Mother Nature can awe you like no other thing. “Awe” is a feeling of reverential respect mixed with fear or wonder. “Awesome” is that which exudes this feeling.

Though the first time I saw Grand Canyon at age 13 I didn’t appreciate it, the next time I saw it at age 38, it did. It blew me away to a point that I had to quit my life in South Texas to move to Arizona. scale of the land is awesome. Haven’t regretted this move for a second.

The Swiss Alps… Yosemite… Sedona… Brice Canyon… All these places were mind-blowing when I first saw them. “Awesome” is the perfect word.

Mount Saint Helens was awesome too. Burnout completely dissipated. Moments like today made all aggravations of traveling worthwhile…

(It’s unfortunate that we’ve cheapened English by overusing “awe” as in saying, “This breakfast burrito is awesome!” It doesn’t seem appropriate that Nature’s most powerful spectacles merit the same descriptive adjective as a burrito – and of course I’m guilty of this language sin).

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Got up before 6. Made coffee. Was on the road before 7. Got a burrito (of course), which I usually don’t eat but while traveling. However, a breakfast burrito at the beginning of a long drive is perfect.

My destination was Port Townsend. Though the clouds and rain were getting to me, I’d have been willing to spend another day in a charming town and look at the ocean while typing words and developing photos. Why not?

And Port Townsend is charming. It’s right by the sea. There’s no sign of port machinery like at Port Angeles. It’s a former fishing community that now caters to tourism. While approaching town, a part of the sea was illuminated by a hole in the clouds, and through the mist I didn’t know if I was looking at the sea or sky. I saw a bright spot of gold that communicated how beautiful this town must be in August. May have to come back here!

I wasn’t feeling the need to stop though. Frankly, I wanted to start moving east. Unless the Good Lord has other plans, I intend to make Upstate New York soon, and see my mother. Being on the Pacific ocean means there’s a lot of ground to cover.

However, there would be one more detour before moving eastward, and that would be Mount Saint Helens. It would add several hours. I wanted to see it, ultimately, because a Creationist geologist named Steve Austin says there are quickly-deposited strata of rock that evince patterns identical to Grand Canyon, and serve as evidence of a far, far younger Grand Canyon compared to what conventional geologists say. I realize you may have no idea what I’m talking about, but that’s for another time.

Well, didn’t see the strata. But I sure saw the volcano! Wow!

Like I said, it was an awe-inspiring moment. Mother Nature blew me away. The volcano is huge. Moreover, the mist softened the light to bring out spring colors that made for the exact type of photography I love. I can stand at one vantage point for hours and take 100 photos because the shadows and colors are always changing as the clouds move. One moment of perfect alignment can make all the difference. I love firing away for that one perfect moment.

I’m not saying I found it through the many photos I took. But I feel I got close (and I’ll post more later). The happiness felt for four hours in the cold, blustering winds of this part Washington was the best part of my travels so far – better than the best of Yosemite. I could have stayed until sunset, but clouds and rain were coming in, and the desire start heading east burned.

Though along the way I did make it into Mount Rainier National Park, the clouds were everywhere, and I couldn’t see the mountain. I wasn’t going to wait this out. I started heading towards Yakima and figured I can come back.

Drove for several hours until I made it to Vantage, Washington on the Columbia River. The rain shadow created by the Cascade Mountains – the area of drier earth created by the mountains blocking Pacific moisture from migrating here – is every bit as powerful as the rain shadow created by California’s Sierra Nevada. Whereas Eastern Washington may not technically be a desert (getting less than 10” of rain per year that is), it’s totally devoid of trees. It’s probably as brown as Mojave in August.

Got a motel. Fell quickly asleep.