Health, Hiking, Inspiration, Lifestyle, Travel

Hiking Harry’s Ridge at Mount St. Helens Amongst the Summer Flowers

“I see you and you see me.”

Greeted by Magnificent Wildflowers

I feel fortunate that I am able to visit some pretty spectacular places living in the Pacific Northwest. My recent trip to Mount St. Helens (yes there is an ‘s’ at the end) proves to be a magnificent day. On the morning drive to Mount St. Helens, she (I like to attribute the feminine gender to mountains) is behind a shroud of clouds and I was unsure whether they would burn off before we hit the trail. The day turns out to be an all-day event hiking at Harry’s Ridge near Mount St.Helens amongst the summer flowers.

We entered the Johnston Ridge Observatory parking lot mid-morning. I laced up my hiking boots and we were off to check in that morning. The park rangers were welcoming and told us about the 15 minute movie detailing the eruption that took place in 1980, the year I graduated high school! I have seen the movie a couple of times over the years of visiting and I think they updated it a bit. In the short 15-minute film you get the gist of what took place but it is hard to comprehend the destruction of the blast. At the end of the movie, just below the screen, you are surprised by curtains sliding open to reveal the majestic volcanic backdrop.

A majestic display

Encountering the Blast Zone

I did not live here in 1980 but remember that we could see ash in the upper atmosphere in the Midwest. I survived the Mount St. Helens hike another time as well. I have climbed the mountain on another occasion right to the rim to look over it with a bit of trepidation to see the steam from the inner mound. The mound was continually increasing in size and still is! Thank gosh our party was safe. I wouldn’t want to be the Baltimore man that falls into Mt Vesuvious after attempting to rescue his falling camera phone. I understand that man was safely rescued, thankfully.

On this cloudy day you could clearly see how the blast carved out the mountain and surrounding land. When the sun broke through, remnants of blasted down trees littered the hillside like orderly matchsticks. Dead and decaying tree trunks congregate on the shoreline of Spirit Lake. Trunks from the snapped-off trees leave all manner of deformity jutting skyward,

Harry’s Ridge

The Harry’s Ridge trail hike took us about six hours roundtrip. It was a Friday and we were not alone on the trail. There were couples, families, and also quite a few solo travelers. It was comforting to know that there were other people to share in the experience. At the observatory there is a trail called xxxxx trail and this lead to a couple of other trails. In fact, you can hike all the way to Windy Ridge.

It was a cloudy day with many sun breaks (a common term in the PNW) and a perfect day for hiking and photo-taking hiking—not too hot, not too cold. The scape of the land has changed forever and it is interesting to look at. After 42 years, there is also new life abounding.

Get Your Elevation On

One of my all-time dreams is climbing Mt. Everest. I guess hiking and surviving each hike is one step closer to the dream. I am calling it a dream and not a goal. I am not sure, I want to risk my life climbing into the Death Zone on Mt. Everest, though. We had a 970 ft gain to reach Harry’s Ridge from Johnston Ridge. I wore my hiking boots and was glad that I did because there was a lot of loose gravel and sediment. When we climbed Dog Mountain, I wore old tennis shoes because they were lighter and the terrain is steep so I think it made it a bit easier. The only think is, I slipped a couple of times on the loose gravel there. I guess, I need to invest in some different gear.

Day is done!

Does Age Come into Play

I turned 60 this year. I have come to conclude that it is just a number. Sixty is the new 40, right? You get out of life what you put into it. I have had some sedentary jobs lately—the plight of the modern lifestyle, and need to get back into a routine of exercise. I do like working out at the gym but, in the summer, I like to be outdoors. Climbing in elevation gets the heart pumping and makes me feel like I have accomplished something.

When climbing to Harry’s Ridge, we followed a trail up and down hummocks, deposits of displaced land left by the blast, and through green groves (I am not sure of the variety of plant) and vast gravelly fields of wild flowers that were very sweet-smelling. I could not detect which flower was producing such a sweet, delicate fragrance.

I reviewed a flower guide and found some of the flowers that I photographed: penstemon, harsh Indian paintbrush, bramble, lupine, white avalanche lily, and what looked to be a wild lavender. I go gaga over wildflowers, and I feel like I can never take enough photos much to my husband’s dismay. He does have a point about not taking so many, but the reason I take photos is to share them.

