Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument Photos

Hiking the Eruption Trail 30 Years Later

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Mount St. Helens from Johnston Ridge

Mount St. Helens from Johnston Ridge
Thirty Years After the Volcanic Eruption of 1980 Mount St. Helens from Johnston Ridge. Nona Litch © 2010

Mount St. Helens in Washington State had a catastrophic volcanic eruption on May 18, 1980. The landslide, lateral blast, pyroclastic flow and ash fall devastated the surrounding area, killing 57 people. USGS Geologist David Johnston died here, on the ridge that today bears his name. Now, 30 years later, we walked the Eruption Trail and hiked the Boundary Trail to Spirit Lake from the Johnston Ridge Observatory.

After 30 years, life is slowly returning to the once-forested ridge. The trail that used to be rock, root and fir needle layered is now the fine sand and gravel of the blast and ash fall from 1980. The new lava dome has rebuilt itself several times over the past three decades, only five miles away as we look into the caldera of the volcano from Johnston Ridge.

Spirit Lake is haunted by rafts of white logs felled that fateful day, lining its shores, and the ghost of Harry Truman, the lodge owner who would not evacuate and now is buried far below.

The view of Mount St. Helens from Johnston Ridge seems little changed since immediately after the 1980 volcanic eruption.

From the Johnston Ridge Observatory in Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, visitors are just 5.5 miles from the lava dome in the volcano. Between the ridge and the mountain is a valley layered with ash and pulverized mountain hundreds of feet deep. The headwaters of the Toutle River carve new canyons in the ash and gravel.

On May 18, 1980 this ridge was still forested. USGS geologist David Johnston manned his outpost here, keeping watch on the ominous bulge on the north face of the mountain. His final words warned everyone, "Vancouver, Vancouver, this is it!" Gravity overcame the mountain and the bulge collapsed in the largest landslide ever seen in North America. It was followed by a lateral blast of hot 600F winds blasting 700 mph that devastated over 250 square miles of forest to the north of the volcano. Then an ash eruption continued for nine hours, turning day into night across eastern Washington and Idaho.

Mount St. Helens cropped itself from its 9677 ft. altitude to a new height of 8365 feet. When the eruption ash clouds cleared, the once-perfect snowcone of a mountain was now a hollow shell with a semicircular crater on the north side. Where had the mountain gone? It is now spread over the surrounding area. Guides say enough rock was lost to pave a road 3 feet deep from Mount St. Helens to New York City.

Over the next three decades, sticky lava slowly oozed out to form a new lava dome in the crater. Mount St. Helens has done this before. We are seeing only its latest episode in a long history of building, erupting and building again. A new glacier extends below the lava dome, although it looks black in the late summer, coated with ash. Fire, ice and water will continue to shape Mount St. Helens.

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Johnston Ridge Observatory - Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument

Johnston Ridge Observatory Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
Johnston Ridge Observatory Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. Nona Litch © 2010

The Johnston Ridge Observatory offers a close look into the volcanic crater on the north side of Mount St. Helens, Washington.

The Johnston Ridge Observatory is open May through October, 10 am - 6 pm. It is located at the end of the road, State Highway 504. It is about an hour's drive east from I-5 Exit 49, and a 2-hour drive from Portland, Oregon. There is a fee per adult for visiting Johnston Ridge or Coldwater Lake at the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. Interagency Passes (Golden Age/Access Passes) and Annual Northwest Forest Passes are also accepted at Monument Pass sites.

Pets are not allowed at the viewpoint or on the trails.

The observatory is located at 4314 feet elevation, with a clear view 5.5 miles to the summit of Mount St. Helens. The direct view into the crater and the lava dome are breathtaking.

Inside the observatory are displays of the eruption and stories of those who survived the eruption. A 16-minute film ends with the screen opening to a picture window towards the crater.

From the observatory, walkers can enjoy a paved half mile Eruption Trail and hikers can go further on the Boundary Trail and Harry's Ridge Trail to see Spirit Lake.

I remember the frequent radio and TV interviews given in 1980 by David Johnston, the USGS geologist for whom the observatory is named. More than most at the time, he feared a catastrophic event. When it came that Sunday morning, he radioed the USGS in Vancouver, Washington, from this ridge. "Vancouver, Vancouver, this is it." His body has not been found, but the observatory is a proper memorial.

