Something happens to the light in the alpine; it becomes fluid, harsh, mesmerizing- something akin to its own entity. We’re sitting at approximately 4200’, roughly 5ish miles into our hike. We’ve just turned on to the Loowit trail after popping out of the lovely and forested Ape Canyon trail. The contrast is stark: no shade, no misconceptions, just the mountain looming before us and the devastated Plains of Abraham to our right.
|sitting at the junctions of the Loowit & Ape Canyon trail, taking it all in|
Then, J.B. busts this little brilliant little piece of trail magic out of her pack.
|all this credit must go to J.B.|
About that time, a lone mountain goat traverses the pumice butte across from us, winds their way across the trail, and disappears into the mountainscape before us. No one else around to witness.
Pretty perfect lunch stop. The mountains are always magic.
I haven’t been to the Plains of Abraham via the Ape Canyon trail since 2010. I remember, because it was also a pretty perfect day on the mountain- one spent alone with just me and my dog, when the wind was brisk and cold across the remaining snow and the sun bright and merciless above us as it tends to be in the treeless alpine areas of Helens. Today was reminiscent of that day, except I had the company of a good friend. The hike was J.B.’s proposal and I was all in, needing some mountain time.
|2010 was a snowier year (this is taken late June)|
|I miss my trail boy (love you, Rock-monster)|
House selling/hunting has been consuming almost all of my free time lately, and the self-care has been lacking. It always shows in my stress level. And nothing, nothing decompresses me like a day spent traipsing around in the mountains.
So needless to say, it felt really, really good to set my feet on trail. And this is a great trail, one that is a study in contrasts. The first few miles ascend through old growth that miraculously escaped the lahar that tore through the Muddy River valley in 1980. Later, glimpses of the blast zone become evident across the hillsides, toothpick trees following the trajectory of the pyroclastic flow. It’s also a four peak hike on a clear day with Hood, Rainier, Adams and (of course) Helens, all visible and in your face. The Plains themselves are a moonscape, a flat, harsh reality that are supposedly gorgeous in high summer during the lupine bloom, something I have never seen. Somehow, I seem to prefer Helens in the shoulder seasons between the melt-out and the oncoming winter.
|light breaking through the old growth on the Ape Canyon trail|
|evidence lingers of the Muddy River lahar|
After our brilliant lunch of Pinot Gris, yogurt and cheezits (trail food of champions!) we wandered another hour or so along the Plains, taking in the transition of the mountain between spring and summer. We made plans to maybe partake in a Helens climb, J.B. being from Colorado and all which I’m pretty sure translates to summit fever. We’ll see.
|beauty & devastation on the Plains of Abraham|
APE CANYON-PLAINS OF ABRAHAM
Mount Saint Helens National Volcanic Monument, Washington
~12 miles, ~1400 feet elevation gain