Coffin Mountain

After our stay at Gold Butte we drove all the way down to Coffin Mountain and hiked there. Our timing was good. Even though the lower beargrass was done, the beargrass up top was looking very nice, and there were other wildflowers along the whole trail.


We hit the trail at 12:45. The wildflower show starts immediately on this hike, a welcome treat.









The forecast threatened rain, but it fortunately never materialized, and the heavy cloud cover stayed high enough that we still had views (although it sure made for a muggy day, ugh.)




Almost there!


At the summit I talked to Ann at the lookout. She had just arrived the day before, although she normally comes up in June. I sat and ate my snack and enjoyed the view.





This was a documentation hike for Greg (where he documents and photographs every single wildflower), so he was taking his time, but after nearly an hour at the summit there was still no sign of him. I headed back down and ran into him just below the summit. He didn’t get back to the car until 5, which means it took over four hours to do a three-mile hike. I think this might be a new record! This is why I never go anywhere without a book. 😉

Anyway, great wildflower hike and we got super lucky with the weather, which we thought was going to be much worse than it was.

Blowout Suspension Bridge and Volcano Trail

Last week while Greg and I were holed up in a Detroit-area cabin – our camping plans having been rained out – we went to explore something that recently came to our attention thanks to Matt Reeder: the suspension bridge over Blowout Arm on Detroit Lake.

We drove down Blowout Road until we reached the little unsigned trailhead parking area. We followed the trail down towards the bridge. This section of trail looked like it follows an old road bed.


We were surprised what a nice bridge this was!





Matt had said the trail on the other side petered out and didn’t go anywhere, so we didn’t follow it.


We were here on a rainy Friday, but this place is obviously PARTY CENTRAL on nicer days. There was trash everywhere and the ground was trampled all over. When we were there, there was just one pair of boats blasting terrible music that echoed off the canyon walls.



Once we got home I took a look at the old topo maps and found that the trail was once part of an extensive trail network in the area, and that the suspension bridge was along an old trail called the Volcano Trail. (Of course, this trail was long ago obliterated by logging and road-building.)


Then I came across this 1994 Blowout Watershed Analysis which had some very interesting tidbits.

The Volcano Trail is an arterial trail that served as an integral part of the Forest Service communication and administrative network. It connected the basin of the North Santiam River with the Box Canyon Shelter, the Volcano/Kinney Creek Shelter, and the Slate Rock Lookout on the divide between the North and Middle Santiam Rivers.

The Detroit Dam Construction was completed in 1952. Prior to completion of the Dam, the Army Corps of Engineers built two suspension bridges over Box Canyon and Blowout Creeks in order to tie the existing Volcano trail together since a portion would have been inundated with water when the reservoir was full.

Box Canyon is the next one over and there isn’t a suspension bridge there anymore. I wonder when that one was removed.

Blowout suspension bridge: The bridge itself is a significant recreational attraction. It dates from the early 1950’s and is one of the last remaining bridges of its type in the region. It is also the focal pint of other activities including camping, fishing, and swimming. The bridge is showing signs of aging and needs to be restored or replaced.

In a document with the same name (but the year 2000 this time) it said this:

The Blowout Creek Suspension Bridge has been closed for public safety due to corroding braces support and cables. However regardless of posting closure notices it is still used as a jumping/diving platform by many young visitors which poses safety concern.

The bridge that’s there now doesn’t look like it dates from the 1950s, so it seems that after that 2000 closure they replaced it. Any plans to extend the trail on the other side sure haven’t gone anywhere, big surprise. It would be cool if the trail were rebuilt to the old lookout site at Kinney Ridge, although I don’t know if views exist there anymore or if it’s overgrown.

Anyway, cool history. Has anyone explored that area?

Battle Ax Mountain

During a post-wedding stay at the Gold Butte Lookout, Greg and I hiked up Battle Ax Mountain, a hike that’s been on my wish list for quite awhile.


I was worried we wouldn’t get any views. Despite a clear beautiful morning, the clouds were rolling in fast by the time we started hiking down from the lookout to the car.


