Wordy Wednesday (on Thursday)

Despite a little mishap at the trailhead I had a splendid day at the mountain.

The drive is always wonderful. Out of bed by 3:15AM on the road by 4:00AM. It’s pretty hard to get there for sunrise these days but it was enough to watch light emerge in my rearview. It’s a typical drive. Fog through the Salzer Valley and past Chehalis. The sky clears before my turn onto 505 at Toledo. 

I hit all the viewpoints driving in and catch a layer of cloud and fog below the mountain. She herself is clear as a bell. I pass two deer and a small herd of elk. Since my last trip here just last month the snow has all but disappeared and has been replaced with a hundred shades of green. 

At the very back of the Johnston Ridge parking lot is the trailhead for most of the hikes here. The Boundary Trail gives you access to Harry’s Ridge, Truman Trail, Pumice Plain (and beyond) to Loowit Falls across the blast zone. 

I know the day will be warm and exposed, but at 6:30 AM the temperature hovers around 44 degrees. I bundle up and make a last pit stop before heading out. (There is a row of portable toilets set up in the parking lot. The Observatory and indoor bathrooms remain closed)

While getting my pack out, my bear spray falls and accidentally gives a short discharge right into the back of my Crosstrek. Pro Tip: never, ever leave the safety off of the can in the car. Good grief ! I wasn’t in the direct path of the spray but as I grabbed the rest of my things my eyes were burning and I caught a sharp breath of what lingered. That spray is serious stuff. It stayed with me for awhile, drying out my throat and causing a few short coughing jags as my lungs tried to expel it.

The flowers are beginning to blanket the path along the back of Johnston Ridge. As the trail winds back to the mountain side I’m treated to spots of color and a clear view of Mount St Helens. Paintbrush is popping up everywhere and in another week of sunshine up there, the Lupine will break out across the trail too. 

Just beyond Johnston Ridge in the canyon below there are at least two families of mountain goats. The adults have begun to molt their winter coats in another sign of the changing season. Such sweetness in watching this little one nurse and then curl up with Mama. 

The chipmunks stole my heart today. It seemed they were everywhere and happy to pose on a rock while I zeroed in on their little faces. Seems they enjoy the paintbrush and lupine as much as I do. 

Two “lifers” for my bird book today. A Dusky Flycatcher in perfect light and a Horned Lark foraging for breakfast. I also saw several Anna’s hummingbirds and maybe my best photo ever of a Yellow-rumped Warbler ( Butter Butt). 

I only hiked in about 3 miles, eventually settling in at Devil’s Point to enjoy spectacular views and complete serenity. This spur trail is just a quarter mile off of the Boundary Trail (the junction for it about 2 miles from the Visitor Center) and dead-ends at a place I imagine the mountain goats frequent. On the trail, I followed fresh prints out to the Point. Stunning. The clouds were brilliant too. If you’re looking for some solitude, this is the place.

I took liberty with my favorite “dramatic” filter for many shots. The rugged mountain and cloud formations were made for this filter. I know there are some of you that enjoy this effect as much as I do, so thanks for indulging me. 

My knee is still fussy on the ups and downs (I’m still waiting for my ortho appointment), and with the bear spray distraction at the car, I forgot my GPS sitting in the back. Both of these things inspired me to take it easy today. 

A walk at Coldwater Lake after my hike was perfect. Shade, water and just a smattering of people. Bathrooms are open, clean and stocked at both the picnic and boat launch areas here and it was a nice wind-down spot before my long drive home. 

I hiked the Pumice Plain to Loowit two years ago. 14 miles of amazing trail. Last year, I hiked to Harry’s Ridge. I’ve been enjoying the mountain even more this year since I was gifted this cool book by my friend Marcie (Thank you again !!). It’s been a lovely companion and has opened my eyes to seeing everything in a new light. 

Next up: a birding adventure near Klamath Falls with two new friends. I expect to add more to my “lifer list” over the next several days. Stay tuned ! As always, thanks for joining me here. There is a “FOLLOW” button on this page if you’d like to get an email when there is a new post. Sunrise opens on July 2nd, the official beginning of summer hiking season. 

I can hardly wait !

10 Comments on “Wordy Wednesday (on Thursday)

  1. Great photos of Mount St. Helens! Nice yellow-rump shot too. Nature lesson of the day: Ground squirrels don’t have stripes on their heads and chipmunks do. Looks like you captured both. They are some of my favorite critters! 😀

    • Thanks for the lesson and the kind words. Always welcome here ! My favorite hikes at Sunrise, Mt Rainier will open soon. I am eager to get back up there. Thanks so much for reading !

  2. Ooo, so many wonderful views. <3 I don't know if I prefer the red flowers in front of the peaks, or the goats and chipmunks, but I think my favourite gallery is the one below the birds. Magnificent shots!

  3. Rut roh. So cool to see goats. I’m looking for where I want to go tomorrow. This is it so far. About now, when the weather turns, the continued presence of snow on so many trails is frustrating! Thanks for the tour.

    • If you haven’t ventured down through the Pumice Plain, I think you’d love it. From the junction to Devil’s Point you can see three distinct bodies of water. The trail goes by the greenest of the three and if you keep walking toward Loowit Falls the views of Adams are stunning. I kinda hope you do go, so I can find out if the flowers are blooming down there! Goats were cool !

  4. What a wonderful journey, thanks for bringing me along. I’ve never been to Mt. St. Helens but I feel like I know it a bit. Great photos of course. With a 3 am wakeup, it’s a wonder that you only had some small mishaps!

    • Ha, ha … indeed, it is a wonder 🤣 I’ve learned that if one wants any solitude in a popular place that you have to commit to an early arrival. Too many people tend to spoil it a bit for me. I hope you get there. I’ll be going back soon to enjoy the flowers at their peak, maybe I’ll see you !

  5. Beautiful shots. Loved the goat family. Your episode with the bear spray reminded me of the photos of the ‘patriots’ storming DC in January. They were dousing the cops with that stuff and anyone else unlucky enough to be in between.

    • Thank you ! Those goats were just so sweet and , yep, that bear spray is nasty stuff for sure. Of course, my encounter with it was much less intentional, but it does give me pause to think it was used as a weapon in a seige. Sigh.

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