Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Lake Twenty-Two, Hike, July 30, 2013

LAKE TWENTY-TWO (Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest) Some trails just never get old; Lake Twenty-Two is one of them. Many an experienced hiker chose Lake 22 as their first hike; the hike is popular and has gotten a lot of press over the years in hiking guidebooks, through word of mouth and the media. There’s an old saying that if a hikers’ first hike is unpleasant they may never hike again. Since it’s almost impossible to turn this trail into an unpleasant experience it’s a good trail for novice hikers (or any hiker for that matter). It’s also a good trail to revisit as it can be hiked (or snowshoed) most of the year and the ambience of the trail changes with each season; we like to experience them all. We’ve asked ourselves - what is it that draws us back to this trail? It’s not solitude for that’s hard to come by on this busy trail unless it’s a cold, rainy day in November. Is it the poignant song of the hidden varied thrush or the shine of skunk cabbage in the spring? Is it the colorful collar of wildflowers around the lake or the snowy cliffs and house-sized boulders at the far end of the lake? Or is it a chance for guys to spot pretty girls in bikinis at lakes’ edge on a hot day as happened to one of our friends? (We will tease him forever; once he spotted the mountain nymphs we found it very hard to get his attention again). Or is it a solitary niche by the lake where the berries hang low and the views are beyond this hikers’ description? Whatever your motivation get an early start if you seek solitude or would enjoy sampling the salmonberries that border certain stretches of the trail. Now about those waterfalls; how many are there? That depends on your definition of a waterfall; several can be seen (or heard) along the trail but avoid the temptation to leave the main trail for better views. Though you can see spurs where others have done so the terrain can be steep and slippery. Don’t risk an injury. Before you hit the trail take time to read the large, brown sign designating the area as a Research Natural Area (RNA) at the start of the trail. The Lake Twenty-Two Research Area was established in 1947, the purpose to study the effects of a forest in its natural state compared to similar settings in which forests have been logged. The trail is in good condition from start to finish with old-growth trees towering over the trail. Look for Pacific Silver Fir, Western Red Cedar, Douglas firs and hemlocks. At higher elevations you’ll also find Alaska cedars with their definitive shaggy bark. Between the giants the ground-cover is a thick carpet of moss, ferns and shrubs with ripening berries. All your senses will come into play along this trail with bird-calls, the gurgle of rivulets, the happy prattle of a child on the next switchback, the scolding jay you cannot spot in the trees no matter how hard you look. Ferns border the trail; oak ferns, deer ferns, lady ferns, licorice ferns, sword ferns and bracken. Bead lily and Canadian dogwood are abundant in summer (in spring look for trilliums and stream violets). In summer Devil’s Club is tall and topped with a spathe of red berries. Huckleberries and blueberries are beginning to ripen and on our recent hike most of the biting bugs were gone other than small, weird clouds of gnats hovering around monkey-flowers at the lake. Take bug juice anyway – some hikers are more attractive to bugs than others. We also recommend wearing sturdy boots as stretches of the trail are rocky and “rooty”. Note how Western Red Cedars clutch the earth with their knotty roots that resemble the arthritic fingers and knuckles of a giant – the roots sometimes form a latticework near the base of the tree or spread across the trail. Feel the creak of old puncheon under your feet where water runs down the trail during the rainy seasons. In about ¾ mile you’ll cross Twenty-Two Creek on a footbridge with views upstream and down, a great spot to cool off on a hot day. In about 1.5 miles the trail breaks out of the forest and switchbacks across a talus field lined with ferns and hellebore though open enough for views of Three Fingers and Liberty peaks. Relish those pockets of shade at the ends of the sunny switchbacks if in need of a rest. After negotiating the talus slope the trail returns to the forest and gets a little steeper before it reaches the lake. Lake Twenty-Two sits in a steep cirque, bounded by cliffs. You’d never know that Heather Lake was just a ridge away. The cliffs at the far end of the lake are in shadow for much of the day; hence, even in July the gullies still held snow; earlier in the year you may see (or hear) avalanches. Avoid the far end of the lake when there is significant snow. Once you reach the lake you can hike around the lake (1.2 miles) in either direction with no significant