Over The River and Through The Woods

By

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The tedium of my routine is taking a toll. Drive to work, drive AT work all day and then drive home. My days are broken up with seeing friends on my route and talking with Mom every night on my drive home, but I get restless. I AM restless.
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My friend Gretchen recently shared about  her trip to Coldwater Lake and it was all the inspiration I needed to head out to visit the lovely Mt St Helens. You can read her trip report and see her gorgeous photos here
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With hot weather in the forecast and a free day on Friday I saw my opportunity. You’d think I’d stay out of my car, right ? Nope. I drove the 2.5 hours to the blast zone. A hike along the West Boundary at Mount St Helens. Perfection.
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I plucked a card from my Gaian tarot deck before I headed out the door. The Seeker. (In other decks this equates to the The Fool card). A very auspicious beginning to be sure.
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I headed out around 5:30 AM. It was a bit later than I like hitting the road but I had been feeling a bit nervous about this adventure. There had been a mountain lion (cougar) sighting along the Boundary trail and it caused me to adjust my timing. Cougars don’t really want much to do with you. They hunt mostly at dawn and dusk so an 8 o’clock start felt safer. I carry my bear spray and my GPS when I am solo but this trip I also took a small airhorn. My best defense in an encounter is noise. I was covered.
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The drive took me through Tacoma and Olympia at rush hour. It wasn’t until I made the turn onto 505 toward Toledo that the stress began to fall away. I’m sure there is a deeper message in enduring the congestion and aggressive drivers. Everything has a cost. The lull of the country roads leading to the beautiful mountain is the reward. Greater understanding and appreciation through immersion. You could say that I became one with my drive …
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Heading over the Cowlitz River into Toledo is the gateway to serenity. I love the drive to this mountain. There are a handful of long spanning bridges and in the seven o’clock hour there was just a spattering of cars.
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I arrived at Coldwater Lake at around 8. At the boat launch the restrooms are open, clean and stocked. A short walk to the dock opens up this beautiful lake view. Nice start. I drove a bit further to the Hummocks parking lot and the trailhead for the Hummocks and Boundary West trails. The lot is big but there is no restroom. The road is closed to the Johnston Ridge Observatory. It is scheduled to open this coming week, ahead of the anniversary of the eruption (May 18, 1980).
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The Hummocks trail is a fascinating bit of history. Hummocks are the steep-sided hills left on the surface of the May 18th 1980 debris avalanch deposits. Some signage in the first quarter mile is descriptive and helpful in understanding the changes that these mounds continue to undergo. Last year when I was here I happened upon a herd of elk near the ponds. In this area you will meander through young alder forests, ponds and wetlands. Lots of beautiful ferns rising up in the skunky ponds. It’s all so … green ! The caterpillars are tented in the brush. Glad I came while they were still tiny and mostly cocooned in their tents. I am not a fan.
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As you approach the Boundary trail the mountain comes into view and remains prominent throughout most of the hike. You begin to see the scope and scale of the changes in this area.
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There are hundreds of wild strawberries and the first Indian Paintbrush have begun dotting the trail. It is dry and rocky as it gradually climbs up to where the ‘real’ climb begins to Johnston Ridge. I forgot how steep this trail is. There has been some more erosion along some of the more sketchy areas. Slow and steady here. I took baby steps and was happy to employ a trekking pole for balance.
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It’s a beautiful hike on a clear day. I saw only a handful of people all day. A man named Rick caught up to me at Loowit Pass and we had a nice visit. He helped me understand the layout a bit better and encouraged me to hike the Pumice Plain (already on my list) for the wildflowers. Looks like I’ll be back in a few weeks.
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It takes a good long solo hike like this to prepare me for the season. I logged 10 + miles as I wandered a bit beyond the Observatory and took a short walk at Coldwater Lake. The Hummocks/Boundary hike is a solid 9 miles. I get my confidence back and get a peek into how much conditioning I still have ahead of me if I hope to tackle a few of the more challenging hikes on my list. So good for the soul ♡
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I finished my adventure with a visit to Centralia. If you have never visited the historic downtown you should treat yourself next time you are in the area. My personal favorite stop is Hubbub …. a rich, colorful, creative gift shop on Tower Ave. You’ll be happy you stopped in !