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Eruption Trail at Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument

Eruption Trail Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
Mount St. Helens Photo Walking Tour Eruption Trail Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. Nona Litch © 2010

The Eruption Trail is a one mile paved trail at the Johnston Ridge Observatory, Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument.

The trailhead for the Eruption Trail is in the plaza of the Johnston Ridge Observatory, at the end of the road for Spirit Lake Highway SR 504. It is an accessible paved trail that climbs 100 feet and circles back down to the parking lot and back to the observatory.

Along this trail, you see blasted tree trunks from the lateral blast during the eruption. A compass plaza at the top of the hill points out landmarks all around.

The trail and observatory are just a little over five miles from the summit of Mount St. Helens and the still-active lava dome. This is the area for the best views into the crater you can get on an official trail.

The Eruption Trail can be walked with any athletic or comfort shoes. I recommend against flip flops due to the incline, both up and down. Wheelchairs may need assistance with the incline. The altitude is 4200 to 4300 feet, so lowlanders may need to take it slower and remember to take deep breaths. Any excuse to pause and contemplate the volcano is well-used.

Pets are not allowed on the trail. Signs caution to stay on the trails or face a minimum $100 fine. This is a fragile landscape still struggling to recover.

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Blast Zone Tree Stumps Photo

Blast Zone Tree Stumps at Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument Photos Blast Zone Tree Stumps. Nona Litch © 2010

The lateral blast of the May 18, 1980 eruption blew down 250 square miles of timber, including these trees on Johnston Ridge.

The May 18, 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens began with a 5.2 earthquake that triggered the most massive landslide ever recorded. As the bulging north face of the mountain slid into the surrounding valley, it uncovered trapped volcanic gases that had been building for months. The resulting lateral blast of 300F gas traveled at supersonic speeds, over 700 miles per hour, straight north across the valley and ridges. The blast did not go up, it blew straight out of the north flank of the mountain.

The blast blew down timber over a 250 square mile area. The trees lay like matchsticks, all lined up in the direction away from the blast.

The very existence of lateral volcanic blasts was debated before this eruption. Volcanoes always erupt straight up, right? David Johnston, the geologist who lost his life at this spot, had predicted that Mount St. Helens would erupt with a lateral blast. What was he doing here, then? He was asked to substitute for the other geologist who was manning the Coldwater II observation post, just for one day. It was a fateful day.

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Compass on Eruption Trail

Compass Eruption Trail Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument Compass Eruption Trail Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. Nona Litch © 2010

A bronze compass helps visitors spot and name landmarks from the Eruption Trail at Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument.

After ascending 100 feet on the paved Eruption Trail from the Johnston Ridge Observatory, visitors can use the bronze compass to locate and name landmarks 360 degrees from the viewpoint.

Besides Mount St. Helens itself, about five miles to the south, visitors can see Mount Adams and spy a sliver of Spirit Lake to the east.

From here, the Eruption Trail descends to a split with the Boundary Trail and continues further to the parking lot.

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Blast Zone North of Eruption Trail

View to North from Eruption Trail Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument View to North from Eruption Trail. Nona Litch © 2010

The ridges and valleys north of Mount St. Helens were forested until the day of the eruption in 1980. Thirty years later, they still have only low shrubs.

Photos from Johnston Ridge before May 18, 1980 show forests extending from the base of the mountain and northward. This view would have been of a forest where Weyerhaeuser harvested mature trees for lumber.

The view here, 30 years later, shows land still barren of trees. It is a vista you might expect in eastern Washington's desert, not in the rain forest of the Cascades. The white trunks of the forest blown down in the lateral blast are still visible, but most have sunk into the ashfall that covered the hills, and deteriorated into nutrients for the huckleberry bushes and wildflowers that are returning.

On the drive along SR 504, visitors see new forests growing, but they are only in areas replanted by man. Natural seeding for trees has not occurred widely.

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Mount St. Helens from Eruption Trail

Mount St. Helens from Johnston Ridge Observatory
Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument Photos Mount St. Helens from Johnston Ridge Observatory. Nona Litch © 2010

Streams slowly carve new channels in the blast zone north of Mount St. Helens.