gain or hazards during summer. Spurs lead to potential picnic spots; on our recent hike, we were passed by a cheerful group of local teenage boys on a “football bonding” hike who were shouting with joy (or shock) as they jumped into the icy water of the lake, none of them stayed in for long. The far end of the lake is an intriguing mix of meadow, wildflowers and towering boulders daubed with lichen. Here we found mounds of marsh marigolds, sedges, heathers and monkey-flowers; if the bugs are not biting linger awhile and enjoy the beauty everywhere you look. As we continued around the lake we marveled at how it changed colors as the sunlight and clouds shifted direction, lengthening the shadows on the steep snowfields above the lake and silhouetting the fringes of evergreens topping the knolls between the lake and the cliffs. While not considered a wildflower hike we saw several including monkey-flowers, columbine, lupine, marsh marigolds, hellebore, Canadian dogwood, bead lily, mountain ash and more. There are so many reasons to love this trail that we’ve lost count. Enjoy! Getting there: From Granite Falls drive east on the Mountain Loop Highway – in about 11 miles you’ll see the Verlot Public Service Center (left); stop in for trail conditions and/or to purchase a pass or map if needed. Stop by anyway to view their displays; including one displaying a slice from an old-growth tree, each ring representing a year of growth. From there it’s another two miles to the designated Lake Twenty-two trailhead (right) and facility. A Northwest Forest Pass is required. Don’t leave valuables behind as this trailhead has experienced car break-ins. Additional Information: Maps: Green Trails No. 109 Granite Falls, Green Trails No 110 Silverton. Questions? Call Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Verlot Public Service Center at 360-691-7791 or visit their website: . To view photos of Lake 22 click on the link below, scroll down to second set. . Karen Sykes


To view photos of Lake 22 click on the link below, scroll down to second set. .

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Mount Saint Helens National Volcanic Monument, July 4, 2013

MOUNT ST. HELENS NATIONAL VOLCANIC MONUMENT You’ll just barely scratch the surface of the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument if you only have a day to visit but what a stunning surface it is! For the peak experience we recommend camping or seeking lodging nearby. If that’s not possible you can still pack a lot of grandeur into a day with many points of interest; overlooks with nature trails, visitor centers and viewpoints; the piece de-resistance, of course, is the Johnston Ridge Observatory. Before the eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980 Highway 504 from Castle Rock was the main route to Mount St. Helens and Spirit Lake (today it is called the Spirit Lake Memorial Highway). This majestic highway is just one example of how this region bounced back and recovered after the eruption. Here is our itinerary for a days’ visit starting from Castle Rock: The Mount St Helens Visitor Center at Silver Lake: View displays inside (a $5 entry fee for adults); outside you can hike the ½ mile interpretive Wetlands Trail. The visitor center is also a good place to buy the handy “Road Guide to Mount St. Helens”. On a clear day there is also a good view of Mount St. Helens from the terrace outside the visitor center. Next you’ll cross the Toutle River on a highway bridge built to replace the bridge destroyed during the 1980 eruption. The mudflow resulting from the eruption destroyed about 200 homes before cresting at Castle Rock. Though mudflows are destructive life quietly returns. As soon as the area re-opened we hiked a trail at Mount Saint Helens; alders and pearly everlasting had already established a foothold. To learn how mammals, birds, insects and vegetation survived and adapted to the eruption you can learn more about their survival strategies at the visitor centers. Our next stop was the Hoffstadt Bluffs Visitor Center. Here a short path leads to the Memorial Grove, a tranquil, forested setting established to honor those who lost their lives during the eruption – a plaque lists their names. Here you can also make arrangements for helicopter tours of the region (see additional information). The next point of interest is the Forest Learning Center; (no entry fee) created/managed by The Weyerhaeuser Company, the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. Learn more about how the surrounding area recovered with hands-on and visual aids. There is also a sweeping view of the valley where the volcanic debris flowed – peer through a telescope for closer views. Today elk graze in the valley below. We stopped at the Elk Rock overlook to take in the views of surrounding peaks including Mount Margaret, Coldwater Peak, Mount Adams and the pumice plain below