Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Walking With A Friend From Down Under

One of the best parts of having a blog is getting to know other bloggers from all over the world.  After exchanging comments over time, you form online "friendships" with some of  the regulars.  And if you're really lucky, sometimes you even get to meet them in person.

Bloggers united!

In early June I had the pleasure of meeting Helen from Walking With Friends Down Under.

The flower show began right away

Helen traveled all the way from Brisbane, Australia just to see my little corner of the world (well, she happened to be visiting her son who lives in Banff, Alberta and decided to add a side trip to Oregon while she was "nearby").  Having followed her blog for a few years, I was thrilled to meet my Australian blogging pal.

Indian paintbrush dotted the hillsides

Like me, Helen's an avid hiker.  A regular reader of a few Pacific NW blogs, she already had a list of places on her "must visit" list.  One of them happened to be Mt. St. Helens.  One of my favorite spots, I was more than happy to show her around.

Vibrant orange paintbrush

Helen arrived in Portland in the middle of a beastly heat wave.  Temps the day before had reached into the 100s (or 38 degrees C for my Aussie friend).  Thankfully the day we'd chosen to visit MSH wasn't predicted to be quite that hot - however the weatherman still forecasted sunny, warm weather.

Then came the purple penstemon...

Despite the toasty temps, Helen chose a great time to see the famous volcano - 1.  the hot weather guaranteed clear blue skies, so we'd see the mountain for sure (no hiding behind clouds, as it sometimes does in the spring), and  - 2.  our warmer-than-normal spring meant the wildflowers were blooming early.

It's a banner year for penstemon too!

I picked Helen up at her motel bright and early.  We filled the long two-hour drive with great conversation.  Before I knew it, we were catching our first glimpse of MSH's truncated top.

Purple everywhere

After a quick potty break at Coldwater Lake, we arrived at Johnston Ridge Visitor Center.  The flower show began right away.  Before we even started hiking, Helen and I were whipping out our cameras to get some shots from the parking lot.

Heading out onto Devils Elbow

We began our trek on the Boundary Trail.  Wildflowers were abundant from the very start, with vivid orange Indian Paintbrush and lovely purple penstemon decorating the surrounding plain.  I'd never seen so much paintbrush and penstemon blooming - and so early in the season!  Needless to say, between the wildflowers and killer volcano views, our first mile wasn't very speedy.

The narrow path across Devils Elbow

But Helen and I found our groove, and soon we were approaching the infamous "Devil's Elbow" - a portion of the Boundary Trail that traverses the side of a steep cliff out to the tip of a pennisula.  The trail is narrow with a bit of exposure.  But Helen, not fazed in the least, marched right across.

Best viewpoint yet!

Our reward for traversing this perilous path?  Amazing in-your-face views of St Helens herself!

Crater close-up

We gazed at MSH's ravaged north side.  When the mountain exploded back in 1980, the blast traveled across the plains where we now stood, leveling everything in its path.  Although small plants and shrubs have since reestablished, larger trees have been slow to take root.  The area immediately north of the mountain still resembles a barren wasteland.

Great view of the blast zone

After soaking in the views and memorializing with countless photos, Helen and I continued our journey across a desolate plain sprinkled with colorful spots of flowers.

Flowers brighten the wasteland

Our goal for today was Harry's Ridge, site of a former lodge owned by a crotchety old man named Harry Truman.  Back in 1980, although an eruption was imminent, Harry refused to evacuate, and died in the blast.

Sheared off trees from the eruption

As we climbed up the base of Harry's Ridge, Helen and I passed by weathered stumps of old trees, sheared off by the blast's tremendous force.  A sobering example of this natural disaster's enormity.

First view of Spirit Lake

Reaching the base of Harry's Ridge my friend and I peered over the edge for a jaw-dropping view of Spirit Lake.  White-topped Mt. Adams anchored the skyline, and Helen gazed in awe.  As many times as I've seen this sight, it still thrills me too.

Climbing Harry's Ridge

Then it was a hot, dusty trek along Harry's Ridge to its terminus and another wonderful view of MSH.

Panorama included Spirit Lake and Mt. Adams

A perfect lunch spot!  Helen and I spread out our food and enjoyed a well-earned break while taking in the 180 degree panorama of sights.  Not only Mt St Helens, we had a killer view of Spirit Lake, Mt. Adams, and even a ghostly Mt Hood on the far horizon.

And up close and personal MSH views

We chatted with a friendly couple from Montreal, and the man was nice enough to snap a few photos.

Heading back down Harry's Ridge

Bellies now full, it was time to retrace our steps to the Visitor's Center.  Back down Harry's Ridge, again taking in the marvelous views of Spirit Lake, Coldwater Peak, and the surrounding Mt. Margaret backcountry.

MSH is always in view

Then across the plains of flowers and low bushes, with MSH anchoring our view.

Our last look at Spirit Lake

We made a brief stop at the tip of Devil's Elbow Peninsula, for one final glimpse of Spirit Lake and Mt. Adams.

Helen bids Mt. Adams goodbye

It was here Helen bid Mt. Adams goodbye.

Dark purple lupine

Then back across the sketchy trail along Devil's Elbow and it's steep slope, where I discovered this patch of deep purple lupine just begging to be photographed.

How to capture this marvelous field of paintbrush?

When wildflowers are in bloom, I never mind hiking the Boundary Trail twice.  Helen and I passed by vast fields of paintbrush and penstemon.  How does one capture such beauty?

Back past the purple carpet

Although by now we were both hot and tired, neither one of us could resist a few last photo stops.  The flowers were so amazing, I wanted to be sure not to miss a thing!

Penstemon as far as the eye can see

As we neared the visitor center, the crowds thickened until the last half mile we were passing hordes of people.  Having had most of the trail to ourselves, it was hard to adjust to all this humanity. 

