- Mount St. Helens,
Washington, Mt. Hood and the Columbia River Gorge,
- Mount St. Helens
- After attending the wedding in Portland,
Annette's sister Allison had a couple of more
days to vacation - - time enough to explore
some more of the gorgeous area. We wanted to
get outdoors, do a little hiking, breathe
some of this clean, clear air, and see the
sights. We had visited these areas a few
years back, when we came to Portland as
speakers at an education conference. We
decided to spend one day at Mount St. Helens
and another day around Mt. Hood.
- We were amazed at how much the area within the
Helens National Volcanic Monument had changed in just
a few years. Flowers, trees and other plants had further
reestablished themselves in the blast zone of the May 18,
1980 eruption. Our first stop was the Silver Lake Visitor
Center (Northwest entrance on highway 504). The 20-minute
film and museum displays there provided lots of
information about the geological
event and the history of the area. Leaving there, we
drove along the North Fork Toutle River and then up above
the river valley on the ridge road -- on toward Coldwater
- There are several viewpoints along the way where
sometimes you catch sight of Roosevelt Elk grazing along
the river. Next stop was the Weyerhauser Forest
Learning Center. Here they have two short films that
run continuously, one is about four minutes long and
summarizes the eruption, the other is a brief history of
logging, timber, and the Weyerhauser Corporation.
- We finally arrived at the Coldwater Ridge Visitor
Center but decided to continue on to the recently opened
Johnston Ridge Visitor Center before stopping. Johnston
Ridge Observatory is at the end of the road, 52 miles
east of the Castle Rock exit, at an elevation of 4,200
feet. The Observatory looks directly up into the open
crater, about 4.5 miles away. Clouds were covering most
of the peak and the blown-out crater area, but as the
afternoon progressed this cloudcover would probably
increase. The cloud you see in the upper right corner of
the photo (Above) of Allison and Annette is covering
Mount St. Helens. Luckily, we'd seen it before so we
could imagine what it looked like.
After a brief hike around part of the trails
at Johnston Ridge and a sobering stop at the
memorial to the fifty-two people who were killed
in the blast, we drove back down the road. We
stopped at Coldwater Lake (Left photo) for our
picnic lunch and then hiked around this scenic
area. The lake was created when the crater dome
of the mountain was catapulted into the valley,
part of its debris damming up Coldwater Creek
and creating a new lake.
- A walkway leads you through a wetland
section and out over the lake's edge. If you
have time, there are trails completely around
the lake, up to Johnston Ridge, and on to the
Crater. As we were getting ready to leave,
the clouds began to lift so Allison caught a
glimpse of the mountain crest (Right
photograph). Next stop for us, the Coldwater
Ridge Visitor Center.
One of the highlights the last time we
visited was a ranger's talk at Coldwater Ridge
Visitor Center. Even though our visit there had
been four years before, this time we were
surprised to see and hear the same ranger again.
She approached her audience with the same
intense energy and excitement as we remembered
from our first visit (Below left). She captured
everyone's attention with her vivid telling of
of the mountain. This was undoubtedly only
the upteenth-thousanth time that she had made
And although we had been here before, this is
one location that you can revisit. It especially
interesting to see the mountain and its habitats
recover and reestablish themselves. The
programs, displays, and media presentations at
each of the visitor centers were interesting and
not overly repetitious. They were definitely
worth the time and added much to our
- Next time, we might enter the park from the Northwest
and drive into the Windy Ridge Viewpoint. This would
provide a different view of the Crater and overlook
Spirit Lake, now bigger than ever.
- Mount Hood and the Columbia River
- The following day, we made the loop-trip around
Hood, the tallest peak in Oregon (11,235 feet), and
down the Columbia River Gorge.
Our drive started with following route 26 to
the south side of Mount Hood. We first stopped
at the Mt.
Hood National Forest Headquarters. This is a
good place to pick up a backcountry hiking
permit that is needed for many of the hiking
trails. Nearby, we found a great forested
campground and decided if we wanted to spend
some time without a phone hookup, this would be
a choice location.
- We ate lunch in the Timberline
Lodge up on Mount Hood. They always have a 'hot soup
of the day' and a sandwich and/or salad. Timberline
Lodge is located on the mountain's treeline border.
Its construction was a WPA project from the 'New Deal'
days and features original decorative woodcarvings,
custom-built furniture, and wrought iron that was
designed and created for this facility. The view from our
window seats in the restaurant looked up the
glacier-cloaked mountain. There were still a few skiers
and snowboarders on the slopes.
Next we headed down the mountain. At the base
it is easy to miss the turn to take directly to
the town of Hood River and the Columbia River.
We did, but caught our mistake a few miles down
route 26 before we traveled very far to the
south. We turned around and took route 35 north
to the Columbia. This road took us around the
eastern edge of the mountain.
- All around the Mt. Hood area are hundreds of hiking
trails and numerous waterfalls. On this day, we only had
time to do a few short hikes near the roadways; however,
some of the more beautiful and less visited areas are
just a few miles out. A short hike that we have
previously done and can recommend is the Tamanawas
Falls trail (About 3.8 miles round trip), that is
located in this west side of Mt. Hood. Today we cruised
on by the trailhead and followed the road along the edge
of the East Fork of the Hood River. After awhile we
dropped down into the Upper Hood River Valley. This is
orchard country today.
- Finally arriving in the town of Hood River, we made a
turn back to the west to follow the south shoreline of
the Columbia River. Here Interstate 84 parallels the
river and the Union Pacific rail line, but we soon exited
the four-lane to follow the narrow, winding, and
sometimes steep Columbia Gorge Scenic Highway. Today we
made stops a three falls. First was a short look at
Falls (Left photo below), that is literally on the
edge of the scenic drive. The second was nearby Multnomah
Falls (Middle and right photos below). Here we made
the short trail climb up to the bridge for a unique view
of both the upper and lower cascades. At the roads edge,
there are restrooms and a souvenir/gift shop. After an
ice cream cone to regain some strength (8-), we continued
on to Bridal
Veil Falls. A short hiking trail leads you down to
this smaller-sized drop.
- These three falls are heavily visited because of
their close proximity, easy accessibility from the
highway. We skipped stopping at Latourell Falls because
of the lateness in the day, but Annette and Allison took
a quick peek out the window as we drove by.
- Next, the road began a steep climb in elevation to
summit a large rock block that juts above the Columbia.
Here we made a last stop of the day at the unique
Vista House on
Crown Point (Below left) for a great view of sunset
before heading the last few miles back to Portland.
- In our two days, we could not
do it all. There are lots more hikes and sights that we
would like to do. We had to 'save some' for another
visit. We are sure that we will return.
- Learn More About Mount Hood and the Columbia
Hood - USGS
Hood - National Forest Service
Hood - Volcano World
River Gorge - National Forest Service
River Gorge - GORP
- Learn More About Mount St. Helens
- Mount St.
Helens - Gifford Pinchot National Forest
St. Helens - USGS
St. Helens - Volcano World
St. Helens - GORP
St. Helens Remembered - Seattle Times
St. Helens, 20 Years Later - CNN
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