Mount St. Helens crater is only five miles away from the Eruption Trail at Johnston Ridge Observatory. Looking down, you see the channels being carved into the blast zone ash and rock deposited by the landslide and lateral blast on May 18, 1980.

Before that date, you would have looked down at a forest extending to the foot of the mountain, with a timberline at about the 6000 foot level. We are at 4200 feet on Johnston Ridge.

Until Mount St. Helens erupted with its lateral blast, they didn't know what created the hummocks of rock seen around volcanoes such as Mount Shasta in California. Now we know they were large chunks of rock blasted sideways out of the mountain.

Unlucky visitors may find the area shrouded in clouds, fog, or mist. Lucky visitors may see a small steam or ash eruption, as I did several years before.

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Mount St. Helens Memorial to Those Killed in Eruption May 18, 1980

Mount St. Helens Memorial to Those Killed in Eruption May 18, 1980
Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument Mount St. Helens Memorial to Those Killed in Eruption May 18, 1980. Nona Litch © 2010

A granite wall lists the names of those killed in the eruption. Most died outside of the restricted Red Zone.

After descending on the Eruption Trail, the Boundary Trail leads past a memorial to those killed by the eruption.

What were these people doing there? The names include a distressing number of couples. Were they all gawkers who should have known better than to be in the vicinity of an erupting volcano?

On May 18, 1980 I opened my Sunday Oregonian to see an article saying that the highway into the restricted zone was being opened that weekend to residents. The governor was allowing those who had homes and vacation cabins in the area to retrieve their belongings, since the mountain had been quiet for three weeks.

The Red Zone was far too small and the eruption far too big. Geologists, including David Johnston, recommended a far larger Red Zone, but logging interests and residents had successfully kept the zone smaller. Plus, it was easy to get around roadblocks, with unofficial guidebooks telling people how to use logging roads to get into restricted areas.

A guide on the trail told me her husband's story. He joined friends to retrieve articles from their vacation cabin. They were supposed to leave at sunset but decided to stay the night. He remembered that he had to feed the neighbor's dog back home and left at midnight. His friends did not leave in time the next morning and perished in the eruption.

Far more would have died if the mountain had not erupted early on Sunday morning. While some loggers died, there would have been at least 300 more in the blast zone on Monday morning.

Some of the stories of those who survived are displayed in the Johnston Ridge Observatory.

Deaths occurred from the lateral blast and pyroclastic flows. People were also killed all along the Toutle River as it turned into a churning mass of logs, rock and ash in a devastating flood that destroyed the road and bridges all the way to I-5, 50 miles to the west.

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Boundary Trail View to Spirit Lake

Boundary Trail View to Spirit Lake Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument Boundary Trail View to Spirit Lake Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. Nona Litch © 2010

From the Boundary Trail near Johnston Ridge Observatory, a tiny sliver of Spirit Lake can be seen to the east.

The Boundary Trail begins as a spur from the Eruption Trail near the Johnston Ridge Observatory. It continues eastward along the ridge and then around Devil's Elbow to views of Spirit Lake.

The Boundary Trail is unpaved ash and gravel. It is a very good walking surface suitable for athletic shoes or trail shoes. The trail has ups and downs but is a relatively easy hike until Devil's Elbow. As it goes around Devil's Elbow, it is very narrow with a 1000 foot drop-off and some areas where the trail is badly eroded. Those who are not fearless may wish to turn around at that point, but in doing so you will be passing up the best views of Spirit Lake.

NW Hiker.com Trail Description and Map

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Boundary Trail on Johnston Ridge

Boundary Trail on Johnston Ridge Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument Boundary Trail on Johnston Ridge Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. Wendy Bumgardner © 2010

The white line of the boundary trail can be seen along Johnston Ridge.

In the lower left corner, you can see the semi-circular memorial to those who were killed in the May 18, 1980 eruption. The trail continues along the ridge. It has a few ups and downs but is mostly a good fine gravel surface, well-drained. You pass by wildflowers. From most of the two miles along the ridge you have stunning views of the north side crater of Mount St. Helens and the pumice plain below.

