Friday, July 31, 2009

Mt. St. Helens Hike

On a hot, sunny day in mid-July, I decided to hike a trail I've wanted to visit for some time. I've wanted to hike the Loowit Trail across the Mt. St. Helens blast zone, from the Windy Ridge Viewpoint for many years. But there was always some reason why I never got there. Mother Nature played a part in this - the mountain was off-limits for a couple of years when the lava dome was building. And then last year, the road to Windy Ridge got wiped out in a winter storm. But I when I heard that the road had recently been repaired and opened, I decided I'd better get up there before something else happened.

So I got up really early, and drove the long (2 1/2 hours!) drive to Windy Ridge Viewpoint. The final 16 miles on Road 99 were amazing! The road wound around through hills that still bore the scars of the eruption. Old, weathered, downed trees littered the hillsides. Then I turned the corner, and there was the mountain, in all its glory! I parked my car in the Windy Ridge parking lot, and scrambled up a nearby butte to a glorious viewpoint of the mountain and Spirit Lake. Here's the view I had of Mt. St. Helens, the lava dome, and the adjacent barren hillside.

Here's the view I had of Spirit Lake from the Windy Ridge Viewpoint.

And yet another grand view of the Mt. St. Helens crater and Spirit Lake.

I took my camera's lens and zoomed as much as I could to capture a close-up view of the lava dome and the inside of the crater.

I began my hike on the Windy Trail. I walked for about three miles across this barren plain, until I reached the Loowit Trail. The Loowit Trail is the trail that traverses around the entire mountain. Although it was bleak and barren, there were lots of signs that the area is coming back to life. Small plants and little trees are growing. Flowers were blooming. I crossed a spring that had lots of plant life, and little frogs!

As I crossed a dry drainage, I had this view, looking up into the mountain's crater. I was thinking about that fateful day in May 1980, when the entire top of the mountain was blown in this direction. The devastation is still very evident, even 29 years later.

Here's another amazing view looking into the crater from the Loowit Trail. The lava dome is to the left. It looks like you are on the moon!

You would not expect to see a waterfall in the crater of an active volcano. But Mt. St. Helens has Loowit Falls. My hiking guidebook said there was a waterfall in the crater, but I didn't think it would be this large. Apparently the lava dome heats this water to a temperature of 96 degrees Fahrenheit. I didn't hike down into the canyon to check it out, so I'll just have to take the guidebook's word for it.

After visiting Loowit Falls, I backtracked a mile or so on the Loowit Trail, and then began to climb towards Windy Pass. As I was climbing up the side of a hill, I looked back and got a great view of lupine flowers, and Mt. Ranier.

After crossing Windy Pass, and momentarily losing the trail, I found my way (thank goodness for all of the rock cairns other hikers place!) to the Plains of Abraham. The 1980 blast turned this area into a rock-strewn plain. However, now lupine flowers are coming back quite nicely. Here's a look towards a barren hillside. The trees on this hillside were blown sideways, and looked like someone with a buzz haircut.

Here's one of my favorite views from the hike - a bright purple field of lupine against the NE corner of the mountain. It is wonderful to see beauty amidst all this devastation.

The Loowit Trail intersected with the Abraham Trail, which was my return loop. The Abraham Trail traversed the top of a ridge, with wonderful mountain views (Adams, Ranier, as well as St. Helens) and loads of wildflowers. I think the best wildflower displays were along this trail. I also hiked through what was left of the forest after the blast. Here's a close-up of some of the decapitated trees along the ridgeline. Below is a drop-dead gorgeous view of Mt. Adams and the surrounding area.

Here's a view of the lovely flower garden that was blooming along the trail. What a great way to end this hike! Total distance 11.7 miles, elevation gain 1400'.
Even though it was a long day, it was worth the drive! I hope to be back soon to hike more of the trails in this area.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Trip to Ashland

In mid-July I made trip to Ashland to visit Cody, who is working there for the summer. Cody is doing an invasive plant study for SOU, and is out in the field camping all of the time. He was very happy to be able to stay in a motel room for the weekend (even if it was only the Motel 6!).

We visited the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, which is world famous. The OSF features many plays throughout the spring/summer/fall season. During the day, the Elizabethian Stage was open for vistors, and I just couldn't resist seeing what it was like to stand near center stage!

Cody was amused by his Mom's antics!

After touring the theatre, we took a walk through Lithia Park, which is a large City park in the heart of Ashland. It was a hot day, and there were many people playing in the water.

