May 19, 2012 by Barry & Monique Zander · 18 Comments  
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By Barry Zander, Edited by Monique Zander, the Never-Bored RVers

It’s 1,300 very interesting, often thrilling miles from the Silver Strand below San Diego to Whidbey Island in Puget Sound north of Seattle.   I picked those two spots because they are among our favorite places to camp and represent the north-south extremes of the western contiguous U.S.

After getting ourselves involved in putting an addition on a mountain cabin we bought last year, which had limited our days in the travel trailer to about four months, we finally had a chance to shake off cabin fever for a road trip from Southern California up to Washington State for my daughter’s college graduation.

I’ll save you the agony of reading about a father’s pride in his daughter’s day in cap-and-gown, focusing your attention on those marvelous snowcapped peaks that we passed on our 2,900-mile round-trip.

First, I want to assure you “Eastsiders” that I have great respect for your chain of mountains, which we will travel along next spring.  Did you know that while the Rockies and Sierras get most of the ooohs and ahhs, going back in geologic time, it was the Appalachians and Blue Ridge Mountains that towered the highest above America for millions of years?  Matter of fact, in those days, most of the West was flat and underwater.

Time, volcanic occurrences, weather and wind took its toll on the eastern chain, as it is doing on its cousins to the west.  And, incidentally, I’ll remind those who have forgotten, mountains with sharp peaks are youngsters; those with rounded tops have matured at the urging of weather for eons longer.

As we drove up California 395, we followed the flow of the eastern Sierras through a variety of scenery – farmlands and ranches, lakes and rivers, picturesque towns and miles of highways in varying degrees of comfort.  It could have gotten a bit boring, except for those mountains to our left, many topped with snow, some climbing until they disappeared into the clouds.

MT. WHITNEY – One of those peaks was Mt. Whitney, which, at 14,505 feet, is the highest mountain in the contiguous U.S. (and, incidentally, only 85 miles from the lowest spot in Death Valley).  Mt. Whitney is not, in itself, a beautiful mountain, even when the skies allow for a view of its jagged crest.  It is, at least to me, just another extremely impressive peak in a chain of monster mountains.

Try not to be in a rush when passing near Mt. Whitney:  not far away are the incredible camping areas in the Bishop-Lone Pine area with the kinds of recreation that fill the pages of outdoor sporting magazines; e.g., fishing, kayaking, rafting, hiking and trail-riding on bikes and horses.

MT. SHASTA – You may quickly forget about Mt. Whitney when you see the incredible vista offered as Mt. Shasta comes into view at the southern end of the Cascade Range.  Now that is a magnificent sight!   At 14,179 feet above sea level, it is always a thrill to see this white pyramid shining in the early evening light.

An awesome sight -- Mt. Shasta

An awesome sight -- Mt. Shasta

Allow me to insert some quotes from Wikipedia:

Said poet Joaquin Miller: “Lonely as God, and white as a winter moon, Mount Shasta starts up sudden and solitary from the heart of the great black forests of Northern California.”

A Class-C stops to admire the Shasta glow

Class-C travelers stop to admire the Shasta glow

Naturalist and author John Muir said of Mount Shasta:  “When I first caught sight of it over the braided folds of the Sacramento Valley, I was fifty miles away and afoot, alone and weary. Yet all my blood turned to wine, and I have not been weary since.”

Theodore Roosevelt said:  “I consider the evening twilight on Mt. Shasta one of the grandest sights I have ever witnessed.”  Right on, Teddy! I agree.

Mt. Hood with its numerous glaciers

Mt. Hood with its numerous glaciers

MT. HOOD – Our drive northward last week took us through the luscious hills and curvy roads of Oregon, beautiful in itself, rustic with its grazing livestock, all framed by the brightly colored spring wildflowers that line the roads.  Then, a glimpse of something special appears on your right.  It’s another snowcapped peak, home to 12 glaciers that keep Mt. Hood’s gown of white glowing year-round.  Like Shasta and the next two mountains I’ll mention, Mt. Hood is spectacular partly because it stands alone high above the Oregon terrain.

