WA – Mount St Helens National Volcanic Monument, Loowit Falls

May 18, 1980 What do you remember about this event? Honestly my memory banks couldn’t recall many of the details. For those with a memory like mine, here’s a quick link from USGS, 30 Cool Facts about Mount St Helens. The Monument was established in 1982 to provide for scientific research, education and recreation. It’s another managed by the USFS.

Mount St Helens last erupted 123 years ago. It’s the most active volcano in the Cascade Range.

There are three areas to visit, westside (State Route 504), southside (Forest Road 83) and eastside (Forest Road 99). My initiation was along State Route 504 where the Johnson Ridge Observatory is located, named after a scientist who perished in the blast. I arrived on a typical drizzly Pacific Northwest Day, more common in June than in mid July.

The mountain said, nope not today. Factoid: “Within 3 minutes, the lateral blast, traveling at more than 300 miles per hour, blew down and scorched 230 square miles of forest.” Source: USGS 

Okay maybe a peek at my peak. Factoid: “The largest terrestrial landslide in recorded history reduced the summit by 1,300 feet and triggered a lateral blast.”  Source: USGS 

I took a short hike on the Boundary trail focusing on the flowers.

Loowit Falls

The next day with much improved weather, I was off to find Loowit Falls.

Dropping down from the ridge into the blast zone reminded me of my Grand Canyon experiences. You have to drop into the belly to experience the hidden gems. It’s hard to imagine this area now known as Pumice Plain once a thick forest.

Loowit Falls are ON the mountain so I’d be crossing the Pumice Plain.

What looks like dried grass is actually a mossy wildflower carpet.

 

Just think, it took nearly 40 years to achieve this much growth. Reminds me of how slowly forests regenerate after extremely hot forest fires. Factoid: “Small plants and trees beneath winter snow, and roots protected by soil, survived the May 18, 1980 eruption and now thrive. Thousands of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and millions of hatchery fingerlings perished in the eruption. Late May 1980—Wind-dispersed spiders and scavenging beetles were among the first animals to return to the Mount St. Helens area. The landscape devastated by the eruption has evolved into a rich and diverse habitat for plants and animals.”

In fact some areas included thick bushes, predominantly Sitka Alder, streams, trees and more water loving flowers.

There were large tent caterpillar nests, in fact the largest I’ve ever seen.

Who was Harry Truman? I was hiking toward Harry’s Ridge and descending in the canyon on the Truman trail.

I assumed there must have been a President Harry Truman connection, but no, this was a very different Harry Truman.

This is Harry’s Ridge, which is said to offer the best views of Spirit Lake. I didn’t hike the ridge during this trip.

It was interesting to see newly formed ponds and water channel changes. The mounds are known as hummocks, created by earth blasted from the mountain. 

Geology was everywhere. I’m guessing this is a lava bomb.

You’ll find Loowit Falls in the middle of this photo. Factoid: “March 20, 1980—A magnitude 4.2 earthquake signaled the reawakening of the volcano after 123 years.”

 

 

 

When I started seeing white fur, my mind went to mountain goats. I couldn’t help but wonder.

As I neared the falls, why yes, I spied a goat.

Soon enough I found the herd.

Spirit Lake

When I saw the white on the lake, my first thought was ice. Given temperatures and snow levels, I was confused. Well sure enough it was floating logs, a so called log mat covering 40% of the surface with about 350,000 acre-feet of pyrolized trees. There is now 200 feet of sediment in the lake increasing the diameter nearly three fold. Harry Truman and his lodge are buried beneath that sediment. Factoid: “Prior to 1980, there were six camps on the shore of Spirit Lake: a Boy Scout camp (Columbia Pacific Council), a Girl Scout camp, two YMCA camps (Longview YMCA camp Loowit, and Portland YMCA camp), Harmony Fall Lodge, and another for the general public. There were also a number of lodges catering to visitors, including Spirit Lake Lodge and Mt. St. Helens Lodge; the latter was inhabited by Harry R. Truman, who became one of the volcano’s victims.”

I was curious about the source of the lake and found this from USGS,

Research suggests that Spirit Lake is an intermittent lake: it has been repeatedly dammed by volcanic material, filled to capacity with water, and at least partially drained due to dam failures causing several major floods and lahars down the North Fork Toutle River. It is believed that pyroclastic flows around 3,350 years ago first dammed the river to form the lake, and then it overflowed and was likely dammed again by debris avalanches prior to the May 18, 1980 eruption.

