Adventure Log: Camp Gigi and Harry’s Ridge

The week has been full to the brim. I met Adrian (and a mom, who returned home) at Nisqually Wildlife Refuge on Tuesday. A spontaneous Camp Gigi as he was in great need of some attention here at the end of his non-school year. (He missed 15 of his 21 months of preschool.)

We spotted dozens of tiny tree frogs—thanks to the keen eyes of Bonnie Rae Nygren, who met us there—and he was in frog heaven. Especially when I caught one for him to hold.

And more especially when he caught one himself! “I can’t believe I caught a frog!”

(Check out Bonnie Rae’s blog In Search of the Very for her stunning wildlife photography.)

We hiked in the woods twice (met Gracie the first walk and counted 22 slugs and two snails the second, and “no, you didn’t bring your specimen box so you can’t take them home for pets”) and picked strawberries in the garden.

We went to the awesome new Penny Playground in Chehalis where he played with actual children (and he was almost the only one masked because this is Lewis County). We visited Auntie Squirrel and pet a horse and fed him an apple!!! And her neighbor’s dog.

Met Aunt Becca for ice cream. He helped her with projects to earn a surprise ball at HUBBUB and got me a button for my birthday and was so proud to give it to me, gift wrapped at his insistence I later learned, when we got home. Perhaps it is a reference to pretend stories, which we only did at 5am.

On Thursday we loaded the car to go home (he only brought one stuffy!). (Really, has this been just 48 hours, the days beginning at 5am? We crammed it full!)

But there was one more adventure, the cherry on top: we played with river otters! A birthday gift from his Tia Jo. The giggles were priceless. “They don’t usually sit in children’s laps,” the staff member said. “He’s an animal whisperer,” I said. “They like me!” he giggled. He couldn’t stop giggling.

There were other animals too. Including a capybara, which I had never heard of, but he knew all the facts. And now he knows what they feel like: wiry. Unlike kangaroos that are soft. The emus were hilarious, running up and down the fence with him and mimicking his up and down. More giggling.


Friday morning—alone again—I rose early and left the house at 4:40 (ten minutes later than planned), took a short detour to the Jackson Prairie espresso kiosk and headed to Mt. St. Helen’s. It’s probably my favorite hike drive and it was stellar, as usual. (Someday I am going to rise early and find a road to photograph the silhouetted mountain rising above the ground fog south of Chehalis that always seems to be present there at daybreak. Can’t do it from a moving car on the interstate.)

I stopped at Coldwater Lake for the bathroom and to breathe the air before continuing on to the end of the road.

I was headed for a trail I haven’t been on, why that is I do not know. I’ve been on the Boundary West, Coldwater Ridge, Hummocks trails multiple times, and hiked to Loowit Falls from Windy Ridge, but never the trails from the end of the visitor’s center parking lot. And they are fabulous!

The flowers are beginning their bloom, earlier there than other mountain trails because—but for two small patches on the trail—the snow is melted. And there were avalanche lilies! It was like I caught a frog, I was so happy!

I started out on the Truman trail, took a short spur to Devil’s Point, retraced my steps and continued to Harry’s Ridge. (Why, again, have I not done this before?)

From Harry’s Ridge one can see three mountains: Adams, Hood (in Oregon), and, of course, the gaping maw of St. Helen’s. And all of Spirit Lake. I shed a tear looking over the enormous log-jammed lake, remembering canoeing on her and camping on her shore with my family. There is no recreation on her now. The moving logs are too dangerous and recreation would disturb the recovering ecosystem. And somewhere far below the surface, perhaps rocking on the porch of his cabin, is Harry Truman, who refused to leave his home that May day in 1980.

“An estimated 1 million trees were blown away from the surrounding hillside by a super-heated wall of volcanic gas and searing ash and rock, and these along with other rubble were deposited on Spirit Lake. The debris avalanche temporarily displaced much of the lake from its bed sending 600-foot-high waves crashing into a ridge north of the lake. As the water moved back into its basin, it pulled with it thousands of more trees into the lake. About 350,000 acre-feet of pyrolized trees were deposited into Spirit Lake and these shattered trees formed a floating log raft on the lake surface that is present to this day, more than three decades after the event.” Amusing Planet

(Photos of the log mat in earlier years can be found here. There is a good bit more water now, which is encouraging. I looked for a prediction of when the logs might complete decomposition, but found nothing online.)

My sisters and me on St. Helen’s, her whole self.

There were not many people until I started back. Many on the return. Like more than 100. It was hot by then. People are insane, but I am glad for it—I got the early hours to myself. I was done two miles before I was done, returning to the car hot and tired at 12:40. And after nearly eight miles on and through rocks, I stubbed my toe hard just feet from the paved bit on the parking lot approach. There goes a nail. (Speaking of nails, I’m getting a pedicure for my birthday! First one since 2019.)

I stopped at Coldwater Lake again, put my feet up and had lunch with a book.

I returned home tired, hot, sore, dirty, and so very happy. As Wynne said of Adrian’s Camp Gigi adventures, he’s living his best life. Me too.

P.S. Tomorrow (Sunday) is the last day to order “Letters from Home: An American Farm Family in World War II.” Thank you to everyone who has ordered a copy. I am gratified, and excited to get their story—the story of a generation that is almost gone—into the world. You can read about it here and here, in case you missed it. Reply here or FB message or email or text if you would like to order one.

9 thoughts on “Adventure Log: Camp Gigi and Harry’s Ridge

  1. I couldn’t love this more. All of it. Your wonder-child, being able to share a morning with the two of you (thanks for the blog-nod♡) and a great adventure report. Your photos are stunning.  I love both of your hiking destinations ! What a lucky boy and a lucky Gigi ! Thanks for the Camp Report !

    Liked by 1 person

      1. You’ve got to be kidding! No way was this piece boring. I was quite taken by (and a little jealous of) your wilderness adventures. Thank you so much for sharing your adventures with all of us arm chair hikers who appreciate the wild places and your times with your lovely grandchildren.

        Liked by 1 person

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