I couldn't resist dipping my feet in the cool creek!

Neither could Cody! Here he is striking his "thinker" pose.
Later that evening, we attended a play at the Oregon Shakespeare Theatre. We saw "Much Ado About Nothing." It was an excellent production - amazing actors! Even though I have not read much Shakespeare, I was able to follow the storyline, and enjoyed myself greatly.
The next morning, after filling Cody up with a good breakfast, I had to hit the road. On my drive back, I ran into a huge rainstorm in Eugene that followed most of the rest of way back. All I have to say is, people in Oregon forget how to drive when it rains! It took me an extra hour and a half to get home.
I'm hoping to get in one more trip to Ashland this summer, while Cody is working there. I'd love to see another play too.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Green Line First Ride

June 30th was a proud day for my colleagues at TriMet. The newest MAX light rail line, the Green Line, gave its first ride for dignitaries and those of us that had worked on the project. We boarded a set of brand new train cars at PSU bound for our destination - Clackamas Town Center!

The train rounds a corner, heading for the Glisan ramp of the Steel Bridge. The passengers cheered as we cleared the switch onto the bridge.

Upon our arrival at the Clackamas Town Center Station, I posed for a photo with the new type 4 MAX light rail train. I give these trains, and the Green Line, a big "thumbs-up!"

View of the Clackamas Town Center platform from the top story of the new parking garage.

A crowd gathers to celebrate the completion of a great transit project. There were speeches from politicians, and lots of smiles. It was a proud moment for all of us who had worked on this project.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Detroit Lake Camping Trip

During the second week of June, Roger had an unpaid furlough at work. We decided to make the best of it, so I took a couple of days of vacation from my job, and we went camping during the week. We chose to spend our time at Detroit Lake, near Salem. Usually on weekends, this lake is a zoo, but during the week we found it to be fairly calm. Don't get me wrong, there were still people around, but it wasn't total chaos! We got lucky and nabbed a nice lakeside campsite.

It's nice when the most noise you get is from the wildlife. In this case, we were awakened each morning by the loud quacking of ducks. There are tons of ducks at Detroit Lake, and they are not shy about scavenging for food around the campground! Roger said it was the first time he's ever been woke up by a duck.

Roger relaxes after dinner at our campsite.

In addition to the ducks, there were also lots of geese hanging out on the lake. We saw lots of goslings. The goslings were really cute. I got lucky when a flock of geese came searching for food right next to our campsite. I was ready with my camera and captured this photo of a goose family.

Roger fired up the boat, and we motored around the lake the next morning. Roger got out the fishing pole and tried his luck. I kept my eye on the fish finder, both for water depth and fish. But there were not many fish to be found in Detroit Lake that day. It was disappointing in a lake of this size that there were not more fish.

We did get in good hike that day. We hiked up to Pamelia Lake. It was an easy 2 miles to the lake. We were going to hike further, but found the trail under water from snowmelt! Oh well, we headed back to our camp for dinner.

It had been kind of cloudy all day. We knew there was a great view of Mt. Jefferson at the east end of Detroit Lake. The mountain had been teasing us all day, giving up occasional glimpses of its base. Then, right before sunset, the mountain started to come out from behind the clouds. The alpenglow was timed perfectly with the retreat of the clouds, and we got a nice show. All within view of our campsite!

The following day, Roger dropped me at the Tumble Ridge trailhead, which was a short distance from the lake. While Roger tried to fish and pack up camp, I hiked up a really, really steep trail. After three miles of climbing I was beginning to wonder it it was really worth all this work. Then I came to a clearing, and before my eyes was a drop-dead view of Mt. Jefferson. After many clicks of the camera, I hiked up even farther, past a huge field of trilliums, to a birds-eye view of Detroit Lake and a view of Mt. Washington and the Three Sisters. I was happy that all of my efforts had been rewarded.
Roger said he'd pick me up a the trailhead at 1:00. So I had to hustle to get down the trail in time. But - talk about perfect timing - just as I was approaching the trailhead, Roger was pulling into the parking lot. I jumped into the suburban, took off my hat, and a big tick fell off onto my lap! I quickly threw the little bugger out the window, and Roger and I spent the rest of the two-hour drive home anxiously checking out every little itch and tickle on our bodies! Luckily, that was the only tick to be found that day.
It was nice to get away for a couple of days. Hopefully we can do another camping trip again soon before summer passes us by!