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Archive for June, 2010

Silver Star Hike

Silver Star Mt. hike provides the quintessential  hiking experience in the SW Washington Cascades! The Forever Young Hikers of Clark county were at it again. This hike affords outstanding 360 degree views of 5 volcanos (St. Helens, Rainier, Adams, Hood and Jefferson) … on a clear day. We saw the bases of all but Mt. Jefferson.

Besides stellar views, “The Sound of Music” landscapes and dozens of vibrant wildflowers this peak is quite conspicuous on the eastern ridge-line from Vancouver and Portland.

The hardest part of this trek was getting there! The last 5 miles was a deeply rutted, winding dirt road. We approached from the North, at trailhead #180 (elevation 3,175′).

It was about 3 miles to the summit with a 1,200 ft elevation gain. The incline was steady and relatively easy due to the broad trail. The loose rock trail bed kept all eyes on the ground when walking.

We stopped often to catch our breath and savor the terrain. The cloud ceiling was still pretty low on our ascent. (Perfect weather for a workout.)

The clouds broke up a bit as we reached the summit.

It is hard to visually convey the exhilaration of the exertion, the vast open space, the heights and power of wilderness. This view is looking east from the summit trail.

I believe this is Pyramid Rock (looking west).

Again, but for the cloud ceiling we would have seen the volcanoes. This is the most we saw of Mt. St. Helen’s.

Below is an awesome shot that demonstrates how Silver Star got its name … I’m told from the star-like junction of five ridges.

The western ridge is bordered by the Yacolt Burn area, which is now a state park. Trees were not replanted and the western slopes remain treeless — but densely covered in shrubs and wildflowers.

Speaking of wildflowers, we counted 50 (20 less than last year’s count) and it was clear that with this year’s cool wet spring has delayed the peak bloom at this elevation. We saw bear grass, penstemon, golden pea, iris, phlox, violets, service berry, columbine, paintbrush, Sitka Valerian — and on and on! Gentian was everywhere but not yet blooming. This USGS link illustrates some of the most abundant wildflowers.

The Avalanche Lilly was especially profuse.

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Summer Nights

I’ve neglected this blog the past few weeks. I’ve been busy with major household projects and boosting the local economy with my plant purchases. đŸ˜¦

My brother Tom and I tend to talk on the phone in the evenings and compare dusks. He’s in Ojai, CA. Up here at the 45th parallel, dusk is a prolonged affair.

I attempted to take timed photographs to illustrate the point. Of course this is very haphazard … exposure times varied, etc. I tried to pick photos with the least distortion.

At 8:15PM there is still lots of bright light on the trees and higher ground/objects.

At 9PM the sky is still quite light and there’s lots of visible color.

By 10PM it’s a very dark dusk … with some western light still visible in the sky.

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Lava Falls hike

The intrepid 50+ hikers were off again. We hiked the Ape Canyon and Lava Canyon trails at the base of Mt. St. Helens (MSH for short, hereafter).

MSH was right in front of us, but with the overcast skies it was hard to appreciate her majesty.

We only went about 2.5 – 3 miles up the Ape Canyon trail. The elevation gain was gradual so we weren’t too miserable. We only came upon snow at one sheltered ravine.

The real thrill of the day was after lunch. The Lava Canyon trail isn’t visible from the road, as the approach is from the top. The falls drop 200 feet down and away from you.

Apparently this dramatic canyon was buried in ash and dirt for some 1,800 years and was only exposed as a consequence of the MSH eruption on May 18,1980, when a mudflow scoured this valley free of topsoil and forest to reveal the ancient basaltic andesite lava flows. This website has an awesome slide show of the canyon.

As breathtaking as this was … the real thrill was yet to come. About a 1/2 mile down river from the falls is the “bouncy, lively” suspension bridge. It’s only 3 ft wide and 100 ft across. There’s quite a lot of wiggle as you go over.

Of course, it affords a great view of Muddy River.

It was as thrilling as any roller coaster. Sahale Bridges built the bridge in 1993. Their website has terrific photos and even a video of crossing the bridge.

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