Keeping watch over Portland, Oregon, is the dramatic slopes of Mt. Hood

My favorite Western peak -- Mt. St. Helens – as seen from I-5 in Portland

MOUNT ST. HELENS – This one is my favorite mountain.  You remember it from all the hoopla surrounding its eruption in 1980 (wow, can you believe that was 32 years ago?).  We drove up Mt. St. Helens a few years ago, going to where the road disappeared under the snow.  Then we got out and froze our little tootsies off cavorting in its beautiful whiteness.  I didn’t want

to leave.  This trip we didn’t get a chance to visit my favorite, but just seeing it in the distance caused a bolt of electricity to surge through  my veins.

MT. RAINIER – This massive mountain is not only “the most topographically prominent mountain in the contiguous United States” (again, quoting from Wikipedia), it’s Monique’s favorite.  I remember one perfect autumn afternoon walking across the parade grounds at Fort Lewis by Tacoma and startled when Monique stopped suddenly, freezing like a statue at her first sighting of Mt. Rainier.  It is one of those rare sights that we in America are so blessed to have, one that truly takes your breath away.  It dominates central Washington State.

Mt. Rainier left Monique awe-struck.

Mt. Rainier left Monique awe-struck.

And one more worth mentioning:  MT. OLYMPUS on the Olympic Peninsula.  It doesn’t dominate like its cousins to the south, but it is the highest glacier-covered mountain on this beautiful rainforest peninsula.

I hope you don’t do what I have done as you drive along California 395 or I-5 through the contiguous Pacific Rim states.  Don’t try to rate one mountain against the others.  Each has

In Castle Rock, Oregon, is a memorial to and film about Harry L. Truman, who refused to leave his love, Mt. St. Helens before it erupted

In Castle Rock, Washington, is a memorial to and film about Harry R. Truman, who refused to leave his beloved Mt. St. Helens before it erupted

a splendor all its own.  Each provides visual excitement enhancing the pleasure of traveling in your RV.

Each etches incredible memories on the brain, which is why we are always the “Never-Bored RVers.” We’ll see you on down the road.

© All photos by Barry Zander.   All rights reserved

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Last 5 posts by Barry & Monique Zander



  1. Barry Engleman on May 20th, 2012 5:44 pm

    We’ve been inching our way up to Washington from San Diego since March. Only we stayed around Rte 1 and 101 thru California so we missed Whitney. Places like Morro Bay, Mendocino County, Trinidad and the redwoods were wonderful. The Bend, Oregon area was very interesting with all the volcanic stuff. We are outside Chehalis, Wa. now and saw Mt. St. Helen’s yesterday before the rain set in. My favorite also. We got one glimpse of Rainier yesterday but the weather doesn’t look good for us seeing it again before we leave for Alaska.

  2. Dave Campbell on May 20th, 2012 5:47 pm

    A little mixup? St Helens and Mt Hood captions reversed!

  3. Gary on May 20th, 2012 6:34 pm

    Certainly nice to have thr mountains of the west be acknoledged as to their beauty and splender. Nothing can really compare especially with the camping that frequents each area. Having stayed below all peaks at one time or another, all I can says is “glad you came and enjoyed”

  4. butterbean carpenter on May 20th, 2012 6:35 pm

    Howdy Monique & CA,
    Thanks, for the wonderful pics.. Congratulations to the graduate, wish her sucess in whatever she chooses to do!! Have great fun in all of your travels and stop back by whenever you get the chance.. Enjoyed your stop-by.. We have a new baby, as of today; a filly I think!!! Stop by and see it on the way back to the bayou..

  5. Dave Planitzer on May 20th, 2012 6:39 pm

    I hope the rain clears by mid June. We’re heading to Coos Bay via Santa Fe then up the coast to Olympic and back down past Helen, Portland and to Hell’s Gate.
    We’re looking forward to our adventure and leaving on Wednesday.