My calendar shot

As wonderful as this hike had been, I was still very happy when my car came into view.  I'd placed two water bottles in a cooler - and the cold water tasted heavenly after such a hot trek.  We took a quick trip through the visitor center, but time was getting late, and we both needed to get back to Portland.  However, I had so much fun hanging out with Helen, I wished the day wouldn't have to end. 

Enjoyed the journey, Helen!

So nice to meet and share a hike with one of my blogging buddies!  As we parted ways, I promised Helen I'd save my pennies for a future visit down south.  It's my turn to hike one of her favorite trails!

Stats:  8.5 miles round trip (about 14 km) and 1000 feet (300 meters) elevation gain.

Read Helen's recap of our day here.


  1. Um passeio com fotografias espectaculares desta zona de belas montanhas.
    Um abraço e continuação de uma boa semana.

  2. What a fun day and it's always a treat to meet a blogging friend. I hope you're able to go to Australia one day. That would be amazing!

  3. That is one of the best trails! The continual views of the volcano and blast zone are amazing. Looks like you had even more flowers than when we hiked it a couple of years ago...just gorgeous!

    Australia sounds like a fun goal for a vacation!

  4. How wonderful to have spent such a lovely day with a blogging buddy, who is also an avid hiker like you. It was great to see all your pictures, but your calendar shot is stunning! :-)

  5. fabulous views from the top of your world

  6. You had a great day there and I really envy you visiting Mt St Helens, the area looks stunning. Had to smile when you said (well, she happened to be visiting her son who lives in Banff, Alberta and decided to add a side trip to Oregon while she was "nearby") It's only a meer 900 odd miles that is further that the length of the UK LOL

  7. How neat to meet a fellow blogger. Great tour you gave her and fantastic scenery. I love your calendar photo.

  8. Absolutely incredible shots and your calendar shot is a keeper for sure but honestly not a one in the bunch that isn't stunning! So glad you got to meet up with Helen!

  9. What a hike! Such views and many spectacular wildflowers. I just came home from a hike up high - our wildflower show is just beginning. Great to "meet" Helen on your blog.

  10. Hello, another great hike. It is awesome you were able to meet up with Helen the Aussie Blogger and go hiking together. The scenery, views and wildflowers are all gorgeous. Wonderful post and photos. Enjoy your day and the week ahead!

  11. That sounds like a terrific day. I have had the pleasure of meeting a few blogging friends and have enjoyed the experience immensely. That walk looks just perfect.

  12. You had a great hike and visit with the best friends you can have...other bloggers. You never forget mountain meadows with flowers.

  13. Your photos are gorgeous, Linda, and how lovely to meet a blogging friend! :)

  14. What a beautiful hike and amazing views. The one time I was near Mt. St. Helens it was completely covered in mist and cloud, and we didn't see a thing.

  15. Oh My God, those landscape and your photos are marvelous, stunning, incredible, awesome...hahaha. Yes, i am so envious, if only i can go there too. I love the crater of MSH with that bulging dome as if warning the next explosion! And you are right, this blogging craze lead us to friends around the world. I have 2 shares of meeting blogging friends too, from Japan and from Netherlands who is now working for 3 yrs in Moldova. They came to my town for scuba diving, where we are more famous, but because i am near we met and have some chats and getting to know you moments. I treasure blogging more because of these meet ups.

    Your post reminded me of my trail trek in Queenstown, NZ. I love wildflowers in temperate climes, and your snow caps made me recall the snow caps in their mountains too. Oh how lovely to do those trekking again!

  16. You got some great shots of Helen, I know how much fun it is to finally have someone to give the trail and views some perspective! Your calendar shot is a keeper.

  17. Incredible photos I had hoped you would take this hike someday...thanks for the trip!! :)

  18. How wonderufl to meet another blogger ond to spend time with them on one of our favoueite past times. what a fantastic hike. View and wildflowers are stunning.

  19. What a fantastic hike, flowers, lakes and a famous volcano!

  20. Dear Linda, you have made the magic of that amazing day return. I love being in my rainforests, but the spring beauty of Mt St Helen's is just sensational. Many, many thanks again for this unforgetable experience.

  21. So much fun! Just love how stars align! Just simply perfect! So glad you got to meet and share a day and your passion.

  22. Love all the wild flowers! have a great weekend!

  23. Hi! It's a nice hiking with a blogging friend from Australia. Your hiking course is always very beautiful. I can imagine how delicious drinking a bottle of cold water after hiking. Thanks for sharing.

  24. What a great trip and a fantastic day for it. Stunning photos.

  25. I have really enjoyed reading both yours and Helen's recount of this trek. It is wonderful that you both were able to met up and enjoy this hike together.

  26. Awesome hike! Thanks for taking us along. I think the shots of Spirit Lake are my favorites.

  27. How totally fun to be able to meet one of your blogging friends. Helen sounded like the perfect companion for you to take such a hike with. The views were stunning. I loved them. Can't wait for you to visit her and hike one of her favorite trails and then share it with us.

  28. Linda, How awesome that you got to meet Helen! Still sad that we didn't get to hike together. The wildflowers are breathtaking! Too bad Harry was so crotchety. He may still be alive today if he hadn't been.

  29. Spectacular photos of a phenomenal area. How nice to be able to show this area to a fellow blogger from Australia. I look forward to reading her blog account of the hike. I remember the Mt Helen;s blast very well and all the terrible devastation it caused. Nature heals itself beautifully.

  30. How neat to hike with a blogging friend! Gorgeous pics as usual.

  31. I've visited St. Helens many times; my favorite views are from the Windy Ridge approach. But I've never done much hiking there. I think perhaps next year a wildflower hike should be on the calendar!


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