Five H’s

It was an H-themed day. I made another trip to Mount St. Helens. I know it’s old news to you guys, who see this destination pretty regularly on my blog, but the weather was cooperative and some of the photos turned out pretty nice. So off we go.

I looked out across the beautiful Toutle River valley as I drove toward the mountain, which you can see there at the left, dusted with early season snow.


There were occasional flashes of sunlight in the morning, so the plan was to get to the Johnston Ridge Observatory as quickly as possible. The plan paid off and the views were outstanding as they always are when the mountain is visible.

The observatory is mostly closed, but it’s still the best place for a view, as these people discovered. Almost everyone wore a mask and socially distanced from different family groups.
The overlook at Johnston Ridge Observatory is always great, but when there are no clouds covering the mountain, it’s spectacular.
My eye was caught by the spring green in the valley. I assumed the recent rains have brought things back to life here, the way my yard came back to life.


There are multiple trails around the observatory, that will bring you to a couple of landmarks, such as this monument to the people who died in the 1980 eruption.
This car club was touring and overlapped my stops. It was fun to see all those candy-coloured pristine cars together. Also – note the empty parking lot. It’s clearly a pandemic thing.
One last look at the mountain. I like how this shot shows people leaning over the fence and looking.


A great hike for an off-season day is the Hummocks Trail, which I have showed you before. Sorry, it’s all repeats today! Again the parking lot was mostly empty, and so it was a piece of cake to hit the trail. Hummocks are hunks of mountain that blew to bits with the eruption. The force of the explosion blew these great hunks of dirt and rock all over the place, forming unexpected tiny hills and valleys, which eventually resulted in the introduction of new streams and ponds and such into the previous landscape.

The weather gradually became cooler and clouded up, and I was grateful for the decision to head to the observatory first. At the observatory, open skies are best for viewing. At the hummocks, everything most interesting is quite close up.

A panoramic shot, showing what the hummocks and tiny ponds look like. Trail on the right is along the ridge of one of the hummocks.
I was trying to be clever and bring in some of the great Autumn colours into the shot. It’s not a great shot, but the red is sumptuous.
An interesting view of hummocks, and one of the little valleys they have created.

(more) HIKING

A new bridge over one of the small creeks in one of the brand new forests that have emerged since the eruption.
One of the many many ponds formed by hummocks. Needless to say, birds are big fans of the Mount St. Helens National Monument.

Across highway 504 from the Hummocks Trail is the parking lot for Coldwater Lake. I think this is an exceptionally pretty lake and I’m surprised I hardly ever hear people raving about it, since so many people go to St. Helens, I assume they must also go to this lake.


Coldwater Lake is near Mount St. Helens, gorgeous, free, public access. Lots of things to love about this spot.
One thing I love best about the Coldwater Lake trail is this sturdy wide boardwalk that is wheelchair accessible.
The boardwalk takes you the short distance to a tiny island off shore.
From the boat launch, you can see how the boardwalk connects afternoon strollers to the island.


It isn’t just that the area is beautiful, it’s that it’s beautiful after recovering from such trauma. Awww, that’s kind of like people, huh? We get so much more beautiful after we’ve survived something shocking.

On this trip it finally occurred to me that the entire highway 504 had to be rebuilt. It follows the exact valley that the worst of the devastation from the pyroclastic flow, and resulting landslides and mud-and-ash slides and flooding followed. These flows ripped the valley to shreds – including roads. So all the roads there now are new. All the bridges are new.

Hoffstadt Creek Bridge, probably the most spectacular of the 14 bridges built along Highway 504 after the eruption.

Hoffstadt Creek Bridge is one of fourteen bridges constructed along Highway 504 that stretches east from Interstate 5 in Washington state. It is probably the most remarkable of the fourteen, which may explain why there is an overlook built, with an information sign.

Some fascinating facts about the bridge.
No one was here when I arrived. As soon as I showed up, multiple other cars pulled in. Tourists often do that: pull in where someone else pulled in, to go see what that person is looking at. I find it fascinating and hilarious.

So how many H’s was that? Five, if you count both “hiking” as one. But I forgot the best H of all: I left the mountain happy. With great weather, great views, great trails and all of them spiced up with October colours, how could I be anything but?

13 thoughts on “Five H’s

  1. Haven’t been there for a while (2004). Nice to be close enough to visit without having to fly halfway across the country.

    As for turists . . . yep. Worse in Yellowstone, where, if you stop at an overlook or scenic area, odds are a bus with tourists will be right on your heels (it happens so often that we plan escape routes).

    Nice post, as usual.

    1. So funny that you mention Yellowstone, because that is exactly the place I was thinking of. Yes, I do like being so close to Mt. St. Helens. I can see the peak from a hill half a mile from my house. The drive from my house to the Johnston Ridge Observatory is only an hour and 45 minutes. Easy trip.

  2. What magnificent views Crystal, what a gorgeous place to visit.

    Strangely, whenever I see films or clips of America, all that seems to be shown are jam-packed cities full of massive buildings or rocky desert areas. This is so beautiful.

    1. Hi Sue! Thanks for visiting. Yep, I live over on the West side of the country, where there is more open land than there are people. I’m close to the Pacific Ocean, so it’s pretty wet where I live too – thus the forests. The whole country has big open spaces though, and now that you mention it, you are right: our exported images are often of cities or the splendid deserts. I have to admit, I get a much better look at the rural open spaces of countries through the eyes of other bloggers. I was astonished to see vast empty mountainous landscapes in India on a friend’s blog. I thought India was shoulder to shoulder people across the country. ha ha.

    1. I truly do enjoy being outside. Now that the rains have started again, I remember that I like being outside even when it’s raining. Views are often more inspiring if there is no rain, however, ha ha! Hey my friend. Good grief it’s been so long. I honestly almost never go to the Portland area anymore. I went a few times when there was such a flurry of coordination with the GoFundMe donations and trips to Warm Springs, but now that it has wound down, I mostly stay home except when I go walking or exploring for mental health reasons! I am grateful all the time that I live in a place where I can go outside and still be COVID safe. Imagine if we were each living in apartment blocks in a city center: it could be just as risky going for a walk as going to a grocery store. I recently went to the coast too, so I’ll post those photos soon.

      1. I’ve thought long and hard about going back to apartment living as It’s getting too hard to do the work here and H is no help in that department. Not much inside either. But the rent helps. I walk here everyday and have a new walking partner but he walks so much faster. He doesn’t mind that I’m slow since his wife can’t walk anymore. He loves to talk and I can’t talk when I’m walking so it works out great. I’m ready for Covid to end and hopefully while I can still get out and about. After today, I think my shopping days are over until I no longer need a mask. I’m glad you have such a beautiful place for isolating at home. It couldn’t be more perfect.

  3. Happy is the most important H. I remember seeing photos of the explosion in a book when young and they left a lasting trauma. I’m terrified of volcanoes ever since. I’d go there with you though.

    1. I can see four volcano peaks from where I live, so I had to make peace with volcanoes long ago. I did the same thing when I lived in Alaska and in California, where little earthquakes happen all the time. You get used to it and it’s no longer scary. Yes, when visitors come, this is one of the main go-to places I take them, since it’s so close and so remarkable. I’d drop everything to be your tour guide. :o)

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