After a few days on Whibdey Island trying to bring a sense of order to hundreds of stray notes and journal pages, I am as relaxed as I can be. It’s been like the labyrinth I walked: mindful and mindless, moving forward without thought of a destination. One path, a changing a landscape with each step.
Relaxed, I’m finally ready for another hike.
My friend Casey has never been to Mt St Helens. The snow is melting and the trails are clearing. Not knowing the snow and trail status of hikes from the back of the visitor center we choose Boundary West, a favorite annual hike of mine.
The forecast shows some clearing but you never really know what you’ll get at a mountain. Like my favorite, Rainier, she makes her own weather. A fickle companion; the one you can’t seem to quit persuing. For a chance to see her in her right light you will do most anything. I continue to move through my life on faith.
The drive toward the trailhead is through the blanket of clouds. We move in and out of clearing as fog and clouds settle in around us. We catch a glimpse of St Helens and it’s enough to inspire a drive to Johnston Ridge to get a good look before the clouds fully envelope this gentle giant.
It is the right choice. The mountain seems to be hovering over a bed of fluffy white; dramatic and provocative. We don’t linger and the clouds move in as if to protect her from our probing eyes. There is a face in this beautiful mountain. Do you see it ? Call me crazy, but it looked like Einstein with a tie …
“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious”
We drive back down for a peek at Coldwater Lake in the morning sun. I hear the symphony of birds and little else. The Hummocks parking lot has two other cars. We see only two people. Onward.
At a half mile in you reach the junction for West Boundary. This trail meanders through hummocks, rocks and boulders. To Johnston Ridge it is a 5 mile climb, gaining over 2400 feet in elevation. A 10 mile roundtrip is just beyond my comfort zone but I happily climb with my friend who is seeing this place for the first time.
As we begin, the mountain has pulled up her blanket of clouds and won’t peek out again while we are there. One pair of trillium and lots of Indian paintbrush (my first sighting of the season) dot the path. The lupine is beginning and will be exploding in a couple weeks.
The trail shots are stunning. I play with some filters along the path, gravitating toward a dramatic filtering of color. Gray, black and blue seem to have me captivated and highlight the depth of this glorious place. (More below) There are a few chipmunk sightings and a small handful of birds. Just one elk was spotted on this trip, on the road driving up.
If you have never hiked here, know that there are places on this trail, as you gain elevation, that are sketchy at best. The trail is at such an angle that you feel like you’re walking along a pyramid. It narrows to just a foot or less in places and a misstep will send you straight down the ridge. If you have a fear of heights or this trail sounds ominous, you might want to sit this one out. For those who have been here before, the trail has eroded further over the last year. It is certainly doable with caution, but it is not for the faint of heart. Please step lightly.
We arrived at Johnston Ridge after a nice climb up from Hummocks. Two small snow crossings are easily managed with our slow, careful steps. We joined a few people at the ampitheater for a lunch break and took in the view. We ate lunch and ventured up further to see views and the dial- marker identifying the peaks surrounding us. Coldwater Peak stood out and I think that might be my next destination.
We had the pleasure of running into Aubrey before we made the trek back down to the trailhead. Thanks for the chat. Best of luck when you head south if you really manage to leave this stunning place. (And thanks for the “tot” idea for our cheeseburgers)
I played a bit with filters on some of my Nikon shots. It occurs to me I may be the only one who really enjoys the dramatic effects of removing most of the color, but here are my favorites.
I rose at 3:45 am and didn’t arrive home unto nearly 9:00 pm. I slept pretty good after those wild dreams of slipping down the ridge. I’m always grateful when they come after, and not before, my hikes. I slipped into the tub this morning for a hot soak and I continue to marvel at what this body allows me to do. My RA doesn’t stand a chance against a strong spirit and full heart.
It’s going to be an epic year !