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”


Fat Woman Falling

The pouring rain hadn’t let up for even a moment from the time we all woke up, to meeting up at Travis’s, to pulling up to the Kurt’s Connection trailhead on Mt. Hood. We were doing this despite the rain’s protests. There was only the faintest vibe of, hey, maybe we should try this again another day? but the trail was only three miles long and no one wanted to be that person. I was vaguely comforted by the fact there was one other person there who hadn’t snowshoed before, but I knew I’d be the slowest person on account of generally being slower and I was also recovering from tearing a meniscus in my left knee two-and-a-half months prior.

It technically wasn’t my first time. My girlfriend, Brie, and I did it once for our second anniversary. We rented snowshoes and had no clue what we were doing, but the day would end with whiskey and a hot tub in a fancy cabin, so who cared? We accidentally picked a “difficult” trail and it was awful. We fell over and over and it was hilarious until it wasn’t anymore. We were beat up by the end, but we actually completed the trail. It didn’t ruin snowshoeing for me, but it took me another three years to give it this second shot. I thought it could only be a breeze after that first experience. Continue reading “Fat Woman Falling”

The Journey is Good, Too.

A few days ago, I returned to one of my first and favorite hikes, the Mirror Lake trail to Tom Dick & Harry Mountain on Mt. Hood. I’ve done so many incredible trails and have the longest list of ones I have yet to do, but some call me back over and over. This is one of them. It had a bone to pick with me and I’m relieved I showed up for it. As I bear down and make this writing practice a thing, I am constantly confronted with how PTSD and drug and alcohol use has wiped huge chunks of my memory clear. I feel these memories screaming to come out, but when I sit down to tell their stories, it’s all dead ends and it keeps me from finishing most things I start. When this trail called to me a few days ago, I knew I had to find out what it had to reveal to me.

Tom Dick & Harry Mountain is all instant gratification. Beautiful through and through. Six-point-four miles, an elevation gain of fifteen-hundred feet and plenty of nature prizes to propel you to the summit where the reward is a three-sixty view. On a clear day, that means Mount St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, Mt. Adams, Mt. Jefferson and, of course, Mt. Hood, are all in view. It’s spectacular. Continue reading “The Journey is Good, Too.”

Tom Dick and Harry Mountain (via Mirror Lake)

Option 1

  • Level: Easy to Mirror Lake (Beginner Level: Challenging)
  • Length: 3.2 miles
  • Elevation: 700 ft. gain
  • Type: out and back

Option 2

  • Level: Moderate to summit viewpoint
  • Length: 6.4 miles
  • Elevation: 1,500 ft. gain
  • Type: out and back

Further Details

  • Open: mid-May to mid-November
  • Permit: Northwest Forest Pass
  • Drive time from Portland: 1h10m
  • Google map: “Mirror Lake Trailhead” (bring screenshot or hard copies of directions, you may lose reception.)
  • Features: backpacking, Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness, three-sixty views, spring flowers, swimming

Continue reading “Tom Dick and Harry Mountain (via Mirror Lake)”

Tamanawas Falls

  • Level: Easy (Beginner Level: Doable)
  • Length: 3.8 miles
  • Elevation: 500 ft. gain
  • Type: Out and back
  • Open: late April – November
  • Permit: Northwest Forest Pass, or $5-$10 (I always forget to check how much because I use a pass)
  • Drive time from Portland: 1h30m
  • Google map: “Tamanawas Falls Trailhead”
  • Features: Mt. Hood National Forest, crazy huge waterfall, day use picnic area

Continue reading “Tamanawas Falls”

Salmon River Trail

Option 1

  • Level: Easy to Rolling Riffle Camp (Beginner Level: Doable)
  • Length: 4 miles
  • Elevation: 200 ft. gain
  • Type: out and back

Option 2

  • Level: Moderate to canyon viewpoint
  • Length: 7.2 miles
  • Elevation: 900 ft. gain
  • Type: out and back

Further Details

  • Open: all year
  • Permit: Northwest Forest Pass
  • Drive time from Portland: 1h10m
  • Google map: “Salmon River Trail” (bring screenshot or hard copies of directions, you may lose reception.)
  • Features: Salmon River, old growth forest, camping spots, swimming holes, Mt. Hood NF, Salmon Huckleberry Wilderness, Hunchback Mountain, Green Canyon, Vanishing Falls, Frustration Falls, Final Falls

Continue reading “Salmon River Trail”