Continuing the field guide theme of my last post, I'm writing up this route to help inspire any nearby trail enthusiasts. Put it on your bucket list. It's that good. It's rugged, exposed, and the views are magical. On a clear day, you'll play an endless game of volcano peek-a-boo with all of your Cascade favorites. The majority of the route is between five and six thousand feet, a perfect elevation when most of the PNW trails above six thousand feet are still melting out this time of year.
I ended up running about 21 miles with about 5,000 feet of vertical. I turned around a mile or so after Mount Margaret due to tedious post-holing and steep snow fields. I summitted Coldwater Peak a second time on the return. Bring plenty of water. The route is mostly on exposed, dry ridgelines.
Here's a general map and some photos. Be safe.
|I knocked out the two-hour drive from Portland the night before so I could get an early start. I arrived at the observatory at dusk, snapped this photo of Helens, and then may or may not have stealthily slept next to a 'no overnight camping' sign.|
|Starting the day off right with some delicious tailgate coffee.|
|Stairway to Helens|
|Saint Helens Lake|
|Spirit Lake and Helens|
|Mount Ranier's crown|
|Mountain goats. Saw a bunch of elk, too,|
|Summit of Mount Margaret, 5868 feet|
|I turned around here. Got tired of knee-deep post-holing. It'll melt out soon, though.|
|The 1980 Helens blast released energy equal to 24 Megatons of TNT. Take that trees.|
|My happy place|