Cabin Fever

Mount Saint Helens National Monument, Washington
~8.5 miles, ~1700 feet elevation gain

Toaster crumbies: the little, black, crusty, desiccated residual leftovers at the bottom of the toaster oven. Sometimes still slightly gelatinous, always gross, and never resembling the previous life form that was burnt to a crisp at the bottom of the oven. 

Midterms just passed, including the pathophysiology test from hell. I love school. But right now, I am mental toaster crumbies. And grouchy. Andy, too, has a major case of cabin fever. Time for a hike.

We decided to try a previously thwarted hike attempt on Mount Saint Helens from Butte Camp Trail to the Loowit Trail. The hope was to find some elk to stalk; whether we would find any remained to be seen. But it was time to enjoy the remaining vestiges of fall before winter settles over the high country.

There is something about Helens during the cusp seasons. During high summer she is naked and dusty, pumice-strewn, hot, treeless. Heather and lupine abound, but there is a quality and beauty to the area that calls to both Andy and me during the quiet, muted seasons of fall and winter. The tortured landscapes around the mountain grow calmer in the subtle colors of winter, softer under their blanket of snow. During fall, a brief explosion of color among the huckleberries and grasses lines the mountain in brilliant reds, oranges and yellows before fading in the onslaught of the season ahead. 

Helens and Spirit Lake from Norway Pass, October 2010

We arrived at the trailhead and were hiking by 1:30 pm. The late arrival was deliberate, our plan to catch the warm, slanted light of fall as it descended on the mountain. 44° and bluebird. Perfect.

MSH from Red Rock Pass

The Toutle Trail to the Butte Camp Trail is a well-graded, easy stroll through forest, occasionally broken by ancient pumice and lava fields, the forest floor layered with thick, fern-like mosses. Roughly three miles from Red Rock Pass, the trail begins to climb through old growth hemlock as it winds its way ever higher along the slopes of Butte Dome, an ancient plugged lava dome, before spitting you out into the high alpine.

I never get tired of these areas.

We played with Andy's new birthday gift, a Velbon VS-443D tripod, and we give it four thumbs up {insert here: I am going to steal it, it's so awesome}. I toyed around with juvenile macro photography, still very, very much in the rookie learning phase and frequently standing in my own light source.

some kind of little tuffy flower

huckleberry leaf macro

The only elk sign: footprints.

Still, the light was glorious. Golden, falling over open meadows strewn with lava rock, the remains of summer flowers dried in the wind, grasses and mosses backlit and brilliant.

For the first time in several weeks, I was calm.

By 5 pm we decided it was time to head back as we were roughly 4.5 miles from the trailhead. Sunset comes early in a Pacific Northwest fall, the light fading fast.

We reentered forest glowing with the setting sun and completed our hike past sunset, our breath hanging in the air. The forest was dark and quiet, the horizon silhouetted with colorful sky and a sliver of a hanging crescent moon.

And I came home to find I survived the patho test. It was a good day.