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Health, Hiking, Inspiration, Travel

Dog Mountain Bliss Awaits As you Reach the Top

Finding your bliss

If you live in the Pacific Northwest or even if you have ever thought about travelling to the Northwest, take a look at Dog Mountain for your ultimate hiking adventure. If you are an avid hiker or even if you are not but would like a challenge, this could be for you.

If you happen to be here in the months of April through June, depending on the weather patterns, you will be greeted with an amazing display of wildflowers against an equally amazing backdrop of the Columbia River gorge and mountain views when you reach the top on a clear day. This year, we are having a late spring—and a rainy one at that. We lucked out on the day we climbed it. There was a threat of clouds rolling in but they arrived later in the day.

The hike is not for the faint of heart. I don’t do a lot of hiking but would like to do more. I am one that has a dream of climbing Mount Everest. I will be turning 60 this year so my time for doing that may be running out. After climbing Dog Mountain, it made me reconsider whether I may be living a pipe dream.

Transportation Options to Dog Mountain

A hiking permit is required to climb Dog Mountain on the weekend. You must reserve these online and they are limited. That is why we took the shuttle. I suggest that you take the shuttle from Stevenson, WA. The shuttle takes you right to the trailhead plus you get a free wrist band that allows you to hike the mountain. You can also drive and park if you have the Discovery Pass but parking is not guaranteed.

It is nice to get an early start to climbing so you can have a bite to eat from the lunch that you should pack. We only brought one container of water. Luckily, it wasn’t a very warm day. Always bring enough water! There is no bathroom at the top, so be advised to possibly ration your water intake or find a private spot to go, I suppose.

Decisions, Decisions! Which road to take.

There are two directions that are available up the mountain. There is the difficult route and the more difficult route. As we came upon the fork in the road and hesitated about which route to take, a young couple came by and encouraged us (or at least I took it that way) to take the more difficult route because it was more direct. We took the more difficult trail and it was pretty much a vertical climb all the way. We took it slow and steady stopping frequently to catch our breath and grab a sip of water. Along the way, I experienced many cleansing breaths, which are the type of breaths you get when you are running. It made me feel good that the younger people climbing also stopped occasionally to do the same.

My legs felt it on the way up but descending the mountain was harder for me and my legs were shaking. I did not wear my hiking boots and wore my old tennis shoes because I thought it would help since it was such a steep climb. I did OK going up but there was loose gravel and fell about three time on the way down. The first time I fell was at the top and a drone (which are not allowed there) probably captured my gracefulness as I waited for my husband to come and assist me to my feet. It was kind of embarrassing falling. Oh, well!

Do Research Before You Go

I poured over websites and googled information on the best time to go as well as the weather conditions which have been very unseasonable for the PNW this time of year. The morning we were supposed to go, we woke up to clouds and my phone said it was going to be cloudy. The location of the mountain was an hour away and I viewed the weather for that location which said partly sunny. It came down to my gut. Of course, I wanted it to be perfect weather and somehow it worked out to be just that. It’s only because it was the all-famed Dog Mountain and I wanted it to be perfect on my first climb. There are so many variables when hiking. I guess that is why it makes it so much fun.

For use of any photo on this blog post, please contact me for permission. Thank you.

We took the road less traveled.

The flowers were just starting to come on and I feel like I would like to go a little later to see the lupine and Indian paintbrush in full bloom. The abundant, yellow balsam root was magnificent, though! I felt like the hill was alive with the sound of music!

The map below from oregonhikers.org shows the green dotted line as the hard trail and the trail pictured to the right as the less difficult trail. The trail to the left is a little overgrown I’ve heard. It looks more wooded for sure. I had this idea of climbing Dog Mountain in the back of my mind for some time now but never really made the effort to do it. We did not see very many children on the trail. There were a few early teens but expect to take your time if you don’t hike frequently or the possibility of turning back if your child doesn’t want to continue. Of course, it didn’t help when a park guide said they saw a rattlesnake earlier and people were asking us on our decent if we had seen any. We had not.

I didn’t realize how extensive the oregonhikers.org website is. That is where I got the trail map. Check it out!

I know one thing—Dog Mountain has made me want to experience other hiking trails. Come back to this blog for another adventure we took recently.

Of course, what would Dog Mountain be without a dog or two hiking.

