I headed up north again this week, toward Mount St. Helens.
I didn't get out of Portland until 5:30, and then got stuck at the bridge for about a half hour while I waited for the drawbridge to come back down. 504 was covered with yellow flowers, and the drive to MSH was super quiet: the last 20 miles I saw no cars. I couldn't help but stop at most of the turn offs, as the views of St. Helens were fantastic.
I didn't get to the trailhead until about 8p, and I had 3.5 miles and one hour of sunlight ahead of me. I took off up the South Coldwater trail, trying to beat the sun, but realized I'd likely run into snow, which I didn't want to tackle in the dark. It was a real tough choice between stopping to take pictures and forging on to avoid a dark and snowy problem. The sunset was phenomenal.
Some say this equipment was mangled by the eruption. I'm not so sure.
(Click to enlarge)
I hit infrequent snow at about 3500ft, but only in patches. Because it was so dark and the snow had deposited in the etched-in-the-hill trail sections, I decided to follow my topo and take the high route. Technically, it's illegal to travel off-trail in the MSH monument, but safety first, right? The ground was soft and sandy, and the whole way up, an enormous cloud was right on my tail.
The cloud that was chasing me down. Taking a picture of it just helped its lead.
Speaking of illegality, I arrived at ridge camp without the required permit. Of course, I would see no one until the next morning down at the trailhead, so it wasn't a problem. By the time I got there it was dark, and someone was making quite a ruckus. I'm not sure if this was elk bugling (which I think is more high pitched and sustained), or a member of the dog family, but the sound bouncing off the mountain walls was super erie. Later that night, it started to rain. I soon realized I was in a cloud, and would likely remain there for most of the night.
The next morning, my tarp was soaked. Everything was fogged in, and a mini 40ft wide rainbow had formed over the camp. I made some oatmeal and Via, and then headed up towards Coldwater Peak. The peak is at about 5500ft, so I knew I wouldn't make it to the top with all this snow. I made it as far as a steep snowfield, but then turned around because I was still in a giant cloud and had no idea how steep or exposed the spot was. I headed down the overgrown trail towards the lake, where there were many elk hiding in the bushes. The whole area is packed with elk.
That archy thing is a rainbow.
Beavers amaze me. How they figure to build their lodge in the middle of the pond with the underwater entrance without watching spy movies is beyond me.
The final stretch was a short roadwalk back to the car.
I then headed up to Goat Creek. This trail tries so hard to be Eagle Creek, but doesn't do so well. I walked in a few miles, intending to hoof it up towards Vanson Peak, but then ran into a group who told me that a decomposing elk was ahead. Thinking little of it, I continued on, but the smell was unbearable, and Vanson, at 5000ft, was going to be a lost cause, so I packed it up and headed back.
MSH has to be one of my favorite areas around here. Unique and extraordinary.
16.5 miles, 2750' gained