|MSH surrounded by purple and orange!|
For several months I've enjoyed chatting with Catherine, a woman who works out at my gym. Discovering she also liked to hike, I invited her to join me on my yearly wildflower trek to Mt. St. Helens.
|Catherine admires the wildflowers|
Those of you who've followed my blog for awhile know I don't miss the summer wildflower bloom near this famous volcano. By late June, the bleak plains surrounding the mountain's truncated north flank erupt in a brilliant riot of color.
So one summer's day in late June Catherine and I headed to Johnston Ridge on Mt. St. Helen's north side. Our day's destination - the Boundary Trail to Coldwater Peak.
|Flowers nearly cover an old log|
I love showing people my favorite wildflower hikes, and Catherine was pumped to explore this "new to her" trail.
|Devils Elbow Trail was closed :(|
As usual, the flower show began right from the trailhead. We hadn't taken five steps when the cameras came out. Lovely purple penstemon blooms carpeted the surrounding slopes, punctuated by small patches of orange Indian paintbrush.
|Lupine added to the colors|
Poor Catherine got her first "hiking with Linda" lesson - photo breaks happen early and often. But there was much to capture in those first two miles.
|We even found a few avalanche lilies|
Happily, Catherine was a good sport, and reveled in the beauty every time I paused to capture an image.
|St Helens Lake|
The trail between the parking lot and Devil's Elbow was a continuous carpet of purple and orange. Mt St. Helens herself rose over one heavily flowered slope. Sadly when we reached Devil's Elbow, I discovered the trail around this prominent ridge had been closed due to erosion issues. What a disappointment! The closest and best views of Mt. St. Helens can be found at the end of this ridge.
|Just us and the mountain!|
But we are rule-followers, so Catherine and I grudgingly took the new alternate trail up and over the ridge. Nowhere close to as spectacular as the original, we instead trudged up a dusty barren plain, and switchbacked steeply down the other side. There weren't even many flowers!
|Amazing views of Spirit Lake|
But on the ridge's opposite side we reconnected with the main trail and wandered through a brushy valley full of more wildflowers and a large number trees that were starting to grow quite tall. It's nice to see this area, devastated in the 1980 blast, recovering so well.
|So many great photo ops!|
Then my trail buddy and I climbed out of the valley and started our ascent to Harry's Saddle. Although the massive carpets of wildflowers weren't present here, we did find a few pockets of avalanche lilies hiding under the bushes.
|Crossing a snowfield|
Arriving on top of Harry's Saddle, Catherine oohed and aah-ed over the glorious views of Spirit Lake, Mt. Adams, and Mt St. Helens. Although a mighty fine sight, I reminded her that even better panoramas awaited.
|This slope was ablaze with flowers|
So up we climbed! The Boundary trail then zig-zagged upwards to the top of another ridge. One of my favorite parts of this hike, the views kept getting better the higher we rose.
|Mt Adams towering over Spirit Lake|
Catherine and I crossed one small snowfield, which was quite fun. Morning sun had melted the snow enough that it wasn't icy and we had an easy time kicking steps through.
|Nice views along this trail|
On top of the ridge was my favorite view of all - far below in a craggy bowl nestled in the mountains sat deep blue St. Helens Lake. A perfectly round water body, it was lined with silver snags - trees blown over by the long-ago eruption.
|Catherine scouts our route ahead|
Not much farther to the scenic rock arch and Coldwater Peak. But soon after reaching the ridgetop, Catherine and I were stopped by a steep snowfield blocking our trail. Although we thought about kicking steps through, the snow was at a very steep angle. One slip and you'd slide for a long ways down, likely hitting rocks and trees along the way. Catherine and I decided we weren't willing to take that risk. There appeared to be a couple footpaths bypassing the snow through brushy undergrowth, but bushwacking looked like way too much work.
|MSH fills the entire sky|
So we decided this would be the day's turn-around point. Catherine and I found a panoramic spot overlooking St. Helens Lake and all the mountains, and settled in for a nice, long lunch break.
|Follow the flowers|
You couldn't ask for a better day - clear skies, moderate temperatures, and no bugs! It was wonderful to sit back, enjoy our snacks, and take in the amazing views all around. This is why I love hiking.
|Back past the purple plains|
One of the things I love about this trail is the return trip is almost better. Descending down the ridge with Spirit Lake front and center provides such dramatic views. And afternoon light is always fantastic on the flower fields and Mt. St. Helen's crater.
|Orange paintbrush was plentiful near the trailhead|
Even though the final two miles are slightly uphill (enough that you notice it!) and we were getting tired, I couldn't resist a few more images of the enormous paintbrush bloom against the mountain's crater.
|This year's calendar shot|
On the way home, we made a quick bathroom stop at nearby Coldwater Lake, where I noticed the wildflowers were especially thick by the entrance sign. With the mountain providing a backdrop, it was one worthy scene this photographer had to capture. A fitting way to end such a marvelous day!
|Roadside flower garden|
Spectacular wildflowers, scenic vistas, and a new hiking buddy. Just another stellar day in the beautiful Pacific Northwest!
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