Travelling back to Australia after visiting my wonderful son and daughter in law, in Banff Canada, I managed to twist my husband's arm hard enough, that he organised a 5 day stop over in Portland Oregon. My desire to visit this area had grown over the past few years of following blogs of the area, especially that of 'Linda's Lens'.
Linda very kindly offered to take a flexi day off work and take me hiking on the Johnson / Harry's Ridge Trail at Mt St Helen's - 13.6 kms, in quite hot, sunny conditions. Thankfully it wasn't in the 38C temperatures of the day before. I was even more grateful that the wildflower explosion we witnessed, hadn't wilted under those conditions.
My first view of Mt St Helens.
[Quote from the packaging of a hiking pin, I bought.]
I remember being stunned by the all the images showing the magnitude of the 1980 explosion. National geographic covered it so well. To be hiking here was a dream come true.
It was a 2 hour drive from Portland, but we managed to pull into the parking lot of Johnson's Ridge Observatory about 9am, after a short visit to Coldwater Lake. Coldwater Lake is a barrier lake, created when the mountain rushed down Toutle River.
Mt St Helens can't be seen from the observatory car park, but as we set off along the ridge, it soon came into view. I gasped in awe of its staggering, distant beauty, enhanced by the bright colours of the wildflowers surrounding us.
The scale of distance in this area is difficult to determine. Mt St Helens appears to be a short distance away, but if you had permission to hike across, it would actually take a good day to reach. This side [north] is protected to allow scientists to monitor the areas recovery. During winter, the southern slopes are actually skied on. Linda has hiked up and skied down. I am full of admiration.
As we hiked along the ridge line, Mt St Helens was almost constantly in view. A riot of colour lined the path, slid down the steep slopes, caressed the fallen trees and crept into into unbelievable nooks and crannies of the sometimes rocky terrain.
The trail dipped and rose along the ridgeline, passed through low growing bushes and barren areas, narrowed to negotiate the Devil's Elbow and climbed steeply along Harry's Ridge to our final destination and lunch spot, with its panoramic views of Mt St Helens, Mt Adams and a distant Mt Hood.
Looking back to our starting point.
The ascent to the crest of Harrys Ridge.
About 12.30 pm, saw us at the top of Harrys Ridge with a direct view to Mt St Helens.
The story of Harry's Ridge, taken from Linda's blog of a previous hike.
"Harrys Ridge is named for Harry Truman, a crotchety old man who owned a lodge on Spirit Lake. He lived alone with his cats. When the mountain threatend to erupt and evacuations were ordered, he refused to leave his home. The authorities came to take him to safety, but Harry just sat down on the steps of his home and said, "If this mountain is going to blow up, I'm going to sit here and let it take me. I have lived in this house all my life, and I am not going to live anywhere else". And that is what happened. Harry and his cats perished in the 1980 eruption, buried under tons of debris."
It was a perfect lunch spot with its 180 degree views.
Linda enjoying her lunch with Mt Adams in the background.
As we had made our final ascent along Harry's Ridge, Mt Adams and Spirit lake were constantly in our view.
The force of the eruption, had shattered trees, with the wind carrying them over the next ridge. An extraordinary large number were dumped in Spirit Lake. Thirty-six years later they are still floating here, moving at the whim of the winds. The force of the eruption also created another lake well above Spirit Lake.
First views of Mt Adams
Distant Mt Hood, which I would visit two days later.
Mt St Helens caldera, with its central dome, a mass of steaming brown lava, growing at a very, very slow pace.
Not steaming, just dust blowing.
Snow fed waterfalls at its lower lip.
The now wide Toutle River plain, of ash, mud and pumice.
A floating mass of tree trunks.
Unusual features at the end of Spirit Lake.
Shattered tree stumps
A ridge of blown over trees, all facing the same direction.
At the completion of our hike we visited the observatory to pay our park fees. Our mornings early arrival had meant the centre wasn't open, but also meant that we had had the trail to ourselves, until the later part of the day. As we walked the last kilometre, I realised just how fortunate we had been, not to have had to share the trail.
The final highlight of the day, was to view a 20 min movie of the story of Mt St Helen's eruption. It was excellent, but a surprise awaited. As the movie screen folded away, a curtain backdrop slowly lifted revealing magnificent Mt St Helens.
Finally, just a few more pics showing the grandeur, that had my happiness meter spiking throughout the day.
A totally awesome day. My deepest thanks Linda for this wonderful opportunity to explore just a small part of your magical outdoors.
I would love to read your comments.