Tag Archives: Mt. St. Helens

A weekend of adventure – A Coldwater Lake hike


First Weekend of April – 02-Apr-2021 through 04-Apr-2021

It’s been a while since I’ve had a full adventure weekend. I’ve been kind of floating around between adventures this spring, not really sure what I want to be doing and feeling a bit aimless. I don’t know if it’s the longer days, the solitude, or what… but for better or worse, it’s been a real challenge motivating myself to do much else aside from go to work, go to the gym, and try to regenerate my energy at home by laying on the couch like a lazy bear.

This weekend, I planned it out. I set goals, timetables, and decided to move. To charge forward and to try and drive myself out of the funk that comes with the changing of the seasons!

Saturday, 03-Apr-2021

I’m really happy with how many adventures I’ve been able to go on, and how many amazing photos I’ve been able to take on those trips.

It’s sort of like I’m exploring Oregon for the first time… again. I’m poking around, learning new areas, and seeing slightly different edges of those areas as I stretch out and visit more places.

Today was a hike like that – Exploring a slightly different iteration of a place that I’d been to before.

Last summer, Laurel and I had hiked the Boundary Trail North of Mt. St. Helens, getting some amazing views and learning just how much water one can drink while on a dusty hike… even if the weather isn’t particularly hot. This time, we went to a similar spot, but coming in from the other direction – starting at Coldwater Lake, and heading toward the peak itself…

Coldwater Lake is gorgeous, and is an extremely young lake in comparison to most of the places I’ve been too – check out the Wikipedia link below, but the short version is that Coldwater Lake was formed in 1980 by the Mt. St. Helens eruption, when the explosion created a huge line of detritus that blocked the river, creating this lake. The lake barrier was then reinforced by the Army Corps of Engineers, to avoid a catastrophic flood once the natural barrier collapsed… which created this gorgeous lake, with full trees still standing in some parts.

This hike was beautiful.

Just… so amazingly beautiful.

It was actually quite warm as we walked along the perimeter of the lake; the snow capped mountains were all around, but down at lake-level it was warm and dry… warm enough that I actually hiked in a tee-shirt, and had to toss some extra sun screen on as the sun got higher in the sky.

What else to say… as I’ve mentioned, hiking stories aren’t really the most exciting things to write about. It’s a lot of walking, chatting, and enjoying the scenery. Which, while fun for me, isn’t quite as interesting for people to read about.

Ohh! The snow!

That was a cool part!

Like I mentioned, there really wasn’t any snow down at lake-level… but that changed almost immediately after we crossed over a small bridge, and started to head up in elevation. Literally within maybe 500ft of elevation change, the trail went from bare dirt to multiple feet of snow. Enough that crampons and gaiters came out, and the going got quite slow.

Two interesting events of note happened in the snowy section:

  • We found a full camping stove sitting in the middle of the trail. Literally, one of those single-burner, internal-tank propane stoves. In a full case. Literally in the middle of the trail. I assume… dropped on the descent by another party, maybe?
    However it came to be there, ensconced in the snow… I have a new campstove now, which is cool.
  • Aliona fell so far into the snow that she nearly died, and I needed to rescue her.
    I’m… not convinced about exactly how accurate that depiction really is… but she’s adamant that it be typed up that way. Specifically, and I quote, “Make sure you don’t skip any important details about saving my life when I sunk neck deep in snow”.

    So… you know. Heroic rescuerer, here. I dove into the swirling snow-eddies after her, selflessly imperelling myself as we struggled mightely against the sheer weight of the unfathomable doom that is a snowy trail.

I promise I’m normal.

In all truth though, the snow was impressive, and surprising after the clear trail that we’d entered by. It wasn’t too bad of a walk, but definitely challenging… and frankly was getting harsher the closer we approached Coldwater Peak itself.

With that risk in mind, and the sun dipping at our backs, we made the call – 30min more of ascent, and then an enforced turn around time. We didn’t quite make it to the peak… but I’m quite happy with the views we did get, and the sheer distance we hiked.

12.73 miles is nothing to sneeze at… especially when surrounded by peaks as glorious as this.

Link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coldwater_Lake_(Washington)

Backpacking in to Elk Meadows – 30-Oct-2020


Friday and Saturday, 30 & 31-October-2020

It’s been a while since I’ve gone backpacking… it feels like the Fall has flashed by, with the leaves suddenly going from green to bright red and the air becoming cool and crisp out of nowhere.

This year’s been interesting, and I think the constant barrage of calamities, news, and changes has really kept it moving quickly… but at the same time, last year feels like a lifetime ago.

I got away from it all, escaping to the Eastern flank of Mt. Hood.

Last weekend’s hike up to McNeil reminded me just how much I love Autumn and winter hiking… it’s not something I could ever forget, of course, but hiking up and into the frosted forest just brought that love vividly back to mind. Vividly enough that there was no way I was spending another weekend in town.

Friday morning, I didn’t rush. I don’t like rushing in the morning, if I can help it, and since the weather forecast called for rain until the early afternoon… I figured it’d save me some wet gear if I took my time, made a nice breakfast, and then trundled out into the woods after I’d taken my time to wake up.

The plan worked perfectly, and when I parked at the trailhead I was one of only two cars parked there.

The other team, it turns out, was just on the trail as a day hike – I ran into them pretty quickly, interestingly, as they were on their way out… which meant that I was left completely alone on the flanks of the mountain, on a perfectly beautiful late Autumn day.

