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.
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,
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.
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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