Harry’s Ridge Hike

On top of having three national parks in the state of Washington, we’ve also got wonderful places such as Mt. St Helen’s National Volcanic Monument to explore. And that’s where we headed today. I can’t think of a better way to spend time on the 4th of July weekend, than enjoying the nature in one of these national treasures.

We headed up to the Johnston Observatory to check in. The fee structure in National Monuments is a bit different. The area falls under the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, and is maintained by the Forest Service. As such, an America the Beautiful pass (annual national park/interagency pass) will gain entry for up to 4 people, or a NW Forest Pass gets one person in. Or you can pay $8 per person, per day. Kids 15 and under do get in free.

The fee gets you into the observatory, where they have some great info about the 1980 eruption and how it changed the landscape of the area. They show a couple of different movies throughout the day and have Ranger Talks, both inside and outside, where on a clear day you have wonderful views into the snow field now in the cone of the volcano.

Today was not one of those days.

The clouds obscured nearly all of the volcano for most of the day, and we only caught a few glimpses inside the cone as they lifted later, never catching full sight of the peaks.

I’m not sure what happened to the intro I recorded from the area over looking the volcano, so the video just sort of jumps right into things on the trail. It was just a moderate trek, less than 8 miles round trip, probably only a bit more than a thousand feet of actual elevation climbing over the course of getting to the ridge and back.

The clouds only added to the views in a way you don’t get to experience on a perfectly clear day. The views of Spirit Lake from up on the ridge were breathtaking as we stopped for lunch. Mt Adams did play a bit of peak-a-boo with us while we were up there, and had it been a clear day we would have been able to spot Mt. Hood down in Oregon as well. Something to look forward to next time.

There was just enough sun shining here and there to add to the color of all the wild flowers, primarily paintbrush and lupine, that were in full bloom, showing off reds, oranges and blues all around us.

The trail does go past the ridge to some areas that allow wilderness camping, and it’s now on my list of places to re-visit once I have a decent tent set up, as there is not going to be adequate trees for doing hammocks in the area.

There’s lots of great sources of info about St. Helens. This particular resource has info not just on the eruption, but also gets in to some of the native lore surrounding the volcano. Worth taking a couple of minutes to read.

And here’s another to check out to find out about all the tent caterpillars we saw, and while it’s from a few years back, it talks about how they work within the local ecosystem.

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