Tuesday, January 5, 2016

The Allure of Mt. Saint Helens


Half the adventure is getting there, the rest is getting lost in its beauty.

Mt. Saint Helens on a cloud but bright summer day
Majestic Mt. Saint Helens by Calvin Hodgson CC-by-SA 4.0


Get Lost, Find Something Extraordinary

You can say that winding your way through what seems like endless rows of green pine trees is a travel nightmare. Yet, you may just so happen to stumble upon something you would have never seen had you gone on the road more traveled.

In between the wavering trees and the glistening streams that pepper alongside the roadside you will glimpse upon a grey and white giant, a fortress rising above the trees and into the heavens. This, of course, being Mt. Saint Helens.

It is not far now.

In between trying to figure where the hell we are and enjoying the splendid beauty of Washington, it emerges in full view. It is hard to think that this once green land could have been turned into molten rock and ash. Nature is always hardy and continues to grow, even amidst the threat of the mountain of doom!

It is a brisk afternoon with little wind and plenty of pine trees and sap to fill one's lungs. The sun is finicky today making brief hellos before hiding back under the cover of its clouds. From this vantage, it appears we have undershot our original destination, the Johnston Ridge Observatory.

As I make my way towards Mt. Saint Helens in what can be described as a river of rocks, I chance upon a little stream. So small, in fact, that it is easy to bound across it effortlessly. I wonder how violent and loud it would be during the Spring season.

Tiny Stream Trickles Quietly
Quiet Stream by Calvin Hodgson CC by SA 4.0

No matter! I push on towards the mountain with the sound of the stream trickling in the background and the noise of the rocks crunching and sliding beneath me. Every step does not bring the mountain any closer than the last. It still looms ominously in the distance, the shadow of the clouds makes the light dance to and fro across the landscape. This is not a place you want to get injured at. Nonetheless, this desolate and stark landscape provided spectacular views of Mt. Saint Helens and Helen's sister mountain, Mt. Adams, to the east. I do always wonder if the mountains will blow their tops like a tea kettle while I am visiting them. The foregoing earthquake would provide ample warning of such an event. Or maybe I'd get swallowed whole by a magma sink hole. Isn't life wonderful?

Mt. Adams from the point of view of Helens base
Mt. Adams by Calvin Hodgson CC by SA 4.0

Anyhow, I have yet to explore out towards Mt. Adams, but I have heard there are great ice caves during the winter when the snow starts melting. Another adventure for another time.

The day has yet to conclude but seeing as how there is a long trip back we decided to mozy on back. Along NF-83, there are some interesting rivers and streams. One such had a bridge red rusted panels.

Bridge in Mt. Saint Helens Woods

The overgrowth and isolated location of this bridge suggest it was used long ago. Perhaps used to access the construction sites of the many of the snow area parking lots. Or maybe for snowmobiles. In any case, its glory days have long since passed. A reminder of what could have been.

What started out to be a misguided adventure ended up being an unforgettable memory. Never let the misdirection distract from what is around you. Life is crazy but can bring you tantalizing moments.

A map in case you get lost.

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