From here, you can see Mt. Adams peeping over the ridge in the distance, and a tiny sliver of Spirit Lake in the top right corner.

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Mount St. Helens Boundary Trail Traverse View

Mount St. Helens Boundary Trail View
Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument Mount St. Helens Boundary Trail View. Wendy Bumgardner © 2010

Walkers have stunning views of Mt. St. Helens all along the Boundary Trail Traverse.

This portion of the Boundary Trail #1 from the Johnston Ridge Observatory follows the ridge line with some short climbs and descents on a wide trail. The surface is the ash and gravel deposited by the transverse eruption on May 18, 1980. It is a pleasant walking surface, mostly without any larger rocks or roots.

You may find volcanic grit in your eyes here, so those who wear contact lenses may take precautions.

Bring a camera to capture Mount St. Helen's northside crater, only about five miles distant across the pumice plain. The North Fork of the Toutle River is slowly carving canyons 1000 feet below in the hundreds of feet of pulverized mountain deposited in the landslide and eruption of 1980.

The mountain is visible along much of the two mile route out to where the trail narrows and goes around Devil's Elbow.

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Stay on the Trail Sign

Stay on the Trail Sign Mount St. Helens
Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument Stay on the Trail Sign Mount St. Helens. Nona Litch © 2010

Hikers are warned not to impact the fragile recovery of plants and animals along the trail.

Visiting Johnston Ridge 30 years after the eruption, I was struck by how little vegetation had recovered. I contrast this with the environment just a couple of miles away at Coldwater Lake. My last hike there almost required a machete to bushwack through the abundantly growing shrubs that were taller than I was.

But here on this barren ridge, there are no trees. The shrubs are smaller, it is much more of a fragile sub-alpine environment.

There are no restrooms or water sources along the Boundary Trail here.

Stay on the trail to allow nature to restore life here.

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Blast Zone Trees

Blast Zone Trees Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument Blast Zone Trees Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. Wendy Bumgardner © 2010

A view to the north of Johnston Ridge zooms in on white trunks of trees destroyed in the lateral blast, 1980.

The remnants of the vast forests that covered Johnston Ridge and the ridges to the north of it are seen in the bleached white trunks of trees felled on May 18, 1980, by the lateral blast of the Mount St. Helens eruption.

Immediately after the eruption, these ridges had felled trees lined up like matchsticks, all perfectly pointing away from the blast. Over the past 30 years, they have sunk deeper into the ash and debris deposited by the eruption. They form nursery logs and fertilizer for wildflowers and shrubs. Many have washed down into the drainages to become driftwood.

It is overpowering to look at these ridges and see how few trees have returned to them naturally in 30 years. The young forests we drove through on the way to the mountain were planted by man after the eruption.

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White Rock Deposits from Mount St. Helens Eruption

White Chunks of Mountain from Lateral Blast Mount St. Helens
Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument White areas are chunks of mountain from the lateral blast of Mount St. Helens 1980. Nona Litch © 2010

White areas seen on the ridges are chunks of rock blown out of the center of the mountain by the lateral blast on May 18, 1980.

Five to seven miles from the crater of Mount St. Helens, you can see areas of white rock. These areas are rock that was ejected in the massive lateral blast on May 18, 1980. The color and make-up of these rocks tell geologists that they came from within the mountain. It is no wonder than no human or animal survived that blast here on that day.

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Penstemon

Penstemon
Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument Penstemon. Nona Litch © 2010

Penstemons grow along the Boundary Trail on Johnston Ridge, Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument

Visitors to Johnston Ridge throughout the summer can see wildflowers in bloom. These flowers have naturally returned to the devastated areas.

Penstemon is a drought-tolerant plant, well-suited to this dry ridge.

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Pearly Everlasting

Pearly Everlasting
Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument Pearly Everlasting. Nona Litch © 2010

Pearly Everlasting grows along Johnston Ridge.

Pearly everlasting is a wildflower that can be dried and added to bouquets for accent. However, this specimen is in the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument and there is a fine for picking or molesting the foliage. Take only memories and leave only footprints.

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Indian Paintbrush

Indian Paint Brush
Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument Indian Paint Brush. Nona Litch © 2010

Indian Paintbrush grows on Johnston Ridge.

