Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Cloud Cap

The Cloud Cap trailhead at Mt. Hood is a gateway to high elevation views of the north side of the mountain. We set out one day to go on a hike there, but got snarled in a traffic jam.  We decided to keep going there anyway and just take a stroll. We couldn't do the longer hike we'd planned but at least we got to breathe the fresh mountain air! The Cloud Cap Inn, built in 1886, still stands but is only open to the public when the Forest Service gives occasional tours.  It's maintained and used by the Crag Rats, a search and rescue team established in 1926. A devastating forest fire came through in 2008 and left the inn untouched, but the drive up to the trailhead provides vast panoramas of thousands upon thousands of dead snags left behind.  The drive is a bit nasty and best suited to high clearance vehicles.  A Northwest Forest Pass is required.
Jacob's ladder.
Cloud Cap Inn.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Lower Lewis River Falls

The Lower Lewis River Falls is definitely the loveliest waterfall I've ever seen!  Niagara Falls may be mightier by far, and plenty of waterfalls are taller, but this one beats all for the unquantifiable quality of sheer beauty.  We first learned about it two years ago, and wondered why we'd never heard of it before.  It turns out that it's pretty far from Portland and not really near any other major destination we'd visited. However we decided it made an easy side trip on the way home from visiting Mt. St. Helens. The falls are a short walk from the parking area, and a trail leads to a variety of viewpoints, each lovelier than the last.  There is also a trail there that leads to two more waterfalls which are certainly worthwhile, but just can't rival this one. So we felt like it was an excellent idea to stop by just to see this one, and linger for a while in this peaceful spot. 
View of Mt. St. Helens from the McClellan Viewpoint, which is always a worthwhile stop on the way home!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Trail of Two Forests

The Trail of Two Forests at Mt. St. Helens is a really cool stroll around a boardwalk through a forest dotted with tree casts.  The tree casts were made long ago when lava oozed through a forest, hardening around the trees before burning them up.  Vertical holes are left in the rock where trees once stood, and horizontal holes are left where logs lay.  Two connecting tree casts are accessible for anyone who wants to crawl through them.  Naturally the tunnels are a big hit with kids of all ages. Adults will find the tunnels wide enough, but the floor is a bit rough on the knees!  The boardwalk is short and directly next to the parking area, so it's a must to stop by if you're in the area to visit the Ape Cave, June Lake, or Lava Canyon. We never miss it when we go there. 

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Ape Cave

The  Ape Cave at Mt. St. Helens is a lava tube that is open to the public to explore.  The main entrance gives you a choice of heading downhill to the Lower Ape Cave or uphill to the Upper Ape Cave.  The Lower Ape Cave is a short portion of the lava tube with relatively even terrain that dead ends.  The Upper Ape Cave is longer and requires quite a lot of climbing to get over big chunks of rock left from a partial collapse that happened shortly after the lava tube formed.  Fortunately you don't have to go back the way you came; you can climb out and head back along a trail. Maybe 3/4 of the way to the end there is an 8 foot high ledge that must be scaled. We got lucky and found someone had left a good rope behind, but usually my husband will bravely climb up and toss down a rope. Some visitors like to walk uphill along the trail and climb down to the main entrance, perhaps because they feel it's easier to navigate the ledge as a drop instead of a climb?  Close to the exit, the first daylight you will see is a skylight, bringing a big patch of green to the underground. The Ape Cave is an adventure we've always enjoyed.  It's quite cool in the cave so jackets are a must, and head lamps are ideal because they leave both of your hands free. A Northwest Forest Pass is required, which they sell there. 

Most of the rocks in the cave are quite rough, but a few are very smooth.  I'm guessing this one has had water dripping
on it for thousands of years?
Sickletop lousewort.
"Lava ripples" in the trail.
Ocean spray.
Collapsed lava tube near the trail.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

June Lake

June Lake is a lovely and serene destination for a short hike at Mt. St. Helens. The lake itself is a large, shallow lake with a waterfall at the far end.  It's teeming with life. Cascades frogs and rough skinned newts swim lazily through the water.  If you pause to look closely at the bottom of the lake, you can see thousands of tiny caddisfly larvae trundling about.  

Prince's pine.
Rosy spiraea.
Cascades frog.
Caddisfly larvae.
Cascades frog.
Rough skinned newt.
Cascades frog.
Slender bog orchid.
White-flowered hawkweed.
Inside-out flower.
Sickletop lousewort.