Since it was a weekday we had no trouble parking at the junction with the Elk Lake Campground access road. Then we walked up the road and picked up the trail. (The road to Elk Lake, by the way, is very rough. Careful driving is required.)


The trail passes this little pond full of blooming lily pads.


After negotiating some blowdown we had to push our way through a very brushy section of trail. I should also mention that we had some mosquitoes along this first section of trail, but by the time we reached the summit they didn’t bother us anymore.


There’s a lovely spot where a spring trickles down across the trail. We saw monkeyflower blooming here.



As we hiked we saw patches of beargrass here and there:



And a few other wildflowers:



This long traverse of a rockslide was pretty cool-looking:


Then we picked up the Battle Ax Mountain Trail and worked our way to the summit. Almost there!



As we approached, there was a whole lot of noise coming from the summit (turned out to be an expedition of middle-schoolers from the Opal Creek Center), so we sat and enjoyed the view alongside the trail instead.





At one point we saw what looked like a plane flying by, from south to north. But it made no noise and it was flying pretty low. Very weird.


After our snacks we ventured up to the summit for a few pictures before heading down. It’s been a surprisingly cloudy summer and this day was no exception, but we could see most of Mt. Jefferson. In the second picture you can just barely see the light speck on the summit of that foreground peak. That’s the lookout on Gold Butte.



Three Fingered Jack and the Three Sisters to the south:


The foundations of the long-gone fire lookout:


We made a loop of it, hiking down to Beachie Saddle and Elk Lake via many many switchbacks.



More wildflowers:



And some really weird-looking rocks:


We passed the Opal Creek kids’ camp at Beachie Saddle and headed down the old section of Road 4697, which doesn’t look like it has been a drivable road in many decades, even though it still shows as one on the topo map.



After our hike we went down to Elk Lake and enjoyed a beer and some chips and salsa. Since it was a weekday we had the place mostly to ourselves except for a few midweek campers.


Then it was back to Gold Butte to enjoy the rest of the afternoon followed by nice evening light on Mt. Jefferson. 😀


Harry’s Ridge

Greg and I have done VERY little hiking around Mt. St. Helens, but after seeing some tantalizing wildflower reports from that area we decided to head up there last weekend. We got up early but still didn’t manage to hit the trail until 9am. There were very few people around, though, so I guess we were still earlier than most.

From Johnston Ridge Observatory (which wasn’t open yet), we headed out on the Boundary Trail, but not before taking a few photos of the mountain herself. The view here is SO close. It’s kind of hard to imagine now that they thought it was safe to have a scientist on this ridge in May 1980.


There were paintbrush EVERYWHERE:





There were lots of other flowers too:








Saw this cool-looking mushroom. It was the only one and it’s not one I’ve ever seen before.


Hungry ground squirrel stuffing its face:


I bet a lot of people get freaked out by this section of trail. It’s a bit of a drop-off:


See tiny Greg?


Harry’s Ridge, dead ahead:


Last push, we’re almost to the top!


The view from the top was fantastic!

Mt. Adams:


Spirit Lake:


Mt. Hood:


And of course Mt. St. Helens:


Looking back the way we came at the observatory:


A panorama looking north and northwest with Coldwater Peak on the left:


We hung out at the summit for awhile enjoying the sunshine and the views. People started arriving in droves, and once we started hiking out we encountered still more people hiking in. As we got closer to the observatory we started encountering many many people. Ugh.

This hike has NO shade and I still got some color on my arms despite using sunscreen and re-applying halfway through the hike. I don’t usually put sunscreen on my face because I wear a hat, but the light-colored sand/pumice reflected the sun up onto my face and I got a bit of color on my cheeks.

Before heading home Greg and I stopped in at the center and watched the film they play there, which paints an incredibly rosy picture of post-eruption Mt. St. Helens. It was very well-done, but the tone was “you think you see destruction but no wait, look, there’s life all over, just pay attention and you’ll see it.”