November sunrises can be stunning. There is something about the atmosphere that gives these cooler months a brighter palette. I headed out Wednesday just before 5:00 am to get to Mount St Helens for the sherbet skies of a mostly clear morning.
It was stunning.
It was also viciously cold.
By the time I made it to the Loowit Falls Viewpoint near Johnston Ridge the roads were icy, walking was dicey and my Nikon stopped working. I put on my microspikes for the trail at West Boundary but the blowing snow and wind quickly sent me back to the car. I’m hardy, but I’m not stupid. With wind gusts and temperatures both in the 20’s, I didn’t spend a lot of time on the trail.
I drove up to Johnston Ridge and had the giant parking lot to myself. The snow was blowing with the wind gusts and it felt like a frozen tundra. My camera still wouldn’t function. The shutter button literally froze. It recovered eventually but begged to stay in the warmth of the car.
The road is open all the way to Johnston Ridge. It’s mostly clear but there are snowy, icy spots on the road all the way up. Pearl was made for these drives. I understand that in December, this road will be gated up for the winter and not re-opening until May. Next clear day with less wind, I will definitely head back for that hike along Truman Trail.
I spent a little time near Coldwater Lake after leaving the ridge. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen choppy water on that lake. Well … at least not like this. Everywhere you see water on the path it has turned to solid ice. If you’re looking for winter, rest assured, I found it on the mountain.
I saw dozens of elk in places and just a handful of juncos. At the Coldwater Lake picnic area, the restrooms are still closed. An act of senseless violence from October left the restrooms completely destroyed. I said my own version of a prayer today for the human beings that could do such things. And I might be secretly hoping for a little karmic balance too.
After a short walk along the Hummocks Trail I decided to head out. I’d hoped for some birds on this sunny Wednesday so I headed further south to Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge. There is an auto tour here that ordinarily takes 30-45 minutes for the loop drive. If you’d like to see what I see, but can’t always do the walking, this is a great option. All of the photos below were taken from my car on one of my four trips around ! I stayed hoping for an equally colorful sunset, but it was soft and muted. A perfect ending to daylight.
I’m more sore today from sitting than I am from walking. I’ll be back to my regular morning walk soon. For today, I’ll get my old man, Yoda, out for a walk at the park and take in whatever the day has to offer.