In early 1980, Spirit Lake was the source of the North Fork Toutle River. However, this changed when the 18 May debris avalanche deposit blocked the outlet of Spirit Lake, and caused the volcano’s newly formed crater to become the source of the river. The debris avalanche raised the surface elevation of Spirit Lake 64 m (210 ft) and filled its natural outlet to a depth of 84 m (276 ft). Without an outlet, runoff from rain and snow caused the lake level to continue to rise, which threatened to breach the unstable blockage.

In November 1982 a pumping station and pipeline were installed to regulate the rising level of Spirit Lake, while a tunnel was bored through bedrock to provide a permanent, stable outlet. Water released from the pump outlet fed into the North Fork of the Toutle River. In May 1985, the tunnel connecting Spirit Lake and South Coldwater Creek was opened.

This photo I took from a hike up Mount Margaret does a better job showing the log mat. It’s hard to imagine the blast caused an 800 foot wave that pushed water and debris over Johnson Ridge. So many questions, did Johnson Ridge exist before the blast? Did the height change?

You can zoom this photo to see the location of Harry’s Lodge.

There were plenty of reminders that this is an active study area.

Adventure Date(s):

  • July 17-18, 2019

Hike Details: Tips:

  • This was one of those places where there aren’t public lands near the trailheads on the Johnson Ridge side. It makes for nearly impossible dispersed camping. Backcountry camping permits are tough to obtain. I stayed at Seaquest Campground. While spendy for my budget, at least they have forested semi-private campsites. The biggest issue is that you cannot get a walk-up permit until after 2:30pm. Sites are priced based on popularity. It’s a 50-mile drive from the campground to Johnson Ridge so not something I wanted to do daily. One b..onus however is that they do have showers.
  • I stopped at the Visitor Center in Castle Rock. The rangers were knowledgeable and helpful with getting basic maps and hiking trail info. The interpretative displays require a fee separate from your Park Pass. Save your money and time for Johnson Ridge.
  • It’s worthwhile spending time at the Johnson Ridge Observatory. I found the film very informative.
  • Loved their cartoon reminders.

Resources:

Links:

 

 

NV – Lake Mead National Recreation Area . . . . Surprisingly Awesome Hiking

On my previous visit through the area, I don’t remember being motivated to venture out. One of things I recalled was Rogers Spring, an oasis in a stark arid environment. There is a nice trail at this location leading up into the hills.

The hills were alive with color on this trip. You’d never guess that a wimpy plant (Leafless Milkweed) when dispersed in mass could produce such color.

The northern end of Lake Mead (Overton Arm) is a visual indicator of what Hoover Dam created, leaving me with lots of questions. The high water mark is from 1983 with lowest levels reached in 2010 when the lake reached 37% capacity. Levels are now holding around 50%. Much of what was river valley is returning to it’s pre-reservoir status. Overton Road is closed; the once thriving resort areas of Echo and Callville Bays are now nearly ghost towns with noted ranger stations long ago closed. The entrance station near Valley of Fire is self-pay only with no way to validate your annual permit or to gather information about things such as road and trail conditions and dispersed camping regulations.

The park has quite a few maintained trail.

The Northshore Summit Trail was my favorite trail. The sign indicates it’s a quarter mile trail, but it continues for a long while. Nancy (WhyNot?!) and I were still traveling together and hiked this trail for a couple hours. Oh how I love hiking ridges! Those views were fantastic.

There is not a designated trail into the Bowl of Fire at this sign pullover location. The park map showed a hiker looking into the bowl. It didn’t take much detective work to find the well established route.

Late afternoon, early evening light captures the fire best.

As you can see morning light doesn’t capture the essence.

While not an official nor maintained trail, the route was easy to follow.

We had fun exploring once we entered the Bowl of Fire.

Look what I found, colorful geology plus flowers.

The Bluff Trail is on the western end of the lake near Las Vegas Bay.

This view is from the Bluffs Trail looking down at Las Vegas Bay, the outflow creek from Las Vegas Lake, and the Wetlands Trail.

It might not have been such a good idea to try to turn this into a loop hike.

Muddy Mountain Wilderness

There are a lot of old mining roads and washes to explore. Much of this area is just outside the park on BLM land but there is also a mix of private lands so it’s important to be respectful by not trespassing.

