Johnston Ridge, Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, 06/26/10

Mount St. Helens erupted a few months before I was born. I just missed it. It also erupted about two-thousand miles due west of where I was born. So I didn’t just miss it, I guess. Sometime in elementary school a classmate came back from a trip Out West with a plastic baggie of Genuine Mount St. Helens Ash—bought, no doubt, on the side of the road somewhere in Montana or South Dakota. For many years that would be the closest I’d come to the mythical, prototypical volcano of my prepubescent fantasies: perfectly conical, oozing a fiery red glow down its flanks, and surrounded by prime dinosaur habitat. Volcanoes existed only in Earth’s far-distant past or its unbelievably exotic locales. They weren’t in Wisconsin; they weren’t near Wisconsin.

Well, it’s twenty years later and I’ve spent the last eight of it living in exotic Washington, home to five volcanoes, including, obviously, the majority of Mount St. Helens.

I’d had last weekend circled on the calendar for several months, as I’d pinpointed the date of a full moon rising over Mt. Rainier. Since snow levels at the particular area in Mt. Rainier National Park that I’d planned on going to weren’t quite low enough for me, as the weekend approached I began to look elsewhere.

And then Saturday morning arrived and I found myself sitting on the couch watching soccer. Nicole is so used to leaving at 05:00 that she was certain we weren’t going anywhere if we were still sitting on the couch at 11:00. This was all part of my master plan, though. It wasn’t going to work out for us to backpack anywhere, or camp anywhere, but if we left later in the day than normal, we’d be hiking in the late afternoon and could hang out until sunset and, hopefully, moonrise as well. Leaving West Seattle as late as we did (~14:00) meant that we wouldn’t arrive until about ~17:00. That said, both Nicole and I were surprised when Google Maps told us it didn’t take 4-5 hours to get there. We just always assumed it was a long, long ways away.

Anyway! This would be our first time to Mount St. Helens, a mountain we’ve rarely even seen.

We took I-5 south to WA-504 (Spirit Lake Highway) and drove it to its end. We arrived to the large, completely full parking lot at Johnston Ridge Observatory, ~4000′.

In the blast zone at Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument.

The views of Mount St. Helens from the highway are outstanding, but once on Johnston Ridge the views are awe-inspiring. Seeing this live really reinforced the massive destructive power of the eruption.

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Navaho Peak, 06/28/09

Somehow, Nicole and I had yet to truly reach a summit. It’s probably because we’d never picked a hike with the summit of a mountain as our destination. On Mt. Aix, we came close, only to be turned back by fear and thunderclouds. At Marmot Pass earlier this year, summiting Buckhorn Mtn. had been a thought until full backpacks and bum knees made us think otherwise. So reaching a summit was overdue, and Nicole in particular really wanted to accomplish that goal.

Mt. Stuart and The Enchantments Range from Navaho Peak.

Mt. Stuart and The Enchantments Range from Navaho Peak.

Cousin Bobby, who accompanied us on our hike to Goat Lake two weekends ago and didn’t break a sweat the entire time, wanted to go out again. We wanted to take him somewhere impressive, as we only have a few more free weekends until his internship ends. We also wanted to make him sweat.

Our friend David, who just returned from teaching English in Mexico for ~1.75 years and is staying with us at the moment, insisted that he had boundless energy and didn’t want to be left behind. He may have been exaggerating, and he might be regretting his decision at this very moment.

Our destination was chosen earlier in the week: Navaho Peak, in the Teanaway area. Like last week, we were unpleasantly surprised to find that Navaho Pass was declared WTA’s Hike of the Week. Undeterred by this obvious and repetitive display of telepathic plagiarism, we kept the plans in place as they were.


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Mt Aix, 06/29/08-06/30/08

After a good week or so of searching guidebooks and websites for a high-altitude trail that maybe–just maybe–wasn’t completely covered in snow, I finally came across a few different references1 of the Mt Aix trail. Most were at least a year old, and therefore the conditions they described weren’t really applicable to this Spring’s stubborn snows and late melt; but there was a trip report from the end of May at that was quite detailed. I decided that a month’s worth of southwestern exposure–including the three or four 80-90° days leading up to the day(s) of our hike–would’ve had a significant impact on the snow level, and that if we were lucky, we’d be able to make it prett’ near to the top. With the weather clear and hot, we’d also be able to fully appreciate the views that everyone assured would be there if it weren’t for those darn clouds. So: good weather, good views, and a hike with a difficulty rating I’d have to hide from Nicole. I stopped at REI and bought myself the Bumping Lake #271 Green Trails Map.

Since this weekend was our first wedding anniversary, we decided to elongate the trip by car-camping somewhere near Bumping Lake on Saturday night.

I have to take time out here to mention that this was our first time driving along WA-410, and it definitely will not be the last. It’s a great drive with amazing views. At one point, just after entering Mount Rainier National Park, I believe, there’s a great reveal of The Mountain, which led Nicole to exclaim: “Mother of God!” I don’t think she was very far off.

Mt Rainier from WA-410

Mt Rainier from WA-410.

Once off of Highway 410, there seemed to be dozens of side-of-the-road sites along Bumping River, but since it was a beautiful Saturday, almost all were occupied, and we didn’t even bother turning into the Forest Service pay-sites. Just before Bumping Lake there’s a no-fee Forest Service campground called Bumping River Crossing, and that’s where we pulled in for the evening. It had an outhouse and we brought two bottles of Cristalino that we weren’t going to carry up Mt Aix the next day, so it was more than adequate. The campground was populated, but still nearly half-empty, and we settled into a quiet site away from the river and collected twigs and branches for a small but necessary campfire–for the S’mores, of course.

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