A friend of mine from the Seattle area sent pics from Mt. St. Helens a week ago. It was so beautiful at Mt. St. Helens, with wildflowers and water flowing in the streams. I scolded myself for still not having hiked the mountain, which I can see as I leave the driveway of my house. So close, and yet so far.
I teased Andre and said I would bully him into going again one day. He said he’d be happy to go again, and if we do, it should be right away because the wildflowers were blooming and the creeks were still running. I said, “Sunday?” Et viola.
He drove south and I drove north and we met on Highway 12 and then rode together for the last 1 1/2 hours to Windy Ridge, on the east side of Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. There is a large parking area there, some great overlook points, and a toilet. The wind tried to knock us around as we got all our gear together, but we won the battle and before 9am we hit the trail.
At first the wind made me irritable. It was almost hard to talk to each other with clothes flapping around us and hair in my mouth. I ditched my sun hat immediately. If you look at the map, you see the trail first heads south along the side of the ridge, then curves west. When we went west, that took us out of the worst wind. When we crossed the ridge and went down into the valley, we passed out of the wind entirely. Then, with the sun in my eyes, I missed my hat.
Everyone around here knows the date the mountain blew, and remembers where they were when it happened and has a story to tell about it. But for those of you who don’t have this special connection, it was May 18, 1980. At 8:32 a.m., there was an almost horizontal explosion to the north, accompanied by the world’s largest landslide in recorded history, and a pyroclastic flow (hot gas and volcanic rock) that crashed through the valley.
Forty years later I find it amazing both that there is so much life here now, and conversely, that I can still see the devastating effects of the volcanic eruption.
After wandering around in the valley, splashing in the creeks, and stopping for snacks and conversation, we packed up and turned around and headed south toward the mountain. In the distance we could see a waterfall, and that was our next destination.
The termination of the trail was mostly on grey pumice and boulders in the direct sunlight. We rested, but not for long. Soon after we came across the largest stream we had seen that day, and though we were tired and thinking about the cold beers in the cooler in Andre’s car at the parking lot…we ended up staying here a bit. Andre filtered some water and we swapped out warm dregs for icy cold snowmelt water in our water bladders. I put my feet in again. It was so cold it was like a shock. But a good shock, since we had been six hours in the driving sun at this point. We washed the salt off our faces and doused our heads in the water. It gave us the morale boost we needed to finish up the last couple miles to get home.
We gave a quiet little cheer and a half-raised fist, but that’s all the energy we could muster at the sight of the car at the lot. First order of business when we got back was to get the hot boots off and switch to sandals. We had lots of food and chilled drinks, but the wind had eased a little by then which allowed the biting flies to swarm. I sat in the shade and drank coconut water, water, and beer (thanks Andre!) until I had been bitten about 27 times. Then I announced I had had enough. Andre agreed. We skipped the picnic and drove the hour and a half back to Morton and had Mexican food and margaritas in a real restaurant. Of course, everyone had masks on except while eating, and every other table was roped off, but an actual restaurant nonetheless.