created by the eruption. The Coldwater Science and Learning Center was closed and stopped at the Loowit Viewpoint. Here look into the crater of the mountain and walk a short stretch of the Boundary Trail with jaw-dropping overlooks. Well-placed signs remind visitors to stay on designated trails; otherwise risk a $100-300 fine. You won’t need to leave the trail to be blown away by views of Mount St. Helens and masses of wildflowers blooming nearby. From the Loowit Viewpoint visitors can hike or drive 0.8 mile to the Johnson Ridge Observatory. The highway ends at a parking area with a concession stand. From there it’s only a few paces uphill to the Johnston Ridge Observatory so named to honor David Johnston, the geologist who made the last measurements of the mountain before the 1980 eruption and was killed. There is an $8 entry fee (see additional information) to hike the trails or view interpretive displays inside the Observatory. After paying your fee or using an acceptable pass park rangers will attach a pink wrist-band around your wrist so you can come and go throughout the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. Inside the observatory we could not resist seeing how much of a blip we made on the seismograph that monitors the movements of the mountain. To measure your impact: jump onto the platform to see the resulting spike you make on the seismograph. You can also experience the daily blips made by the mountains’ vibrations by standing on another platform where you will feel the minor but constant vibrations and shudders of the volcano. The story of Mount St. Helens is lavishly illustrated and explained through interpretive signs, hands-on displays, historic photographs and ranger-given talks. Don’t miss the walk on the short Eruption Trail (one mile round-trip, 100 feet gain). Prepare to be wowed by close-up views of Mount St. Helens and wildflower displays. On your way to or from the Johnston Ridge Observatory take a side-trip to Coldwater Lake; the lake was formed by an avalanche during the 1980 eruption. The lake is only a short distance off the highway to a parking area with paths to the lake; restroom, boat launch (electric motors only) and trails (don’t throw away that wrist-band!). You will need them as proof that you’ve paid to visit or hike the trails inside the Mount St Helens National Volcanic Monument. There are also hiking trails around Coldwater Lake and access into the Lake Margaret Backcountry (an advance permit is required to camp, see additional information). Coldwater Lake provides a tranquil ending to a long and scenic experience through a violent landscape. Getting there: From Seattle head south on I-5 and turn off at Exit No. 49 onto State Route 504 (east). Allow about 3.5 hours’ drive time one-way from Seattle. Additional information: The maps are Green Trails No. 332 (Spirit Lake), Green Trails No. 364 (Mount St. Helens) and Green Trails No. 364S (Mount Saint Helens Northwest). Helicopter Tours (Hillsboro Aviation): For prices and/or to make a reservation or call 360-274-5200. Mount St Helens National Volcanic Monument (360-449-7800) Johnston Ridge Observatory: 360-274-2140 Mount St. Helens Learning and Science Center at Coldwater: 360-274-2144 Mount St. Helens Visitor Center at Silver Lake: Eruption Trail No. 201 – easy, 1 mile, 100 feet gain. The trail starts at the Johnston Ridge Observatory. Mount St. Helens Visitor Center at Silver Lake: located 5 miles east of I-5, operated year-round by Washington State Parks. Fees: $5.00 per adult, $2.50 youth, $15 per family. Open 9 to 5 pm daily, May 16-Sept 15. Phone: 360-274-0962 Johnston Ridge Observatory: open mid-May through October (10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily). Pets are not allowed at viewpoints or on trails. A Monument Pass (wrist band) is required and available at the Observatory. Coldwater Lake or Johnston Ridge Observatory are inside the Mount St. Helens National Monument and require an Interagency Pass or Northwest Forest Pass. Otherwise $8.00 per person (16 years and older). A Senior Northwest Forest Pass enables free entry to pass-holders otherwise a Northwest Forest Pass will allow one person entry to Johnston Ridge or Coldwater Lake. The Lakes Trail (Coldwater Lake) is six miles round-trip, elevation gain 500 feet. The Eruption Trail at the Johnston Ridge Observatory is one mile round-trip with 100 feet of gain. Camping at Mount Margaret Backcountry from Coldwater Lake: Permits are by advance registration only. Apply early – applications accepted by mail, FAX or in person or at the Johnston Ridge Observatory or the Cowlitz Valley Ranger Station. Maximum party size is four – no fires, no pets, no stock. For additional information visit: . The phone number for the Cowlitz Valley Ranger Station is 360-497-1100. To view photos of Mount St. Helens click on the link below, scroll down to second set. . Karen Sykes