Adventure Log: Mt. St. Helens

February 25, 2022

I should, I suppose, have gotten a jump on yard work today. But I’m not much for shoulds. A sparkly day followed by eight days of predicted rain? Nope. The mountain it is.

I catch the early sunrise at home. With no clouds, it won’t be much more of a spectacle from Eagle Rock than it is from here. And I don’t want to drive at o’dark fifteen and a frosty 23 degrees. And I don’t even know if the Rock is accessible.

My little town is beautiful and sparkly in the early light, everyone but me still cozy inside, and I circle the block on my way to Avenue Espresso to capture the street scape.

A couple miles after leaving the interstate, following the briefest glimpse of the sun beginning to lighten up the side of Mt. Rainier, I hit a fog bank. I’m glad I wasn’t here in the dark, but when the Vichyssoise-ness thins a bit, the bare trees are so beautiful I have to pull off the road twice to worship.

The fog dissipates as soon as I leave the prairie and begin to climb; the temperature drops to 19 when I reach snow.

It was a good call on Eagle Rock, the viewpoint lot is barely open, and there’s a photographer there. I can’t squeeze past him, and there is no reason to, the snow is deeper beyond his mini-truck. He hastens to put his equipment in his truck to get out of my way, but I tell him not to, I’ll just back out the way I came. (Turns out, there is no egress at the other end of the lot anyway.)

I had hoped to sit in the car and write a bit at the Castle Lake overlook, but it’s inaccessible, so I go on to Coldwater Lake and drive down to the boat launch for a while before continuing across the bridge to the Hummocks trail lot, the end of the winter road. No one there, hooray.

Not all that sparkles is gold, and I’ve always preferred silver. It’s a spectacular glittery day.

The entire loop trail has snow on it, but it’s powdery and four sets of boots have gone before me. It’s not deep and not at all a slippery problem. I am reminded that I need to see if my malfunctioning pole can be repaired. I kind of forgot about that over the winter. If not, I’ll be needing a new pair.

Looking down on the seemingly lazy, though loud, North Fork Toutle River—which can barely be made out in this photo—I realize I can’t even think the words North Fork Toutle without flashing back forty years when the stunning eruption sent more than 400 million tons of sediment down the river. Enough to bury Portland to a depth of 300 feet had it been in its path. Think Vesuvius and Pompeii.

Back in the parking lot, two hours later, there are three more cars in the lot, and a woman crossing the lot carrying snowshoes, heading up the road to the Coldwater Ridge trail, which would be a gorgeous snowshoe hike. She returns, snowshoes on across the bare pavement, as I’m putting my boots in the back of the car.

“Forget something?” I ask.
“Yes,” she sighs, “I had just gotten the snowshoes on when I realized it, and I’m already behind schedule.” She tells me the story. A guy at Eagle Rock was stuck in the snow, no four-wheel drive, no chains. She had a shovel in the car, so she helped him. “I think you were there just ahead of me,” she adds. “Have you been here about an hour?” I check my watch.
“More like two and half,” I say.
“Oh,” she says, “maybe it was someone else. The guy said someone had been there just ahead of me.”
“A photographer?” I ask. “Blue truck?”
“Yep,” she says, “that’s the one.”
Is it wrong of me to be deliriously glad I had told him not to leave on my account, and gotten stuck on my watch? I didn’t have a shovel or chains either, nothing I could have done. My all-wheel drive would not have helped him. I felt bad for her though.

A carful of loud women has pulled in while we chatted, heading with snowshoes toward the trail I was on. Snowshoes are definitely not needed, but they will have fun. And I’m glad not to be sharing the trail.

After another stop at the lake to eat lunch and read, I head back down the road, stopping to admire the icicle cliff and Mt. Adams.

Home again by 1:30, I worship my mountain from a bit farther away.

5 thoughts on “Adventure Log: Mt. St. Helens

  1. So glad you made it out there. Looks like more snow than when I ventured out that way last. Brava. Gorgeous photos and a nice reminder that we have a few more weeks until spring. Bring on the gray and rain. The next good surge of sun will send shoots of pure hope up through the snow. There is change happening beneath all that white. I’m ready.

    Liked by 3 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s