Look at this invite to rockhound.

Scars from mining activity.

Oh the color you might find walking washes.

I initially thought the pink mounds were mine tailings but nope natural sandstone formation.

Crazy how sometimes these washes run through slot canyons that once again invite further exploration.

There were a couple challenging spots that we had to work hard with body mechanics to up climb while also being very aware we’d need to down climb on our return.

With recent rains, we found a few pot holes including this one with tadpoles.

Lizards seem to like the washes also.

We found a few wildflowers on our jaunts.

I believe this was my first time seeing Matilija poppies.

We stopped by Hoover Dam. What a zoo. It felt like Disneyland with zillions of cars, buses and people. Not my scene! However, the views did provide a better view of the bathtub ring showing high water level.

We would have liked to walk the high memorial bridge but the crowds and parking made this an easy NO.

We didn’t take any of the paid tours, but found the design and mechanics interesting.

Before exiting Nevada, we drove through Red Rock Canyon. Although I avoid urban areas like Las Vegas, this was on my list and I’ll be back to hike. As it was Memorial Day, we elected to skip the crowds on this trip.

Still on my bucket list . . .

Adventure Date(s):

  • May 23-27, 2019

Tips:

  • If you arrive from the north as we did, you’ll be hard pressed to find information about the park except for the map. The ranger stations at Echo Bay and Callville Bay appear to be permanently closed. You won’t get your annual or senior pass validated until you reach the entrance station near Boulder City.
  • Dispersed camping is NOT known as such in this park. There was nothing listed on map or on their website. This was my first experience getting busted for camping in an illegal spot. The Law Enforcement Rangers informed us we were responsible for knowing the Superintendent’s Compendium, seriously? Once home, I also found a link on their site for backcountry camping which states “Vehicle camping is permitted at designated backcountry campsites only.” Of course not very helpful unless you have the associated map.
  • Showers and WiFi are available at the campgrounds. We used the showers at Callville Bay. $1.50 for 6 minutes.
  • Gas and groceries are available in Overton.
  • Bring a rock hammer if you want to search for gems. One sign talked about agates.

Resources:

Links:

NV – Valley of Fire State Park . . . WOWtastic May Weather

I would normally never consider visiting this park in late May, but the weather systems of 2019 provided unseasonably cool weather and a perfect opportunity to share this geology eye candy with my friend Nancy (WhyNot?!).

Last March I first visited this park and was beyond impressed and in fact ended up spending two days hiking and photographing the many sights (NV – Valley of Fire State Park, Part 1 and NV – Valley of Fire State Park, Part 2).

Since I’d explored most of the park previously and given we were both ready to stretch our legs, we decided to hike the longest trail in the park. If you want solitude and to see sights few others see, this is a great option. We saw one person within the first half mile, a couple in the middle and another couple at the end. With two cars, we had the luxury of making this a one-way jaunt. Although the sign indicates “not maintained or marked” we found it well used and easy to follow.

There was plenty of geology WOW along the way.

We also found some interesting flora.

We hiked from White Dome to the Visitor Center.

I couldn’t resist sharing the rock art with Nancy since we’d both visited many sites during our spring jaunts.

Adventure Date(s):

  • May 22, 2019

Tips:

  • If you want people free photos at the Fire Wave, go early. We had great light and had the place to ourselves.
  • Showers are available at the truck stop in St George
  • Gas and grocery stores etc are available in Overton
  • Good dispersed camping opportunities are available north of the park off Highway 169 most notably at Sand Mine Road.

Resources:

Links:

UT – Capitol Reef National Park, Cassidy Arch

I’d been running from thunderstorms and precipitation for about a week, and had been lucky enough to stay in front of them. It looked like my luck was about to run out but Capitol Reef was in my direction of travel and had paved roads, key in the southwest during rainy weather.  There are several ways to reach Cassidy Arch. I started with the Cohab Canyon Trail on this day.

I figured I’d hike as far as I could and turnaround if weather determined it was time before I reached Cassidy Arch.

It was a gorgeous day as I climbed and looked down at the lush Fruita valley.

I transitioned to the Frying Pan Trail.

I saw some firecracker penstemon along the way.

And some mariposa lilies. 

I can’t remember what these black rocks are called, but I believe they are from a volcanic event.

