13 miles of hiking • 3000' elevation gain •
After a weekend off from hard hiking, my friend Tom from BCEP called out on facebook to see if anyone would like to join him for a somewhat strenuous, 13 mile hike by Mount St Helens. I responded, as did fellow Mazama member Prajwal (whom I met when he was our assistant during BCEP), and his partner Dan. I added my partner Zane to the mix (first time he has actually joined me hiking with Mazama friends) and our friend Jason, who just moved here from Florida. I was happy to mix two worlds, as I feel like my time with the Mazamas is always separate from hiking with my partner.
I could tell Jason, who is a photographer/filmmaker, was absolutely geeked at the landscape of the blast zone, as we passed by graveyards of trees and fields of Foxglove, False Hellebore (which can only said as if you are speaking of a metal band), Lupine, Indian Paintbrush, and the silly muppet looking Old man of the Mountain. We all jokingly watched for the spirit of the 16 cats that were buried with Harry Truman, the man who would not leave his lodge at Spirit Lake.
While the gain was somewhat significant on this dry, exposed trail, I never felt like it was that strenuous. The switchbacks to the summit are pretty gradual. I kept myself pretty covered with a sun shirt, rather than caking on the sunscreen. Views were amazing at every step, between Mount St Helens, Spirit Lake, Mount Adams (whose summit was cloud covered, though various reports I saw say the summit had thunderstorms and hail yesterday.) Clouds obscured other peaks but it was a beautiful day.
On the summit Praj noted the clouds changing and the presence of a lightning rod, and the decision for a hasty descent was made. Probably for the best, as we started to hear thunder when we got to the observatory.
This is probably one of the most beautiful hikes in the blast zone of Mt St Helens. Minimal people, until you get back to the paved trail near the observatory.