Mount Saint Helens

Leaving the hotel behind before 7 AM on Tuesday, June 18th of 2019, we made a first stop at Voodoo Doughnut downtown. The wait wasn’t long and we had a delicious, albeit unhealthy, breakfast to start our day.

From downtown Portland we headed North on Interstate 5, traveling to the exit just beyond Castle Rock, WA. Our first destination of the day was the Johnston Ridge Observatory at the opposite end of the Spirit Lake Highway. Stopping at various points along the route, we enjoyed the scenery, the highest elevations obscured by low cloud cover.

As one gets closer to the destination, the trees take on an almost digital appearance, something that’s difficult to adequately describe. The dense forests of mountain pine look sort of like trees in Minecraft, but more faithfully rendered. It’s an interesting thing, to say the least.

Photos from the trip East along Spirit Lake Highway are above.

It was 10 AM when we finally reached our destination. Upon arrival, I ventured off on my own, along the trail leading in the direction of Spirit Lake. The blasted volcano cone was still far too well-hidden behind cloud cover for me to get any worthwhile shots of Saint Helens itself, so I wandered for a couple of miles, hoping to capture some other stunning scenery.

I only started back, to meet up at the observatory when the morning clouds began burning away as the sun warmed the air.

Photos from that interval of hiking are below.

I was able to enjoy her apex being disrobed as the clouds dissipated, revealing her snow covered higher elevations near the cone. The return hike to the observatory was positively beautiful. We took a moment to stop at the Loowit Viewpoint on our way West, back along Spirit Lake Highway.

Photos as Saint Helens emerged from the clouds are below.

Returning to Interstate 5, we returned South, taking the exit at Woodland to follow the Lewis River Road Eastward. Our next stop was a good distance away and we didn’t arrive at Ape Cave until just before 3 PM. Lacking adequate light sources, our travel down the lava tube was trimmed down and my ability to take photos was limited to near the entrance. I’ve included a couple of those below.

Leaving Ape Cave, we decided to continue Northeast, hoping to find some captivating vistas approaching Muddy River and the Lava Canyon Trailhead. We were not disappointed. Approximately an hour after departing from Ape Cave, we experienced some positively stunning scenery.

The photos from that interval are below.

We returned to our hotel room in Portland roughly 11 hours after we’d started out that morning. It had been a long day, but an absolutely worthwhile one. It’s never a disappointment to experience the beauty emerging from devastation like that.

We’d previously visited Mt. Saint Helens in June of 2017, and I had been there in June of 2014 as well. When I was growing up, my mother had a glass jar filled with ash from the eruption that took place only a year and a half after I’d been born. That ash that had found its way as far as South Dakota and Minnesota fascinated me when I was young…and the volcano itself grew to fascinate me as I became an adult.

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