Sunday, October 11, 2015

Strawberry Mountain

This weekend Emily, Leo and I found ourselves smack dab in the middle of a Cascade Volcano Trifecta!  We decided to take Leo on a day hike up Strawberry Mountain to the north of Mount St. Helens.  It turned out to be a colorful hike with amazing views and Leo seemed to really enjoy himself in the sunshine.  Read on…

We got a late start in the morning on Sunday and didn’t make it to the trailhead until about 1pm.  It was only a 7 mile round trip out-and-back with only 1,500 feet of elevation change so I wasn’t too worried about time.  The drive to the trailhead with the Prius was a little sketchy.  It was a nice forest service road in until we had to turn off of it and climb up to the ridgeline where Strawberry Mountain was.  This got real steep and took some careful driving to not bottom-out the car.  

The hike was a long a nice ridge line and we could tell from maps that it was also a possible mountain bike trail although after doing the hike I don’t think it would be that fun on Mountain bike.  It was a rolling trail but the ashy nature of the soil and the narrowness of the trail on the hillside would be tough on a bike.  

Nearly as soon as we started hiking we had great views to the south inside of the crater of Mt. St. Helens.  There was fresh snow as well which really gave definition to the crater walls.  80% of the hike was through beautiful meadows along the ridge with open views in all directions.  

We hiked around a large knob of rock and then found ourselves with great views of Mt. Adams off to the east.  Further down the trail past some old burns we soon found ourselves looking directly at huge Mount Rainier to the north just over the shoulder of Strawberry Mountain.  

When we got close to Strawberry mountain we followed the trail around the side of it only to figure out there was no maintained trail to its summit!  Not a big deal.  

The woods were very open and it only took us about 5 minutes of cruising up through a forest to find ourselves on a very small rocky outcropping marking the summit.  It was a wooded summit but had some nice views towards Rainier and Adams..

We relaxed in the sunshine on top for a while, playing with leo and feeding him biscuits we had brought.  This hike was a lot for him as we hadn’t gotten him out this past fall as much as we had wanted to.  He was enjoying himself for sure.  Instead of heading back down the way we came through the woods we took a short cut which opened out to a steep meadow of ashy soil with very cool rocky pinnacles sticking out.  

The view was directly up a river valley into the crater of St. Helens.  We spent a bunch of time here grabbing some photos of each other up on the outcroppings with the volcano in the distance.  Each time we climbed up Leo got super concerned for us and waited patiently at the bottom for us, not being able to climb up himself.  

As we walked back down the trail towards the car the sky began to cloud up and the temperature began to drop.  We got some great views of Mt. Hood that we hadn’t noticed on the way in as well as some really neat HDR shots of the landscape, a landscape that was devastated from a massive eruption 35 years ago.  

Even though the blast zone from the eruption could be clearly seen on the surrounding hillsides, so much life has made it back to the area making this hike one of my favorites within a few hours drive from home.  

We were back at the car by 4:30 and we decided to drive south along the paved and well-maintained forest service road past St. Helens.  We got to see more great views of Mt. Hood and St. Helens under a really beautiful sunset that lit up the sky.  

Leo of course was passed out snoring in the back the entire way home, which as it turned out, was a much shorter drive than the way we had come in.  Good to know as we definitely will be coming back to hike this trail again.

No comments: