September 23-26 - Mount St. Helens Volcanic National Monument, Cougar area
Once again it is raining on the day we move. We left Silver Lake and drove to Cougar, WA which is southwest of Mount St. Helens. We are staying at Cougar RV Park just outside of the small mountain community of Cougar. It rained hard all day Monday so we just stayed inside once we got set up.
It was not raining as hard on Tuesday morning and let up a little after lunch so we took a drive and explored Yale Lake and Swift Reservoir. We took a side trip to the Ape Cave and Lava Canyon area and decided if the rain lets up before we leave on Friday morning that we will come back here and hike in this area. This is a beautiful area and we are hoping the weather clears so we can get a view of Mount St. Helens from the south and east sides.
It was still raining on Wednesday so we decided to again stay inside and relax today.
We woke up Thursday morning to partly cloudy skies so we headed to Lava Canyon. We will not have enough time to hike in both Ape Cave and Lava Canyon so we decided to skip Ape Cave as we have hiked in lava tubes before.
On the way to Lava Canyon we hiked the Trail of Two Forests, a ¼ mile loop trail that follows an ancient lava river through both old forest, now cast in stone, and a new forest that has risen from the black basaltic lava.
The old growth trees were surrounded by the lava flow and as the lava cooled and the trees burned casts of the trees were made. This cast is of a huge tree that had have fallen.
There were a number of casts of trees that remained standing- some of these were very deep giving us an idea of how deep the lava flow actually was.
This was a great short hike to get our day started.
We then hiked Lava Canyon, a beautiful canyon that lay hidden for centuries beneath lush evergreen forests until the May 18, 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens. A surge of hot gas, ash and pumice boiled out of the crater and scoured nearly 30 feet of ice off St. Helens’ Shoestring Glacier. Water, ash and rock mixed, forming a thick slurry that raced down the mountain and into the Muddy River drainage. A 15 foot wall of mud and rock swept into Lava Canyon and scoured and swept away the forest that had hidden the canyon exposing beautiful waterfalls and rock formations. The trail crossed the river on a metal bridge and climbed along and beside beautiful cliffs.
The trail then crossed the river on this suspension bridge. Nancy had a somewhat difficult time crossing this bridge as it swung above the river. Rex, of course, loved the bridge and tried to make it swing even more!
We got a great view of some of the beautiful waterfalls in this canyon from the middle of the bridge.
The trail looped back along the opposite side of the river to our starting point. When we got to the end of the trail we were greeted by this cute chipmunk busily eating his breakfast. We really enjoyed our hike on this beautiful trail.
We then drove to the northwest side of Mount St. Helens to Windy Ridge. On the way we got a great view of Mount St. Helens which received some snow over the last couple of nights.
The road up to Windy Ridge goes through miles of standing-dead and blow-down forests. Once inside the National Monument everything is left to recover naturally so there was a lot less reforestation than outside the Monument.
We stopped at an overlook of Spirit Lake where we could see what is left of the log mat that completely covered the lake after the eruption. The logs are slowly sinking to the bottom of the lake.
When we got to Windy Ridge it was living up to its name as the wind was blowing fairly hard. Unfortunately, the clouds had once again covered the crater so we didn’t get a very good view from here. We ate our lunch in the Jeep and then listened to a very informative and interesting talk on the eruption by a park ranger. After the talk we decided to brave the wind and climb the 368 steps up to the top of Windy Ridge.
Once we made it to the top we had a great view of Spirit Lake. The small log mat at the bottom center of this picture show where Harry Truman’s Lodge was located before it was buried beneath the landslide deposit and Spirit Lake. The location lies approximately 240 feet beneath today’s lake surface. There is also a great view of Mount Adams from here but it was too cloudy today.
We enjoyed our visit to Mount St. Helens even though it was so rainy. We were glad that the weather cleared up enough for us to have a great day exploring the area.