Mount Saint Helens National Monument is an easy day trip from either Portland, Oregon or Seattle, Washington. From Portland we headed up the freeway through thick forests and past numerous rivers, streams, and lakes. Once on the road heading up the mountain, you can see the numerous areas that had to be evacuated in the days leading up to the eruption in 1980 (the mountain is a volcano). At least one old mountain man refused to leave his cabin, knowing that he was not long for this world anyway, and preferring to die on his mountain. There are many stopping places in between, but we waited until we were in the Mt. St. Helens area to stop for lunch. The visitor’s center at Hoffstadt Bluffs is nestled in a small valley just below the volcano. There are viewing areas, picnic tables, and a nice, grassy knoll, perfect for children (and some adults) to roll down. You can walk down to the river or sit in the sun outside the café next to the visitor’s center. This gift shop is very limited, but it is the only one open in late April, so we made do.
We continued all the way up to Johnston Ridge Observatory, where a ranger was giving a talk, despite the facilities being closed. We walked part of the trail, but only a little ways. This was an outing with abuelo, so no extreme hiking today. Much of the trail is paved, but there is a longer version that turns to dirt and gravel. We’re saving that for next time.
Watching the clouds play around the mountain was fascinating. At one point, a cloud formation made it look like the cinder cone was actually steaming! But it finally shifted and we could tell it was just clouds. Our pulses raced for a few moments.
On the way down, we stopped for an early dinner at The Birth of a Lake Trail. This lake was formed as a result of the 1980 blast and is still protected as it continues to grow and nurture water and plant life. The crystal clear blue waters sparkle in the sunlight. Spiders spin their webs unmolested. The trail goes most of the way around the lake, with plenty of stops for sitting and viewing.
Abuelo and Tia did a good section of this trail with his walker/chair. After a couple hours of relaxation at this quiet spot (until the guy with the leaf blower showed up) we continued back to busy Portland, scenes of mountainous beauty and visions of the frightening power of nature filling our minds to be pulled forth for future mental getaways.