There were a handful of dogs that accompanied their owners. I asked a couple if their dog also experienced the same expenditure of energy climbing up a steep hillside. They seemed to think so. I suppose the dogs probably whether it better than humans.

Summer is here! Check out the latest gear for exploring the Outdoors Below. Click on the word hiking boots. Happy shopping!

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Health, Humor, Travel

Getting Caught in the Rain and Encountering Bigfoot

When is the last time you deliberately got caught in the rain? We were at Suncadia Resort in Cle Elum, Washington. The weekend we were there proved to be more like “Raincadia” vs. “Suncadia.” All in all it was a pretty good weekend weather-wise.

The mornings were peaceful and our room was on the ground level so we could just walk out of our room and overlook the hills streaming with wisps of fog that were so beautiful. Also, out our back door were the 1000 steps to the river below. It wasn’t actually 1000 steps like the sign indicated but it was a good number seeing as we were panting on our way back up.

Right out the back door of our hotel room at Suncadia Resort
“1000 steps”

At the resort, there are many activities–hiking, swimming, golf. We chose to take a walk. When we started out the weather was decent, even sunny, and the fall colors were starting to come on. An hour into it, dark clouds spelled impending rain was rolling in but we chose to forge onward. It began to rain and we were getting soaked. We eventually took shelter under a pine tree for about 1/2 hour. Time seemed to stop then.

The rain stopped and we headed to the golf course lodge for a glass of wine by the warm fire and then eventually back to our room. The same day we headed into Roslynn, WA. You may remember the television show “Northern Exposure” which was supposed to be based in Alaska. It was actually shot in Roslynn, Washingon and I immediately recognized the signature mural on the town wall and a quick google search confirmed that this was the town. There were other people also taking photos in front of the wall but the town and show, I believe, have been forgotten. There wasn’t too much else going on. I suppose it was that way in the show, too.

We carefully walked down the steps that led to the river and on the way at each landing were interesting facts about local wildlife and a casting of their footprints in the cement. They even had a casting of “Bigfoot’s” footprint. What a hoot!

Bigfoot print

I would definitely recommend this resort, especially being so close to Seattle. It is comfortable, clean, and close to nature. It is a good place to relax and catch up on life.

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Humor, Travel

Cicada at Suncadia

Out in plain sight.

We arrived at night to the Suncadia resort in Cle Elum, Washington. It was a wet, rainy night and we were glad to check into our room. My husband and I were relaxing in bed when we heard the repeated sound like ringing that lasted for a duration of 30 to 60 seconds. We were baffled by where it was coming from.

We explored the room where we thought the noise was coming from, opening closet doors and searching the bathroom and under the bed. I had a hunch what it was because I have heard a sound similar to this one. I turned on the flashlight on my iPhone and began searching the slats of the closet and nightstand. Eureka! I found it. It was a small, wheat-colored bug tucked away on the outside of the closet frame. I could see its beady little eyes and antenna slightly probing the air. It was a cicada! Actually it was kind of cute.

I am familiar with cicadas as they are prominent in the later weeks of summer in Michigan where I grew up but the sound emitted of the type there is different . The sound from this cicada was higher pitched and had a ringing tone. Well, anyway, my husband captured it in an empty coffee mug and set it outside the hotel room door. He thought it might be too cold to place outdoors. Well, it took about 30 minutes for it to get comfortable and it began “singing” again, but this time the chirping echoed upon the walls in the hallway and was just as loud. I opened the door and had to search because it was camouflaged quite well. Back into the coffee mug and this time it had to go outdoors.

Zoom in at the top left corner to see the camouflaged little fellow.

In contrast, the next morning after arriving home I was startled by a pretty ugly spider that showed up near my clothes hamper in my bathroom. We didn’t look at each other very long. I am sorry to say, my shoe came down upon the ugly, treacherous-looking spider with a smack. You get the picture. Now, cicadas, even though they look similar to roaches when they are full grown, gain my approval because of their interesting sweet sound, especially when their buzzing chorus penetrates the thick summer air giving indication to the particular stage of summer.

Don’t get me wrong. The resort hotel was quite new and clean and I would definitely go back there again. This little guy just made his way in, probably in anticipation of the cooler outdoor temperatures. Don’t we tend to go to places we are most comfortable?