On a Clear Day

You can see forever.  That is how I will remember this trip to the east side of Mt. St. Helens.  We started getting sunrise shots at McClellan Point.  The haze and lookout were disappointing.  We should have known better as we were there the night before for a sunset shot which was so hazy we did not keep a single image.  We discussed as we left that it was not optimal, even for sunrise, with such haze.

Sunrise from McClellan Viewpoint

Fortunately, we cut our losses and left early to head to Windy Ridge, the last viewpoint on the east side of Mt. St. Helens.  To get there we drove rough and winding roads.  But, it was more than worth the 2 hour drive.  Ideally, this side of the mountain is a sunrise opportunity.  Yet, we were there early enough and the light stayed nicely throughout the morning.

Looming larger than life, the upper part of the mountain already shows the north side that slid down the mountain and freed up a huge explosive eruption in 1980.  We were still a long ways from the final lookout point.

Mt. Hood in the distance.  We could see forever!

Most of this side of the mountain has been commercially reforested after the 1980 eruption.  The trees are now about 35 years old!!  Interesting to see a forest where all the trees are young and about the same size.

If you look carefully you might spot the road we would travel . . . down the road.

A common scene.

Mt. Hood in the background.

Nice lookouts along the way.  That was nice because the curved roads made it difficult to pull off to the side and take photos.

Mt. Adams from a viewpoint where you can actually see both mountains. 

Mt. Hood

From Windy Ridge Lookout.  The front mountain is in the way of a great photo!

Telephoto works for getting the top detail.

It seems that the solution to seeing more of the mountain in a wide angle was this stepped path to the top of a steep hill right by the parking lot.  Someone coming down said there were 438 steps to the top.  Tom and I thought, "Not for us!"  It was not long before we changed our minds.  So, up we headed with lots of stops to take photos.

It did not take too many steps before we realized how important a bit of elevation can change the perspective.  This is the famed Spirit Lake which rose about 200 feet when the eruption occurred, obliterating all the recreation areas alongside the former waterline.  This is where the much publicized Harry Truman died having refused many requests to leave (even from school children).

On my left was Spirit Lake.  On my right was a great view of Mt. Adams.  At my feet a gorgeous blanket of wildflowers.  What a perfect day.  Ignore those tender knees!

I was walking up the steps very, very, very carefully (slowly).  We were taking our tripods and each time I set mine up I was determined to do it without losing my balance.  Looking up or down was not something I wanted to do as I found it disorienting.

There was another reason not to look up.  It is called discouragement!!

The penthouse view is always better.  This is from the top of the hill.  If you look carefully you may spot Loowit Falls (180 feet fall).  It is just about in the center of the photo where there is a dark area.  Would imagine it is not a hike you can easily make and certainly not without permission.  Most of the mountain beyond Windy Ridge is restricted.  If you do a search you can see photos taken closer to the falls.

A wider view of the photo above.  That is not steam rising from the edge of the crater.  We were told it is 'dust' that gets whipped up by the wind.

Beyond the top viewpoint there is a path that leads north.  We took it of course.  Fortunately, it had a gradual ascent with views to die for!

That is Mt. Rainier in the far background.  You can see the path along the upper right.  We just kept going.  What is in the lake?  The lake has thousands of 36 year old tree trunks.  When the first blast occurred in the 1980 eruption it literally went down this valley and knocked down every tree in its path.  Then when the north side of the mountain slid down it filled the lake, causing the water to rise up the surrounding hillsides.  When it receded it brought all the trees with it into the lake.  They are still there.

All along the path . . .

I decided I would hike no further than the pine trees at the upper part of the path as seen here.  This path could go for miles, I imagined.  I was being sucked further along by the beauty.  Mt. Rainier is shown.  The reflections were awesome.  The temperature conducive to slow hiking.  At the back of my brain was a tiny voice reminding me that the way back was as long as I had hiked!  And there were those steps that must be taken down!

Tom turned around just a bit before me.  It was going to be just as wonderful on the way back.

From the ridge.

This mountain is so powerful with its presence.  So difficult to capture even a small part of it.

I had turned around.  Tempted to stop along the way . . . remembering that Tom was ahead of me and waiting.