  6. Paul Thorpe on May 20th, 2012 7:47 pm

    Hello Never Bored RVers,

    The Castle Rock in OR is on the coast, a long way from Mt. St. Helens. The monument to Harry Truman is in Castle Rock, WA on I-5. Great pics and I disagree with the commenter who thinks you can see Mt. St. Helens looming over Portland. You are correct, it is Mt. Hood.

  7. Mary Ellen Harris on May 21st, 2012 12:48 am

    Please! As your photo shows, St. Helens can be seen from certain places in Portland, but to confuse St Helens with Hood shows amazing lack of observation! Since it blew St Helens appears flat on top, while Hood appears craggy — the photo captions have been switched.
    To really experience the Cascades one should travel 97/197 in Washington and Oregon. From this eastern viewpoint you can see almost all the snow covered peaks of the High Cascades — Rainier, St. Helens, Adams, Hood, Jefferson, Broken Top, Washington, The Three Sisters, Thielsen, McLaughlin and Shasta.

  8. Chip Deyerle on May 21st, 2012 6:19 am

    Great article about the mountains on the west coast. Our favorite so far is Mt. San Jacinto in Palm Springs. Thanks for the suggestions on Mt. Whitney-we will check that out on our next CA trip.From an east Coast perspective , our mountains are not high by west coast standards, but much more accessible. The Blue Ridge Parkeay offers great camping and high adventure activities as well. We are also thankful tht our many and beautiful state parks, most surrounded by mountains, will remain open despite the economic downturn and reduced state revenues..

  9. Curtis on May 21st, 2012 7:44 am

    The Northern most mountian peak in Wa.State is Mt. Baker. It is N. of Seattle,Wa.
    It is a part of the Cascade Mt. range. it can be seen from I-5 going N.or S.
    I was at the base of it in 1970, where the skiers park to go sking. I have visited Mt. Rainer visitor center 3 or 4 times and went to Mt St. Helens where the remains of it’s top after it blew. Awesome! You write some very interesting articles too.

  10. dgypz on May 21st, 2012 9:46 am

    From FL we joined the Pacific Ocean at Santa Barbara on our first trip up the west coast which included stops at all of the light houses. Special places were the Hearst Castle, Kinetic Championship Race at Arcata, CA on Memorial weekend, Astoria, OR, the Hoh Rain Forest and Neah Bay Indian village. We didn’t want to leave the little town of Eastsound on Orcas Island. And when we thought that we had seen it all, driving the North Cascade Loop to Winthrop, WA really blew our minds.

  11. Barry & Monique Zander on May 21st, 2012 10:42 am

    The two commenters about switching Mt. Hood and Mt. St. Helens are correct. I will make the change for future readers. And also for Castle Rock being in Washington. Whatever excuses I have are not important, and I thank the blog readers for pointing out the mistakes. Barry Zander

  12. Howard Olsen on May 23rd, 2012 9:47 pm

    I don’t know about Mt. Saint Helens, but I think the photos of Mt. Shasta and Mt. Hood are the exact same mountain (one with zoom telephoto). We just drove up from California to Washington but took the mountain road from Redding to Eureka, CA and then followed 101 up the spectacular coast of Oregon to Aberdeen, Washington. We can’t say enough good things about the Oregon State Parks and have little to say about the California State Parks which we found mostly closed and locked until June.

  13. marianj` on May 26th, 2012 6:35 pm

    Thanks beautiful pictures. Growing up and living in the west all my life I have seen all the mountains you show. I lived in Portland in the sixties and saw mt

    st. Helens before she blew her top

  14. Mary Ellen Harris on May 27th, 2012 6:28 pm

    Howard Olsen is right! In fact I think all of the first three photos are the same mountain and I don’t think any of them are Shasta which has a large bump on the northwest side. My best guess is all of them are Hood taken from the east side. Have these people ever actually been in Oregon or Washington?

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