|Ready to hike!|
Finally, two weeks ago, I hatched a plan. Offering to take a vacation day, I convinced my friend John to rally his retired hiking friends for a mid-week ramble up Ed's Trail. John didn't take much arm-twisting! He gathered a group of five wonderful people and we picked a day that promised sunny weather.
|Fog bank below the trail|
Ed's Trail is one of the premiere summer wildflower hikes in Southwestern Washington. Traveling along a treeless ridge, flowers bloom thick in mid-July. And the views can't be beat! In 1902 this entire area was charred in the Yacolt Burn, the largest wildfire in Washington state history (well, until this summer). Trees failed to reseed here, which opened the landscape up for wildflowers to flourish.
|Mt. Rainer and Adams make appearances|
However, admission to this wonderful trail requires a slow slog over a terrible gravel road. I'd heard reports this road had deteriorated so much it was barely passable for cars. Putting John's Subaru to the test, we soon discovered this was indeed true. Lurching through gigantic potholes, my friends and I often wondered if the car was going to make it (we did scrape bottom a couple of times). But, to everyone's relief, John's expert driving skills got us to the fog-shrouded trailhead in one piece.
|Climbing through the yellow slopes|
Although our trailhead was socked in, by the time we'd all unloaded, put on our boots, and taken last-minute potty breaks, blue sky was beginning to peek through the clouds. Climbing the first quarter mile took us out of the fog for good.
|Incredible St Helens view|
And - oh the views! They were fabulous from the get-go. A lingering fog bank hung in the valleys, creating a surreal scene. From the first vantage point, three snow-capped mountains - St. Helens, Rainer, and Adams poked their peaks above the clouds. A kaleidoscope of wildflowers provided the perfect foreground.
|My favorite image of the day|
This shot of Mt. St. Helens rising above the foggy valley was hands-down my favorite image of the day.
The group contoured along the ridgeline, past fields yellow with a zillion flowers. The "big three" mountains continued to anchor the horizon, creating perfect photo ops. It was hard not to stop and photograph the changing scenes every five minutes.
|Group photo op at rock arch|
One of the cool things about Ed's Trail is it passes through a natural rock arch. That's something you don't see every day. Perfect place for a group photo!
|John in mid-climb|
Then comes the fun part - a small climb up a short, rocky slope. It required using both hands and feet to traverse. But it was worse than it looked, and I had an easy scramble. Kind of fun to mix things up a little bit!
|Three peak view - St. Helens, Rainer, Adams|
And upon reaching the top, you're rewarded with views like this. The forested hills drop away on all sides, revealing a three-peak panorama.
|Silver Star summit|
Reaching a trail junction with an abandoned road, our party climbed the final half mile to Silver Star Mountain's bare, rocky summit.
Clear sunny skies, meant 360 degree views. You could see all the Cascade Peaks - not only the "big three" we'd been seeing all morning, Mt. Hood made an appearance on the southern skyline. And if you looked hard, one could spot the white pointy tip of Mt. Jefferson.
|More summit views|
My companions and I settled down on the concrete foundation of a long-ago lookout tower and enjoyed lunch with a view.
|Wide open vistas below the summit|
After a nice break, John rallied the group to continue. He wanted to hike a mile south of Silver Star's summit to visit the ancient Indian pits. So down the mountain's steep, flower-filled slope we plunged.
|Butterfly poses for me|
The flower fields were full of butterflies. Try as I might, I wasn't able to catch one of these beautiful insects at rest. Then, finally John spotted a lone butterfly clinging to a flower. It held still just long enough for me to fire off a half dozen shots. Luckily, one of them did turn out.
|Heading to the Indian pits|
Our trail roller-coastered down one ridge, and up another. Mt. Hood began to dominate the skyline.
|Onto a rocky ridge|
Then our group came upon a rocky talus slope. It jutted out to a point. With the land falling away on three sides, we again were treated to more wonderful views of the surrounding hills and forests.
|John has a meditative moment|
A line of rocky pits, each about six feet deep, had been constructed along the top of this ridge. It's thought that these stone walls and depressions were built to be used as vision quest sites where young Indian men fasted until they saw a guiding spirit.
John sat down in one of these pits, and had a contemplative moment.
|Relaxing in the rocky pit (photo by John)|
I, too, climbed inside and briefly rested my tired legs. But those rocks didn't make the most comfortable of seats, so I didn't linger. Those Indian men were a lot tougher than weenie old me!
|Nice views on the return trip|
Then it was time to retrace our steps, back across the rocky ridge, past more incredible views and flower gardens.
|Wide open ridge|
Again, I really loved the wide-open views here. So glad to have visited on a clear day!
|Climbing through the flowers|
My party climbed back up the flower-spangled side of Silver Star Mountain.
|Another butterfly supermodel|
Where I made another winged friend. This one posed for a long time!
Then came the cherry on top. For the final leg of our journey, John led us down another abandoned road that wound through a spectacular field chock-full of wildflowers. This was by far the day's best floral display!
|Flowers and MSH view - it doesn't get any better!|
The surrounding meadows were a colored bright shade of yellow as far as the eye could see. And popping up over the horizon was none other than Mt. St. Helens, the day's constant companion. Oh my - views just don't get any better than this!
I spent way too much time in the meadow with my camera, and before I knew it, my friends had abandoned me. Since the trailhead was only a couple of miles away, they continued on, knowing I'd eventually catch up.
Wandering along the road, I must've snapped over a hundred photos. Around every bend were more colorful flowers, and another new perspective of the mountain scenery. Finally, having had too much of a good thing, I began to get picky, and would only stop for the truly outstanding scenery.
|Time for beer!|
Back at the trailhead, everyone agreed it had been one stellar day. Yes, Ed's Trail is definitely a crown jewel of PNW hiking trails. Totally worth burning a vacation day to visit!
Sharing with: Our World Tuesday and Weekly Top Shot.