So I am working in the Puget Sound area of Washington for the next few weeks. This is a great time be up in this area of thr country. Last year I went out to Mt Saint Helens and rode the Ape Canyon and Plains of Abraham trails. It was a pretty incredible ride but the weather did not cooperate so my views were quite limited. Here is report from that day
On the top of my MTB list for this trip was a return outing to here when the weather was clear. My first weekend here and the weather report looked good so I pulled the trigger. Boy was I rewarded for it.
Along the Ape Canyon trail looking at the south fsce of the mountain.
I saw a lot more of the mountain than last year even before I got to the trailhead. The climb up Ape Canyon was fantastic and the further up I went the better things got. The tops of Mt Adams and Mt Rainier were even visible in spots.
The view from the top of Ape Canyon
The view when you reach the top of Ape Canyon is incredibly impressive. In the pan shot above you can see the Rainier, Adams and of course Mt Saint Helens.
The south-southeast slopes of the mountain.
It is crazy to think that much of the foreground was forest before the eruption in 1980. The mountain used to have a typical volcano shape to it but the eruption blasted off 1,300 feet off the top. This is just the non-blast side of the mountain.
From here I rode the Plains of Abraham trail over the eastern slope of pumice and lava rock. Riding through here I once again felt very small seeing what the power of Mama Earth can do. There were also lots of wildflowers and other low growing stuff.
The northestern slope as seen on the fireroad out Windy Gap.
The trail takes you around to the northeastern area of the mountain where you can get your first view of the side of the mountain that was blown off. In the picture above you can see the trail in the ridgeline.
Spirit Lake and the “log raft”
The singletrack dumps you off a ridgeline and onto a dirt forest service road. I took that out to Windy Gap and the onward to the Smith Creek trailhead. Here I was treated to a nice view of Spirit Lake and the “Log Raft”. The lake took the brunt of the blast and most of the water was thrown up into the higher elevations in the form of a wave estimated to be about 850 feet high. When the dust settled and water drained back into the lake it was a much larger and shallower lake that had 40% of it surface area covered in the floating trunks of the trees between it and the mountain. Check out this wikipedia article on it. Moat of those trunks are still floating on the lake.
I thought about dropping the Smith Creek trail to do a more epic loop, but I wanted to retrace my steps and descend Ape Canyon to finish the ride.
Retracing my steps was plenty of work but I was once again rewarded with killer views and the descent down Ape Canyon was the source of multiple joygasms. What an opener for this trip!