly smoky air we had back in 2017, in our hometown of Napa. The smoke was so bad, we couldn’t even see our neighbor’s house across the street. And it lasted for days. Not only are we adjusting to the smoke, but the more congested highways as well…..a far cry from our remote wilderness experience over the summer. For now, we’re planning our southerly direction to be anything but Highway 5.

As we got closer to the town of Toutle, Google Maps (which has been acting weird lately), put us on some river road detour. Lesson # 1…..always look ahead on the GPS to see where questionable roads lead. But we are committed. Jeff tried to make a very sharp turn with the rig, on a downward slope, but the trailer wasn’t having it. So he thought o.k. We’ll go forward a little bit, back up onto that turn and head back out. It wasn’t having that either, forcing us to continue on the unknown road we turned on. Finally, after 4 long miles with not a word spoken, we found a spot to turn around. Good thing we’re used to rough, gravel roads, but all that for nothing. Our campground was only a mile from that wrong turn, on the 405!! GRRRR!! Hmmm…..maybe we need to have our software updated?? You would think with the truck only being 2-½ years old, that wouldn’t be necessary. We later found out from our camp host Ray, that the mistaken road we were on was an old access road that was used before the 405 was built, after Mount St. Helens erupted.

At least by the time we arrived at Kid Valley Campground, we were a little above the smoke. Knowing our campsite before our arrival, we were just about to back in the trailer when we were greeted by Ray. He’s been running the campground here since the mid-90’s, originally from New Mexico. The owner, who I originally spoke with when making our reservation, lives just a few miles away. Evidently, she owns many properties in the area. We’re just a few sites over from Ray’s Airstream “pad” and evidently have one of the nicest campsites of the 19 in the park. It’s definitely the biggest site and lies right next to a large, evergreen forest, perfect for Sadie’s exploration. Their leash rules are pretty loosy goosy, allowing dog owners a little discretion. Another bonus is we can luxuriate a little bit with full-hookups! Fireplace, fun lights and a shower lasting longer than 2 minutes. We’re in!!

After setting up, we took a walk around the place, which took all of 5 minutes. So we added another lap. I don’t know how far we are from the volcano itself, but there are no tell-tale signs here at least that indicate an eruption ever occurred. As we took an evening walk, we ran into Ray again and got quite an earful about his interesting past, present and future. He’s one of 9 kids, who basically grew up with an ax and a shotgun in his hand. His dad, a truck driver, was away most of the time leaving Ray to step into the hardworking role of helping his mom on the farm. If he wasn’t out hunting for meat, he was cutting down trees and chopping wood for the family. He became a father at 17 with his first wife, producing 3 children. That marriage ended in divorce. Fast forward to his 50’s, he dated a woman nearly 30 years his junior, producing another child who just recently had her 18th birthday. Wow, a 73-year old dad with an 18-year old daughter. That is quite something. She is attending college to become an RN, and as he states, he is owning up to his responsibilities, providing what his daughter needs before moving back to New Mexico. He really misses those Rocky Mountains!

What a beautiful sunset tonight that is sadly from the assistance of dense smoke. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that a nice big rainstorm comes through to help put out all these wildfires (they haven’t seen rain in 4 months!).

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