The Country of Marge

The Mount Margaret Backcountry, on the north side of Mount Saint Helens, is absolutely spectacular. It’s one of those places, that when you finally end up smack dab in the middle of it, you find yourself wondering how the hell it took you so long to discover it in the first place. 

me, loving the Mount Margaret backcountry, serenaded by Hood & Helens

Part of what makes the country of Marge so damn difficult to discover is that it’s in the middle of nowhere. Well, that is, unless you live in the middle of nowhere. No matter how fast you drive, certain trailheads are simply about (more or less, depending on traffic) 3ish hours from Portland or Seattle. Benefit? Cuts down on touristy hoards. Drawback? Unless you are doing an overnighter, a long day hike turns into a serious, all day commitment with at least 6 hours of driving. Worth it? Absolutely.

Mount Adams & Meta Lake

Helens over Spirit Lake

Norway Pass holds fond memories for us both- a late fall day, chill wind, no other souls in sight, the mountain and Spirit Lake our only company, a world of blue and red and gold, startling a small herd of elk not ten feet from us. We came this day in hopes of recreating that day- all color and wildlife and solitude- not always a successful endeavor as we have found from previous attempts. But still worth a shot.

Mount Margaret backcountry, October 2010

Helens & Spirit Lake from Norway Pass, October 2010
Spirit Lake, Mount Margaret in the background, October 2010

Independence Pass Trail, October 2010

Near the junctions of the Independence Trail and Norway pass, the trail was washed out by late, record September rainfall, so we headed right and up, towards Mount Margaret (second highest peak in the Mt. Margaret backcountry) instead. I was like a kid in a big candy store, heading into an area of the backcountry I’d never been to before. Perfectly compliant, the landscape was all gold and red, backlit with a brilliant blue sky. It was a five peak day- Rainier, Adams, Hood, Helens and Jefferson all visible and punctuating the horizon. The elk and goats were missing though, shy due to hunting season in full throttle, the strangely warm temps, and the six other surprise hikers we saw that day. 

all the colors of fall....

Mount Rainier, Boot & Obscurity Lakes, Mount Margaret backcountry

About five miles in, we came to the junction of the Boundary and Whittier Trail (NO thank you- the Whittier trail is exactly that kind of trail that my vertigo, unfortunately, cannot handle).  Two hikers perched, mountain goat-style, atop Mount Margaret (5,840’), another mile-ish away. After watching another two hikers don extra gear and begin kicking steps into the icy snow on their way to the summit, Andy and I decided to leave Ms. Marge for another day- we don’t suffer from “summit fever” and without proper gear had no interest in attempting the climb on icy slopes above a steep, snow-filled basin.   

Mount Margaret & Helens

Regardless of the lack of the promised views from atop Mt. Marge, the day was far from disappointing. We traversed back along the high, spiny ridges, marveling in the color, the mountain views and the beauty of the valleys laid out before us. No elk and no goats, but no disappointment. We'll be back. 

MOUNT MARGARET (or, pretty close)
Mount Margaret Backcountry, MSH National Monument, Washington
~10-11 miles, ~2100 feet elevation gain

No comments: