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Mount St. Helens – Hiking through a Sea of Flowers

Mount St. Helens – Hiking through a Sea of Flowers

Right after I left Seattle on the early afternoon, to drive to the Mount St. Helens, I found myself in a traffic jam. Abnormally long. And the sun burnt down like hell. Two hours later I got sick and lost my temper, so I drove off, granted myself a Mc Sundae at Mc Donald’s and went to a nearby park to cook dinner. Was it really worth it to see that goddamn volcano without a peak? Well, I couldn’t know at this point of time, that it would really be. Later on, I drove on and parked my car at a neglected viewpoint close to the entrance to the National Monument Park and slept there. I went to bed early and set my alarm to 6 AM. Then there wouldn’t be that many people up there, it was a weekend at last. At 6 AM my alarm went off, I looked outside, all grey.  Let’s sleep another hour. 7 AM, next alarm, still everything grey. Dammit, the weather would not spoil my day, would it? I got out of my car and prepared my breakfast and drove off to the Johnston Ridge Observatory, which would be the start of today’s hike. It went up and up and then, suddenly, the sun broke through the fog. I drove above the clouds, directly towards the Mount St. Helens. How great was that?

Only a few seconds after I took this picture, the Mount St. Helens disappeared in the clouds again.

When I arrived at the observatory, I got a view that I wouldn’t forget anymore. High up rose the mountain, between it and me a sea of fog. I needed about 30 minutes to really start my hike, as I didn’t really get my eyes off the spectacle.

What a spectacular view! It really left me speechless.

But slowly the clouds disappeared, which first gave my some comfortable shadow and wet air. However, without the clouds, there was another thing getting visible, something, that I would’ve never expected to be that beautiful. Flowers. Endless flowers. Like carpets, they settled each slope one more beautiful than the other one. And all this in an else rather dry volcanic landscape.

Only the logs are remnants of the vegetation before the big eruption of the Mount St. Helens in 1980. But vegetation finds it’s way back to the volcanic landscape.

It felt like walking through a watercolour painting. Here a dapple, there a dapple. Ah, why not colourful dapples everywhere? Wonderful! My day’s goal, Harry’s ridge, I reached within one and a half hours. It was only 10 AM, much too early to get back to the car already. From the ridge I had a magnificent view of the Mount St. Helens, it’s environment and the Spirit Lake.

On the left, the Spirit Lake and right in front of me the vast valley.

But wouldn’t it be great to get a little bit closer to the volcano? I remembered, that I saw a trail to some waterfalls directly below the crater on the trail map at the entrance. I also passed the turn off already. I could even see them in the distance on the slope of the mountain. So come on, let’s go! Just spontaneously setting a new goal. That that would turn out to be a monster hike again was expectable, wasn’t it? In the end, it was about 29 kilometres again. Probably a new record for a day distance. The hike on the next day I could forget now. But the 29 kilometres were worth each meter.

No problem, is it? Walking 29 kilometres through this spectacular landscape.

So I slowly hiked down the slope into the large depression in front of the volcano. Some creeks streaked through the depression, but all could be crossed with a large step. Besides of that, it was mostly dry like dust. Except for all the blossoms, that were prospering on another such sparse meadow. Slowly I approached the volcano.

Thanks to my tripod, I also have some pictures with myself on them. I think this one really shows best, how large everything was there.

It took a very long time, even if it looked to be closer from the ridge before. Typically! But after some more hours of walking through the burning sun, I finally reached the foot of the waterfalls. To be honest, it was a bit eerie to be that close to the magma chamber of the volcano.

Once again, I made it. I was directly below the crater, which’s melting water fell down this waterfall behind me.

I spent a while there, had my lunch and got to know some nice young people from Portland. Another very successful day. Even if the way back stretched very long and I could barely move at the end anymore. The unique, still so young landscape made all the effort worth it.

View from below the crater to the vast, dry, volcanic landscape around the Mount St. Helens.

With great memories, photos and sore muscles for the next day in my baggage I hit the road again, still travelling through the beautiful Washington State. Not stop: Mount Rainier!

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