Johnston Ridge ~ Mt St Helens

MAY 16, 2010   We used to make the pilgrimage to Mt. St. Helens every few years to watch the recovery of the landscape within the blast zone, but it had been about 12 years since my last visit.  So on the weekend of the 30th anniversary of the eruption, I found myself driving to Johnston Ridge, stopping at nearly every overlook and visitors center along the way.  Many changes have taken place in the years since my last visit.  The Coldwater Ridge Visitors Center is closed and gated shut due to budget shortfalls and the high cost to run that facility.  The most obvious change was the re-emergence of both flora and fauna, and I was duly impressed. 

The weather was moody as I started off on the Boundary Trail from the Johnston Ridge Observatory, intending to hike to Harry's Ridge if time allowed.  Winter had just retreated, so the greenery was sparse along the trail, but everywhere there were signs that recovery has indeed picked up its pace since my last visit.  A sign not far from the JRO provides a map of the area and warns of seriously rugged country ahead; it cautions hikers not to exceed their capabilities--or their comfort levels.  I'm usually comfortable with exposure on steep slopes, so I hiked on.  Soon the trail started skirting a steep cliff with an amazing view of the mountain in front of me.  The trail can only be described as a mean, narrow little trail with a sheer drop to the Pumice Plain.  But the scenery was stunning and enticed me on--until I reached a short section of the trail that was so eroded I couldn't get a solid footing on it.  I thought about it for several minutes before deciding that it was a good time to turn around.  Not quite ready to quit for the day, however, I stopped off at pretty Coldwater Lake for a short hike on the Birth of a Lake Trail. 

 

4 miles at JRO

1 mile at Coldwater Lake

 

Plants Return

 

The Crater

 

Pumice Plain

 

Traversing the Cliff

 

Coldwater Lake:  Birth of a Lake Trail

 

Castle Lake Viewpoint