Thursday, July 18, 2019

Adventure 17/50 : Harry's Ridge Trail

This year feels like the summer has gotten away from us, somehow. We've been busy, but we haven't been particularly good at planning things. So when on June 28 -- less that a week before the 4th of July -- we discovered that we had a 4-day weekend coming up, well, we panicked a little.

Of course, there were no campsites to be booked, neither county, nor state, nor national parks. We couldn't even find a nearly KOA with an available Kamping Kabin or tent site. We had blown it.

So we decided to make the most of the weekend and go on day-ventures. On the 4th, we got up early and went paddle boarding on Lake Washington, watching two bald eagles circle above. And on the 6th-7th, we took a chance on finding a site at a campground on a lake, figuring we could at least have a nice day on the lake with our boards, and possibly getting a campsite. (Spoiler alert: we got a site!)

But on the 5th, we drove down to Mount St. Helens to hike the Harry's Ridge Trail, which I'd wanted to hike for years.

We arrived at the Johnston Ridge Observatory -- a destination in itself -- shortly after 10, showed our Interagency Pass, got our wristbands, and hit the trail.

Harry's Ridge is named after Harry R. Truman, the legendary owner of the Mount St. Helens Lodge on Spirit Lake. He refused to evacuate when the mountain woke up in 1980, saying "If the mountain goes, I'm going with it." And on May 18, 1980. it did, and he did. While writing this post I looked him up on Wikipedia and these two paragraphs nearly brought me to tears:

As a result of his defiant commentary, Truman became something of a folk hero and was the subject of many songs and poems by children. One group of children from Salem, Oregon, sent him banners inscribed "Harry – We Love You", which moved him so much that he took a helicopter trip (paid for by National Geographic) to visit them on May 14. He also received many fan letters, including several marriage proposals. A group of fifth graders from Grand Blanc, Michigan, wrote letters that brought him to tears. In return, he sent them a letter and volcanic ash, which the students later sold to buy flowers for his family after the eruption.
The volcano erupted the next morning, and its entire northern flank collapsed. Truman was alone at his lodge with his 16 cats, and is presumed to have died in the eruption on May 18. The largest landslide in recorded history and a pyroclastic flow traveling atop the landslide engulfed the Spirit Lake area almost simultaneously, destroying the lake and burying the site of his lodge under 150 feet (46 m) of volcanic landslide debris. Authorities never found Truman's remains. Truman's cats are presumed to have died with him; he considered them family and mentioned them in almost all public statements. ("Harry R. Truman", retrieved 19 July 2019)
As we headed out along we trail, we passed this memorial to the people who died on and around the mountain on May 18, 1980, including volcanologist David A. Johnston ("Vancouver! Vancouver! This is it!") and, of course, Harry R. Truman.

Sadly, on our day the crater rim was clouded over, so no great views in that direction, but our trail was clear!

I had read a recent trail report saying that the wildflowers were out, and they did not disappoint!

Having left early, we pretty much had the trail to ourselves -- passing a small group here and there, but nothing like a traffic jam.

The trail had lots of views out across the plain towards the mountain, where you could see the "hummocks" and the ash, and realize how much higher this plain is now.

The other side of the ridge was much greener, but it's still amazing that there aren't any tall trees -- nothing older than, oh, 39 years.

Eventually we reached the turnoff to Harry's Ridge, where the path started to climb steeply.

Honest. Note the silvery bleached tree stumps, all about a foot high, each one splintered and torn.

As we reached the top of the ridge, we got our first glimpse of Spirit Lake.

We continued along the ridge for a while, parallel to the lake.

I love this view of the lake, with the floating log mat. Those logs are what are left of the trees blown down in the eruption, and the float around the lake. If you watch them over time, they just move around. It's pretty great.

Looking back toward the mountain, we could see into the crater and the lava dome, but not up to the rim. Yet again we were so pleased to have had such a perfect day for our climb last fall.

But eventually it was time to head back down.

We met a lot more people as we were heading back -- proving again that hitting the trail earlier is better! A beautiful trail, lovely wildflowers, and a great day out. This hike is for Harry and his cats.

Harry's Ridge Trail

7.8 miles
1564 feet elevation gain

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