Indian Paintbrush, Castilleja linariifolia is an iconic Northwest wildflower, and also is the state flower of Wyoming. Here it grows along Johnston Ridge in the blast zone of Mt. St. Helens.

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Devil's Elbow on Boundary Trail

Devil's Elbow Trail Mount St. Helens
Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument Devil's Elbow Trail Mount St. Helens. Wendy Bumgardner © 2010

A view of the Devil's Elbow.

At about two miles east of the Johnston Ridge Observatory, Boundary Trail #1 narrows to a foot-wide track and traverses the west side of Devil's Elbow.

The trail is exposed to a 1000-foot drop on one side. Some areas are degraded and prone to sliding. More:

I suggest only sure-footed hikers wearing hiking shoes progress around Devil's Elbow.

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Devil's Elbow on Boundary Trail

Mt. St. Helens Devil's Elbow on Boundary Trail
Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument Mt. St. Helens Devil's Elbow on Boundary Trail. Nona Litch © 2010

On the Devil's Elbow

This view of the Devil's Elbow portion of the Boundary Trail is not for those who are afraid of heights and exposure. The trail is very narrow and, on weekends, you are likely to have to make way for hikers coming the opposite direction.

But in order to get the best views of Spirit Lake, you need to continue. Turning back now, you still have had wonderful views of Mount St. Helens but not of Spirit Lake.

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Devil's Elbow and Mount St. Helens Crater

Mt. St. Helens Devil's Elbow on Boundary Trail
Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument Mt. St. Helens Devil's Elbow on Boundary Trail. Wendy Bumgardner © 2010

The Devil's Elbow portion of the Boundary Trail is very narrow. The north side crater of Mount St. Helens is only five miles away across the valley.

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Wendy Turns Around on the Devil's Elbow

Mt. St. Helens Devil's Elbow on Boundary Trail
Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument Mt. St. Helens Devil's Elbow on Boundary Trail. Nona Litch © 2010

A family traverses a degraded portion of the Boundary Trail at the Devil's Elbow. I am the hiker in the green jacket. The photographer was far more bold than I. I didn't like the unstable gravel surface and a couple of short, steep ups and downs. You can see the white scar on the mountain side that shows fresh erosion.

There are old hikers and there are bold hikers, but are there any old, bold hikers?

I decided that I was no longer spry-enough and bold-enough to risk sliding 1000 feet down the face of the cliff. The helicopter rescue would be most embarrassing.

From here, our photographer Nona Litch continued boldly on to viewpoints of Spirit Lake and the Harry's Ridge Trail. I returned to the Johnston Ridge Observatory to enjoy the ranger talks.

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Devil's Elbow Dropoff on Boundary Trail

Mt. St. Helens Devil's Elbow Dropoff on Boundary Trail
Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument Mt. St. Helens Devil's Elbow Dropoff on Boundary Trail. Nona Litch © 2010

A view of the 1000-foot dropoff from the narrow Devil's Elbow portion of the Boundary Trail. Most of this short stretch of trail has a good, level surface and stable exposed rock on one side. However, at the point where there was trail and cliff side erosion with some short steep ups and downs, I beat a retreat. The price to pay for slipping would be more than a sprained ankle.

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First View of Spirit Lake from Boundary Trail

First View of Spirit Lake from Boundary Trail Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument First View of Spirit Lake from Boundary Trail Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. Nona Litch © 2010

The reward for those bold enough to brave the Devil's Elbow traverse is a close-up view of Spirit Lake. Here is the first view of the lake after rounding the bend.

The lake views are seen at points 3-4 miles from Johnston Ridge Observatory on the Boundary Trail #1.

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Spirit Lake from Boundary Trail

Spirit Lake from Boundary Trail Mount St. Helens
Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument Spirit Lake from Boundary Trail Mount St. Helens. Nona Litch © 2010

Four miles east from the Johnston Ridge Observatory, hikers reach this viewpoint of Spirit Lake. They may turn around here or continue up the Harry's Ridge Trail for more vantage points.

The white areas on the shoreline are not rock or snow. They are the bleached logs of trees felled in the 1980 eruption, ghosts haunting the shores of Spirit Lake. They move around the lake. Hikers exclaimed that they couldn't believe the vast numbers of these logs still there, 30 years later.

