After spending several hours at the Mount St Helens Visitors Center, we headed back down the mountain to the Toutle River valley. Our RV is parked at Silver Cove RV Park just past Toutle. We noticed several interesting landmarks on our way up the mountain and had time to explore them more thoroughly on the way down. We ended up at the Toutle Diner, RV Park and Laundry.
Our first stop was a Bigfoot sighting. Johnny spotted him on our way up and the rest of us wanted to see him too. So Tom pulled into the Bigfoot parking lot and we got out to have a look. Johnny posed next to him, trying to look as scary as Bigfoot but not succeeding very well. Everyone else got back in the truck but I looked stepped across the parking lot to an A-frame house. Turns out the bottom floor of the A-frame was buried by the lahar on May 18, 1980. Because it had just been completed, no one ever lived in it. It was a graphic reminder of the impact the explosion had on the lives of the people in the valley.
We also stopped at the tiny Toutle Post Office. Val had to mail a package, so the rest of us waited in the truck. Tom spotted this sign across the street. We decided it should say “last chance for gas.”
The most interesting stop was the Toutle Diner, RV Park and Laundry. I spotted it on the way up the mountain and thought it looked like a great place to eat a late lunch. It looked warm, cheerful and inviting on a rainy, chilly day. We thought the combination of a Diner and laundry was inspired. You can put your laundry in the washing machine, begin your meal, then let your laundry dry while you finish. All the RVs in the park looked like they were parked permanently.
No other customers were in the Toutle Diner when we entered. Stacks of magazines and other miscellany were scattered all over. If the owner / cook / waitress hadn’t welcomed us right away, we might have headed back out the door.
But we were warmly welcomed by Lisa. The special for the day was meatloaf, which Val promptly ordered. Tom got a burger, Johnny got fish, and I had a chef salad. The food was served hot and delicious. It was colorful and fresh. Lisa explained that she worked for other people for years and had decided to go into business for herself. She cooked what she felt like but insisted that it be local – as much as possible – and that it be presented professionally. We each had a bite of the meatloaf. Wonderful! But everyone’s food was good. We didn’t have room for the fresh-baked desserts, but Lisa gave us each a taste of her bread pudding.
One of the joys of traveling is finding unexpected gems like the Toutle Diner. If you are ever heading to Mount St Helens, take time to check it out.