With intermittent showers, I considered turning around several times. I was nervous about wet slickrock and slippery mud. But then the sun would come out and I’d find the motivation to continue my forward progress.

Cassidy Arch! I was so glad the weather granted me this view.

The dark skies helped that Navajo white pop.

Walking slickrock sidewalks is one of my favorite types of terrain.

Wildlife is sure to be happy with full pot holes from the recent rains.

Picture perfect!

Does the world feel a bit tilted? That’s the monocline geologic formation.

Will I be rewarded with pie at the Gifford House? Tip: if you really want a treat, purchase and leave in your car prior to the start of your hike. Often the bakery sells out early.

I can’t visit Capitol Reef without stopping by and saying hello to another favorite geologic feature, the monocline Waterpocket Fold. This section is nicknamed the Navajo Knobs.

Sunrise paints them red. (Note: the spot is sand on my camera lens)

Adventure Date(s):

  • May 9, 2019

Tips:

  • There is dispersed camping along Notom Road off Highway 24
  • Showers and laundry are available at the Chuck Wagon General Store in Torrey

Resources:

Links:

 

CA – Picacho State Recreation Area

While visiting my friend Petra in the Yuma Arizona area, she invited me to join her for an adventure in Picacho, the California Picacho not the Arizona Picacho. How confusing! More so as I had the Arizona park on my list for chasing wildflowers and had never heard of the California park.

Of course I said YES. I love new adventures and especially ones recommended by friends. You all know by now I’m an opportunist and when opportunity arises I usually say YES!  This park is 25 miles north of Yuma and includes the Colorado River as well mining history and colorful badlands. Upon arrival, we were joined by Petra’s friend Lorene and hiked the Picacho Mills Historic Trail.

According to park interpretive literature, “the colored slopes are natural formations of volcanic tuff. Minerals cause the color variations.” As one who loves this type of geology, I was in heaven. That’s the Colorado River a haven for folks who enjoy fishing and boating.

The trails are in good condition and easy to follow, however they are made of decomposed rock so can be slippery.

The Beavertail cactus were just beginning to bloom. The bright pink was such a standout among the otherwise barren landscape.

The history is interesting.

Such fun to experience an area long loved by new friends Petra and Lorene.

Later that evening we were joined by another friend Jan, what two Jans? Ha! We hiked up Red Mountain.

We were treated to views like this.

What a fun hike. So great getting to hang with new friends.

Later that evening, we took a short jaunt to the river where the group was catfishing. Would this spooky full moon result in good fishing? YES!

We stayed in the park campground where I said good morning as the moon said goodbye for another day.

Temperatures can be unpleasantly hot as this is the Sonoran Desert. In fact the park brochure indicates huge swings in temperatures from 20F in the winter to 120F in the summer. Since I was still in winter mode, anything above 70 seemed hot. Thus we got an early start. I’d provide a photo of the lake . . . but it’s dried up.

The hike though is mostly on ridges, definitely my preference.

Thank you Petra for being an amazing host and adventure partner.

This shows what I believe are the maintained hiking trails but there are many roads and others to be explored. 

Adventure Date(s):

  • March 20-21, 2019

Tips(s):

  • This park seems to be under visited in part due to it’s remoteness. Be prepared to drive 18 dirt miles, rough but okay for most any car. Call or visit the web site to check on current road conditions.
  • Plan to stay in the park campground although there is nearby public land available for dispersed camping. A benefit to staying in the campground is showers as well as much more walkable access to trails and the river.
  • The best time to visit is mid-October through mid-April.

Resources:

Links:

Photo Credit: Lorene

OR – Three Sisters Wilderness, Tam McArthur Rim Trail

I love interpretative signage. 

The hike climbs out of the Three Creek Lake basin providing views of the cascades. My friends Jill and Robert were great about helping to orient me and learn the names of the peaks. 

You also get views of the Tam McArthur Rim high above the lake.

As you enter Three Sisters Wilderness, you lose the views while wandering through the forest.

There was still a bit of snow around on this mid June day. 

Looking back at Three Creek Lake from Tam McArthur Rim. There were wildfires and subsequent smoke affecting the distant views. 

This is the jump off point for further exploration including Broken Top summit attempts. 

From this vantage point you can see Broken Top and South, Middle and North Sister Mountains. 

Mount Bachelor appears to be a hop, skip and jump away.

Broken Top (you can see how it got it’s name). 