The lake itself was blasted out of its basin by the lateral blast on May 18, 1980. The lodge and vacation cabins and stubborn resident Harry Truman disappeared forever. The blast filled the lake with rock and ash. Waters returned to the lake, which now sits 200 feet higher, and the felled timber washed down into it.

Scientists have studied the bizarre ecosystem of the lake for 30 years. Immediately after the blast, it was a briefly hot, lifeless lake. A form of Legionnaire's bacteria flourished and sickened some scientists. At one time, most of the surface of the lake was covered by the fallen trees. They became fertilizer and the lake has continuously changed. It now sports more life than it did before the eruption.

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Huckleberry Bush

Huckleberry Bush Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument Huckleberry Bush. Nona Litch © 2010

To the delight of hikers and wildlife, huckleberry bushes have returned to the blast zone above Spirit Lake.

Huckleberries are much like blueberries, but are only found in the wild.

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Harry's Ridge Trail Sign

Mount St. Helens Harry's Ridge Trail Sign
Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument Mount St. Helens Harry's Ridge Trail Sign. Nona Litch © 2010

Harry's Ridge Trail leads one mile from the Boundary Trail to Harry's Viewpoint.

The trail is named after Harry Randall Truman, 83-year old owner and operator of the Mount St. Helens Lodge at Spirit Lake. Although the lodge was in the restricted zone, he refused to evacuate when the mountain became active. The World War I veteran was a frequent interview subject by the local media from March through May of 1980.

The lodge, Harry, and his 16 cats did not survive the pyroclastic flow that buried Spirit Lake under over 150 feet of ash and rock. He is the first person most of us bring to mind when remembering the eruption of 1980.

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Harry's Ridge Trail Sign

Harry's Ridge Trail Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument Harry's Ridge Trail Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. Nona Litch © 2010

Harry's Ridge Trail climbs up the ridge to a viewpoint to look out over Spirit Lake.

Harry's Ridge Trail #208 gives the best views of Spirit Lake and of the north side crater of Mount St. Helens. It is a steep climb, gaining about 500 feet in one mile.

For those who started at the Johnston Ridge Observatory, they will have a 7.8 mile total out-and-back hike if they go to the top of Harry's Ridge.

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Spirit Lake from Harry's Ridge Trail

Spirit Lake from Harry's Ridge Trail Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument Spirit Lake from Harry's Ridge Trail Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. Nona Litch © 2010

From Harry's Ridge Trail, hikers can see more of Spirit Lake. Mount Adams is in the distance.

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Harry's Ridge Trail View to Johnston Ridge Observatory

Mount St. Helens Harry's Ridge Trail View to Johnston Ridge Observatory
Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument Mount St. Helens Harry's Ridge Trail View to Johnston Ridge Observatory. Nona Litch © 2010

From Harry's Ridge, hikers can look west back to their starting point at the Johnston Ridge Observatory.

You've come over 3.5 miles form the observatory and you can see back towards it.

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Spirit Lake at Mount St. Helens

Mount St. Helens Spirit Lake from Harry's Ridge Trail
Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument Mount St. Helens Spirit Lake from Harry's Ridge Trail. Nona Litch © 2010

A close-up view of Spirit Lake at Mount St. Helens.

The white expanse along the shoreline of Spirit Lake are rafts of bleached white logs -- timber felled by the lateral blast and pyroclastic flow on May 18, 1980. Now, 30 years later, they still line the lake.

Spirit Lake sits 200 feet higher than it did before the eruption, as its basin was filled in by the rock and ash blown out of the mountain. The lake was literally blown out of its basin, with splash marks hundreds of feet above the former lake level.

Today, the alpine lake has more life in it than ever. Fish have even returned, although probably not due to natural migration, but by people restocking the lake against official policy.

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Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel

Golden Mantle Chipmunk at Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument Golden Mantle Chipmunk at Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. Nona Litch © 2010

We usually call these little guys chipmunks, but the proper name is golden-mantled ground squirrels.

You can tell these apart from chipmunks, who often live in the same sort of areas, because the golden-mantled ground squirrels don't have stripes on their faces, while the chipmunks do.

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