04 July 2016

Lava Canyon Trail - Mt St Helens

The view just before Lava Canyon trail head.

Do you remember where you were or what you were doing in 1980 when you heard Mt St Helens had erupted?  I was nineteen, adapting to my first year as a U.S. resident and blissfully unaware of this huge event.  

Last weekend Ralph and I decided to hike the Lava Canyon Trail.  Two hours of driving into Washington and to Mt St Helens, this is the greatest distance we have ever traveled to a trail head - so far.  The good news is that all the roads were paved.  Yeah!

This is the most treacherous trail we've ever been on.  Signs warned us many times that we could die on this trail.

There were three hike options available: Easy (to the suspension bridge), More Difficult (to the suspensions bridge), and Most Difficult but what I call Treacherous.  Guess which one we took?  We took the treacherous path, of course, because we always make things hard.

The hike starts out innocently enough descending into the canyon on a paved path lined with many unique benches.

Unlike every other trail we've hiked, we had to hike downhill first.  All the elevation gain was reserved for the return trip.

It wasn't long before we crossed a foot bridge and came to water cutting through lava cliffs and chutes.

Water cascading over the cliff.

Meanwhile we continued to descend hundreds of feet into the canyon.  This is one of several stair cases secured into the cliff walls.

The trail beside a basalt cliff.

Next we came to the suspension bridge located above Lava Canyon Falls.  It has cables that run longitudinally underneath the deck boards which gives it an awesome bouncy trampoline feel when crossing the bridge. Quite fun.

The cables are visible in this view looking down between the boards of the bridge deck.

Lava Canyon Falls, the glorious view from the suspension bridge.  The roar from the water drowns out all other noise.

We could have spent a long time here.  At this point people taking the Easy and More Difficult hike options would loop back to their cars.

We pressed on.  Just after the suspension bridge the trail forked downstream on a rugged, steep, scary, slippery descent to the bottom of the canyon.  At one point there was a gash in the cliff with a stream running over it that we had to step over.  Ooo-boy!  I was worried about getting across without slipping but there was a cable to hold onto and it wasn't as bad as it looked.

Parts of this trail were insane.  Seriously.  Some paths were no more than a foot wide with the cliff on  one side and a steep drop off to the canyon bottom below on the other. 

Just as we were wondering how much farther we had to go before reaching the end, we came to a 40 foot ladder that brought us to the canyon floor.  It was awesome. 

After the ladder we continued down stream for two tenths of a mile to the third bridge which overlooks a mudflow plain.  We deemed this a good place to sit a bit and enjoy our beautiful surroundings.

Unless a person has arranged for a shuttle car to meet them on the other end of the trail, this is the turn around point for the treacherous hike.  Now the real work begins - retracing our steps.  Only this time climbing 1100 feet in just a little over 1.5 miles.  I don't know which was harder, descending or ascending.

Lahar (mudflow from the eruption)
It was a beautiful hike.  I loved being so close to Mt St Helens and getting a glimpse into what I missed so many years ago.  I'm thankful for cell phones with camera capability because my camera battery died just minutes into our hike and all these pictures were taken with our phones.  If I didn't have pictures, I'd have to do the hike again!  Cell phone pictures will suffice.


Donna said...

we did a totally different portion of the park. From the visitor's center we headed up a trail that took you up on top of a knob..outlook point. Where you could see quite a distance, however they had their viewers aimed at the volcano. There were descriptive panels ever so often along the way giving different perspectives and other information you might not have considered. Not much vegetation where we were, however you could tell it was creeping it's way back in and trying to get established. I'm thinking maybe you all were a mile or so away?? or, do I have my perspective off because of you all going down instead of up like we did?? Looks like you were having a good time even with the more strenuous workout?

Lucy said...

Wow, what a hike. Wonderful Holly! Wish I could join you.