On 11. September I am checking my cellphone, a message from two NVUM friends is on there for our whole group: „Hey, Peter and I are going to do a two day backpacking trip close to Mount Saint Helens, starting tonight. Gabriel“
I push the touchscreen hard trying to save some time typing: „Don’t leave me behind! I’m in!“
The most popular loop within the boundaries of the Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument is the Loowit Loop which is circumnavigating Mt. St. Helens. It’s 1980’s eruption made this volcanic mountain world famous, leaving behind a landscape which makes you think of far away planets or a postapocalyptic earth.
However we decided to do a not so average loop, starting at Ape Canyon Trailhead, walking beyond the Plains of Abraham to Windy Ridge and then turn back south along the Smith Creek valley with a final push up the Lava Canyon back to our starting point.
A few hours later the three of us meet at the Ape Canyon Trailhead on the south side of Mount Saint Helens. It is almost 6 pm and close to sunset. Strong, cold wind and the knowledge that good campsites are rare within this rough, rock piled scenery where our companions.
After 5 miles we set up our camp, already in the dark, just close before the Plains of Abraham hiden in a bunch of trees. Temperatures drop down to about 5°C and the wind chills down even a bit further. Even tough we spend a great night up there.
The next day starts windy again but the view of the sunrise excuses everything.
We hoover over the Plains of Abraham, a flat, wide and open area on the east side of the mountain. We approach Windy Ridge and get best views of the blast zone (north side of the mountain), Mt Rainier in the distance and the view of Spirit Lake with thousands of dead trees in it round up this unbelievable beautiful vista.
We soon start our second part of the loop and descent down to Smith Creek with it’s massive gravel beds and banks. We get wet feet fording the river because we loose the trail in an unaware second.
In late evening we are almost there and we start our last ascent up the Lava Canyon, where purest, blue water cascades down old lava masses encraving into a canyon.
After 35 strenous kilometers we reach our cars again.
We leave for today but the pictures and moments we had will not leave our heads.