I had a hard time picking up my jaw when I saw this view. WOW WOW WOW! 

Then we off in search of Lava Bombs, which I’d recently learned about during my visit to Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve. The Wikipedia definition, “A volcanic bomb is a mass of molten rock (tephra) larger than 64 mm (2.5 inches) in diameter, formed when a volcano ejects viscous fragments of lava during an eruption. They cool into solid fragments before they reach the ground.” 

There was so much to love about this day. Thank you again Robert and Jill. This was my kind of place. Your company and knowledge added much to this adventure. You know I’m in heaven when I take a zillion photos!

There were lots of other volcanic treasures to explore. 

Adventure Date(s):

  • June 19, 2018

Hike Details:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Resources:

Links:

ID – Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve

From Dinosaur National Monument, I continued my wanderings by taking a drive through the Sheep Creek Geologic area in Utah, followed by a quick but uneventful visit to Fossil Butte National Monument in Wyoming (maybe third time will bring success), and finally I reached Idaho. 

With a few days remaining before I needed to be in Boise for a wedding, I found the perfect place to explore.

Of course my eyes were immediately drawn to the Pioneer Mountains. I wondered how soon they’d be accessible.

I found the geologic history interesting. 

These tiny pink monkeyflowers were a great accent to the black volcanic landscape. 

I hiked most of the trails with the exception of the Wilderness Trail. 

Signage was exceptional. 

Since there weren’t many wildflowers I found myself drawn to rocks.

Hiking the Broken Top Loop Trail provides many opportunities for learning. Be sure to grab an interpretive guide from the Visitor Center. 

Pressure ridge 

Pahoehoe (ropy) lava flows 

Tree molds were one of the more challenging features to find. If you look closely at this picture, there is a trough just above the sign and to the right. Per NPS literature, “tree molds are an impression left in the lava of the charred surface of a tree.” 

I also visited several of the lave tube caves including this one on the Broken Top Loop Trail. NOTE: be sure to grab a cave permit from the Visitor Center as one is required to enter caves.

Collapsed lava tube 

A benefit of staying in the park campground was hiking at sunset and sunrise. The North Crater Trails begin at the campground. 

Views along the North Crater Trail were exceptional. 

It was an awesome experience to walk the ridges of the cinder cones, especially early in the morning when I had the place to myself.

Yep, all MINE – even mid morning on the Friday before Memorial Day weekend. Notice the duck tape on my fender.

If you’re lucky, you might just spy some petrified wood. 

Keeping the cinder from shifting isn’t an easy task. Kudos to the trail builders and maintainers. There’s a reason they ask hikers to stay on trail and to respect closed areas. 

Look at all that volcanic activity. So much history in one place. 

My wildflower finds. 

It’s a harsh environment for wildflowers. They are few and far between as demonstrated in the following photo. 

I truly love being surprised when places exceed expectations; this one was a home run! 

My one frustration this trip was road construction. I got stuck several times waiting my turn in one-way traffic but this incident topped the cake. I’d planned to hike the Caves Trail when I completed my early morning jaunt on North Crater Trail. But, due to construction the normal one-way driving loop to Caves Trail was blocked with only access to Broken Top and Tree Molds trails. Since I’d already hiked Broken Top I hiked the Tree Molds trail. On my return I was happy to find the Caves Trail parking open. I hiked to the various caves but upon returning to my car I found myself and many others included a couple buses of preschoolers blocked in. No one was manning the blocked entrance/exit. I was first in line to exit. We waited and waited and waited as the road has just been sealed. We called the visitor center and they didn’t know status either and weren’t able to contact the contractors. Finally the bus drivers decided to bust through the barricade. What was I to do but follow? HELLO, this was the Friday of Memorial Day weekend. 

Adventure Date(s):

  • May 24-25, 2018

Tips:

  • Obtain a cave permit from the Visitor Center. It’s free and required to enter the caves. Also grab a copy of the caves interpretative guide.
  • Pick up a copy of the free hiking trails guide from the Visitor Center, plus the one detailed for Broken Top.
  • If you are interested in geology be sure to ask for the free handout at the Visitor Center. 
  • Consider staying at the NPS campground. It was worth it for me to have evening and morning access although there is dispersed camping opportunities within 30 minutes of the park.
  • Photography is especially challenging under harsh sunlight conditions.
  • It’s a HOT place in the summer!

Resources:

Links: