I have a habit of deciding to go on hikes on a whim. I may or may not have water or even an idea of where the trail leads, but I’m always game for a long walk.
This morning I woke up restless and feeling like getting out of town. So I drove 70 miles north of Portland to Mt. St. Helens. I chose the north side of the mountain, because I wanted to see where the eruption occurred.
In keeping with my last-minute lack of preparedness, I hadn’t checked the weather and wasn’t expecting the thick fog that enveloped the roads at the 1,000 – 3,000 ft elevations. It made for a somewhat uncomfortable drive. Eventually, though, I climbed out of it and pulled over to marvel at the beauty of the clouds.
Earlier in the day, I had stopped at Coldwater Lake – a lake made when debris from the eruption dammed up Coldwater Creek. It was so foggy that I couldn’t see much, although I did see a family of geese.
The hike I chose was called the Hummocks Trail. “Hummocks” are geographical elements (hills, ponds, creeks, gullies) all created from the eruption. It’s an amazing trail, where huge (think 6 stories) piles of rock and ash create little micro climates. Where an 1/8 mile walk can take you from rock-strewn bare ground and toppled trees to a verdant flower-strewn meadow. And, teasing me through the slowly lifting clouds: glimpses of St Helens.
The gaping hole in the crater is where the entire side and top of the mountain blew off nearly 25 years ago. While much of the valley has renewed itself, the area in the direct line of the eruption still looks like an alien moon scape.
It was extraordinary. I hiked some more and took about 4,000 pictures of wildflowers and other views of the mountain, but I’ll spare you them. Except maybe for one more…
Remember the peek at the peak shot above? Here’s that same spot a few hours later.
All pictures taken by me.