Johnston Ridge Observatory

Location: Johnston Ridge Observatory, Mount St. Helens, Washington

Permit: Johnston Ridge Observatory entry fee ($8). One free entry with NW Forest Pass

Option 1 to viewpoint
Level: easy Beginner Level: doable
Round trip/Gain: 3.8 miles/400ft
Type: round trip

Option 2 to Harry’s Ridge
Round trip/Gain: 8 miles/1000ft
Type: round trip

That first view of Mount St. Helens when driving up 804-E kills me. I love this mountain so much! And so does everyone else, because I thought I was pulling one over showing up early morning midweek on a hot day, but no, the parking lot at Johnston Ridge Observatory was swarmed. I dreaded walking up to the Observatory to get my armband (you have to wear your proof of entry and mine was free because I have a NW Forest Pass!), but as soon as I got on trail, the crowds thinned within the first few tenths of a mile. Still, trails like this are always the ones where you see people with no water, bad footwear, talking on their phones, etc. It can be stressful!

Every single moment of this trail, start to finish, yields a spectacular view. You can go as short or as far as you want and be totally bowled over. Also, there is NO shade on this trail aside from a tiny patch of baby alders at one point.

mountsthelensharrysridge2 Continue reading “Johnston Ridge Observatory”

Ape Canyon (+ writing)

(Trail specs at the end)

My body’s been a mess and my head even worse, but when my alarm goes off I’m up. The only thing that can get me out of bed after working late and only getting five-and-a-half hours of sleep is an all day hiking adventure. I wake up feeling different. Not as full of apprehension as I often am lately. Maybe, it’s just that I’m about to hang out with my very favorite mountain, Mount St. Helens.

I know the ride up there so well I tick off all of the sights as I drive, giant coffee steaming in one hand. Yale Park with it’s post-apocalyptic old tree stumps surrounded by lake. The little roadside teepee selling wooden flutes and moccasins. What adventures the many turnoffs lead to. I get so nostalgic for the best camping and hiking I’ve ever done and excited about how much still awaits me. I may never do it all in this life and there’s something marvelous about that. A mountain cannot be conquered, this is a good thing. Be more mountain-like, I think. The morning is much colder than I thought it would be. Dark, too. The weather report, which I check obsessively according to my girlfriend, calls for partial sun. Maybe, later? I can’t tell if it’s mist or light rain beginning to coat my windshield and I start to wonder if I’ll regret not packing gloves and a rain jacket. It’s early September! How are these allowed to be thoughts already? Continue reading “Ape Canyon (+ writing)”