GeezerHiker

July 20, 2013

Mount Saint Helens National Volcanic Monument

Filed under: Hiking — geezerwriter @ 11:25 pm

Once again, this will be mostly pictures. Friday Wanda and I drove down to Chehalis, WA by a route which was certainly the slowest possible way to get there without actually driving backwards (very much) but that’s a much longer story. This morning we left town and drove through some patented Washington fog/cloud/mist toward Mount Saint Helens to see if had changed much in the twenty years or so since we last visited. It looked like we were going to have a gloomy day studying the rocks on the ground when we suddenly punched through the top of the fog bank into a bright sunny day and were soon treated to our first of Helen herself.

First look above the fog

First look above the fog

If you look closely you can see Mount Adams just peeking over the ridge to the left of center. Adams was pretty much a twin brother of Helen before she blew her top in 1980 – both were about 12,000 feet high and symmetrically beautiful, much like the most popular views of Rainier and Baker. After blowing off the better part of a cubic mile of solid rock, Saint Helens is in the 8-9000 foot range and anything but symmetrical.

The Hummocks

The Hummocks

Our first stop was at the Hummocks, a gentle trail that winds for 2 or 3 miles through a bizarre landscape of lumpy hills that were thrown up by the violent mudflows that followed the big eruption / explosion. It is truly bizarre to walk through hills that not as old as your own daughter. I wear shirts older than this land! Near the end of the trail I began to think that the trail looked like if was following an old road and I had to mentally dope-slap myself – NOTHING is old here, Stupid!

And after this hot mud was dumped here, the Toutle River instantly began slicing through it, forming a gorge whose walls remind me of the Kulshan Caldera visible from the Ptarmigan Ridge trail in the Mount Baker area.

Toutle River carving through the Hummocks

Toutle River carving through the Hummocks

The views of Saint Helens just get better and better as you progress up the Toutle valley.

from the Toutle valley

from the Toutle valley

Another six miles up the Spirit Lake Memorial Highway is the Johnston Ridge Observatory, which is a pretty popular place on a summer Saturday afternoon,

Johnston Ridge Observatory is a popular place

Johnston Ridge Observatory is a popular place

since here even auto-bound travelers can look right up into the crater and get a powerful feeling for the enormity of what happened here on that day in May 33 years ago. The numbers and measurements are so huge that, like the distances to the stars, they ultimately mean nothing. But looking at this view:

from Johnston Ridge

from Johnston Ridge

your mind’s eye can follow along the slopes of the flanks, filling in the missing part of the mountain and you can feel the scope of it in your bones. Don’t take my word for it – I like my picture but it is a pathetic substitute for the real thing.

From here you can clearly see the dome that was built in the crater during the more recent and less violent eruptions of 2004 through 2008 (and is still growing).

The dome

The dome

A couple more pictures to close the day. If you click to expand the next one (which I recommend) it might take a moment to load, since I uploaded it in its full resolution.

Panorama - Mount Adams doing a Kilroy on the left

Panorama – Mount Adams doing a Kilroy on the left

Indian Paintbrush

Indian Paintbrush

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2 Comments »

  1. So that’s where you were this weekend, Al. These pictures are really stunning, and I did download that one in full resolution. It didn’t take all that long, and it was well worth it. I’ve never been to MSH and now I’m thinking I probably should go one of these days. Thanks for the post. 🙂

    Comment by DJan — July 21, 2013 @ 3:01 pm

  2. Wow what an awesome photo and beautiful day you two enjoyed.

    Comment by calipatti — October 22, 2013 @ 8:58 pm


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