As many of you know, I love to hike the trails around Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. Over the years, I've trod a good number of them. But, believe it or not, there are still a few paths in the monument I've yet to set foot on. One is the Truman Trail.
|Memorial at Johnston Ridge Observatory|
|Names of those who perished in the 1980 eruption|
This year in late May I decided to find out. Consulting a map, I discovered the Truman Trail takes one across the heart of the MSH eruption zone, passing through an area known as the "Pumice Plain." After 4 miles, it intersects with the round-the-mountain Loowit Trail. Another mile on the Loowit takes one to Loowit Falls, which I've visited in prior hikes, accessing it from a different direction via the trailhead at Windy Ridge.
|Mountain goat below the trail|
Actually I had two goals for this day. The first, of course, to explore the Truman Trail, but my second was to hopefully see some mountain goats. I'd heard several goats had recently been spotted on the cliffs below Johnston Ridge Observatory. In preparation for hopeful wildlife sightings I packed my 800 mm zoom lens. Although heavy, I reasoned if I happened to capture a mountain goat or elk, it would be well worth the extra weight.
|Curious mountain goats|
It's a long 2-hour drive to Johnston Ridge Observatory, the day's starting point, which necessitated an early departure. But the excitement of exploring a new trail kept me motivated as I traveled north, then east. After parking and shouldering my backpack, I first walked up to the shuttered Observatory (closed for a second year due to COVID) and enjoyed the overlook free of crowds - the reward for early risers. I then took a paved path from the Observatory to the beginning of the Boundary Trail. Normally when hiking the Boundary Trail I'll access it via another path direct from the parking lot, but today I thought I'd try something new. I discovered an impressive monument sited on a high point bearing the names of everyone who perished in the 1980 eruption.
|Beginning of the Truman Trail|
From the junction with the Boundary Trail, I had a 2.5 mile trek ahead of me to reach the Truman Trail. Ready to put my head down and march through this very familiar section I became instantly waylaid upon spotting some white dots on a ridge below the trail. The dots appeared to be moving. Could it be mountain goats? Quickly switching camera lenses confirmed my suspicion.
|Great views of MSH|
|The lava dome inside the crater was visible|
|Looks like this path is leading right into the crater|
|One of the tiny, odd-colored ponds near the pumice plain|
|Pumice plain looking towards Spirit Lake|
|One of the rock-strewn gullies I had to cross|
|Willow Springs trail junction|
|Spirit Lake view from the junction, looking towards Mt Margaret backcountry|
|Loowit Falls visible in the middle of this photo|
|Hardy trees growing in the rocks|
|I noticed some really cool clouds above the mountain|
|Wispy, ghost-like clouds|
|These clouds look like dancing angels|
|Junction with the Loowit Trail, my turn-around point|
|Early blooming dwarf lupine|
|Spirit Lake pano, looking north|
|Early season Indian paintbrush|
|Uphill trek back to the Boundary trail|
|Fantastic afternoon light on Spirit Lake|
|Colorful slopes below Harry's Ridge|