Not anything I could ever complain about, and not anything that I could have dared hope for.

I headed in, set up camp, made a nice dinner, and rested… It was a beautiful night, exactly my favorite hiking weather. Cold, almost bitingly cold, but still warm enough that I was comfortable in my layers of jackets and gloves.

There was a full moon, which fully illuminated the entire meadow around me… I’ve been making effort to be more present and less distractable, and this was a perfect moment to just… be.

I don’t know how long I stood in the meadow, just watching the moonlight carve its way across the grass toward Mt. Hood. It was lovely, but soon enough I was heading back to the tent, to curl up into the sleeping bag and drift off.

At like 8:30 at night, because it gets dark crazy early now.

Saturday dawned bright, cloudless, and crisp.

Frost was covering the meadow, though there wasn’t any snow to speak of yet, and the temperature had realistically passed “crisp” pretty significantly, diving fully into “cold” as the night had worn on.

Thankfully, I had a nice puffy jacket, and a hot breakfast to cook up to keep me warm – and I even had a bird-friend to hang out with!

I really miss Ollie, on these hikes, but I do appreciate getting to see more wildlife than I really ever did before. I miss the excitement and running energy that she’d bring to the hike, but at the same time the quiet is definitely appreciated, and the calm is a nice change of pace. I’m sure I’ll get used to the difference over time… but for now, it’s something I notice every time I’m out hiking alone.

After eating, I set out for a quick walk… I hadn’t made any real plans for the day, but I figured that I’d circumnavigate the meadow, and see where that brought me.

Where it brought me was the Blue Grass Ridge trail – a spur trail off to the East of the meadows that I’d never been to before. It was a rough trail, pushing through a huge forest of standing dead trees… from a wildfire years back, it seemed like. Those empty trees gave for some amazing views though, and very interesting scrambling, which kept the blood pumping and my mind focused.

It was great, and I enjoyed the challenge of finding paths around and through the fallen trees, trying to scope out the best place to get views of the Northern and Southern volcanoes.

I hadn’t expected any mountain views aside from Hood, so seeing everything from St. Helens to The Sisters was a huge and welcome surprise.

After exploring the ridgeline for a while, I headed back down toward the meadows… it was starting to get toward mid-day, and I was getting a bit restless. I had some extra food, so I theoretically could have stayed an extra night… but I was feeling like getting a move on.

After finishing my circumnavigation of the meadow, I packed up, headed out, and started down the road back toward home… A little happier, a little more tired, and quite a lot energized for the rest of the long weekend.

Seeing the North Rim of St. Helens – Hiking the boundary trail to Coldwater Peak


Saturday, 15-Aug-2020


This has been a strange year.

Yep.  Profound, that one, isn’t it?  Super unique, no one else has said that about 2020, I’ll bet.


While it’s not the most creative statement, it’s still really true for me – I’ve finally started stretching my legs and exploring Oregon again, seeing my home through new lenses, in a new light, and from new vantage points.  I’d run out of ideas for nearby hikes, but thankfully Laurel had a suggestion for us – The Northern side of Mt. St. Helens, hiking out to Coldwater peak…


Vital Statistics:

Length – 11.9 miles

Starting elevation – 4,180ft

Elevation gain – 2,785ft

Trail type – out and back


It was a bit longer than I’d normally do on my own, but we decided to go for it anyways – The weather in Portland was slated to be extremely hot (above 100 degrees), so any escape from the city would be preferable to staying in town.  We figured that 4,100ft would be enough to bring out some cooler weather to complement the excellent views of St. Helens that we’d be sure to find.

Well, we did find the views.

The heat… we also found that.

Turns out, 4,100ft isn’t actually that high.  Sure, it was cooler… but “cooler” is relative.  When we parked and put the top up on the car, it was solidly into the high 80s.  And on a trail with no shade, as the sun was rising… well, we definitely made it convincingly into the 90s while on the hike.


It was worth every second of it, though.  Even the ending part, where I was slowly melting into my boots, and Laurel was nearly dragging me back to the car.  I mean, it wasn’t really that bad, but I was definitely pretty tired and quite toasted by the time we made it back to the car.  The top stayed up for the drive home, if that wasn’t obvious.  Easier to crank the air conditioner.

The hike itself?  It was beautiful!  Excellent views of the North side of St. Helens, beautiful lakes, and a generally pleasant trail the entire way.  Not much shade, of course… but that’s what happens when a massive volcanic eruption decimates the entire landscape.

For those not in the know – The North side of St. Helens is where the majority of the eruption damage occurred.  The exact chain of events (as I learned) was that an earthquake triggered a massive landslide, exposing the core of the volcano, which then erupted into a series of pyroclastic flows.  Where we were hiking was the boundary of the closed-off zone, which is protected for study of wildlife renewal after cataclysmic events.  It’s really cool, and quite humbling to see just how extensive the damage was… and how well the landscape is healing itself.


Anyways, that’s a bit of a meandering way of saying that the hiking was beautiful, the company was great, and views were excellent, and the geologic factoids were very interesting.  There was even a cool natural arch, with some fun bouldering lines on it!  Ironically, better rock climbing than we’d found the previous weekend out at Larch Mountain… but let’s stick with the positive, hmm?  The rock quality was great, there was some shade, a good breeze… man, it was good times.

Still meandering… I think that’s about it.  The drive from Portland wasn’t bad, we had good music, and even stopped to get enchiladas and a marionberry shake on the way home.  Good times indeed!