Hummocks Trail, Mt St Helens, WA, and some finished projects!

1/14/2019 Hummocks Trail

We drove north from Portland through fog and hoarfrost, up the Toutle River Valley on Hwy. 504, then out of the fog to the Hummocks Trailhead, the end of the road this time of year.


Mt St Helens with hummocky landscape in the foreground.

The Hummocks Loop Trail winds through hummocks, which are mounds of poorly consolidated pulverized volcanic deposits that were dropped here like a house out of a tornado, as the debris avalanche produced by Mt St Helens’ eruption passed over the area. Since that time, 38 years ago, lakes and primitive drainages have formed between the hummocks, and trees and plants have grown on their slopes, every form of life younger than 38 years old. Today we saw bare alder trees, iced lakes and dry grass in the stark landscape, but the hummocks also protected us from the wind.


Walking along an icy lake


Lake ice



Another lake between the hummocks


Icy surface





Trail companions


Small creek between hummocks.


Our lunch time view of Mt St Helens, slightly sheltered from the wind.

We continued to the Toutle River viewpoint.


Looking downstream – the river carves through the hummock deposits.


Upstream – the Toutle River braid plain and the mountain.

We also saw the Science and Learning Center situated high above Coldwater Lake.



Another lake in the hummocks.



The white and windy mountain – stunted by eruption, wide maw open to the north, wind blown dust and snow hazing our view.


Half moon rising over 38 year old stumps on the ridge to the east.

The present is the key to the past, in geological thinking. Except when it isn’t – that is, when the present hasn’t yet revealed how the rocks got that way. On May 18, 1980, about three weeks before I graduated from college with a Bachelor of Science degree in Geology, Mt St Helens revealed to scientists all over the world how these particular deposits form. It was a moment of instant enlightenment, as my professor excitedly told us, once the ash finished falling and the studies begun. Wide ranging theories about how similar hummocky landscapes all over the world were formed were replaced by the lateral blast model. Going forward, Red Evacuation Zones would be wider, and more lives protected.  It was just a blip in geological time, but a catastrophe in human time, a moment that changed everything.

Coldwater Lake

Coldwater Lake was not even here before the eruption. The blast debris dammed up the drainage, and then engineers stabilized it. It is now a lovely place to contemplate the surrounding landscape. Dan and I completed the 12 mile hike around the lake a few years ago in a low snow year. Along the way we witnessed the rusting logging equipment that survives on the lee side of Coldwater Ridge, while walking through a mostly new and revegetating landscape. Today, we walked past the “shutdown” locked gate to the shore.

dsc01186We held onto our hats while the wind whipped the water into white caps, and looked at the barren knife edge of Minnie Peak at the far end of the lake. The surrounding slopes were all denuded by the 180 mph lateral blast of volcanic debris, ash, and gas.


Coldwater Lake


A large hummock right in the middle of the lake.


Closer view of Minnie Peak.

The lake, and all the vegetation are less than 38 years old. It is an awe inspiring sight!

(4.2 miles, 200 feet, for the day, hike #4 for 2019)

Elk Rock Viewpoint

On our way home we stopped at a high point on Hwy 504 – the Elk Rock Viewpoint. No elk today, but another look at Mt St Helens, the adjacent Mt Margaret back country, and Mt Adams peeking over her shoulder, volcanic cone intact for now.


Mt St Helens


The Mt Margaret back country.


Closer view of Mt Adams.


Panoramic view.


I finished knitting the toe of the second sock.


I relearned how to stitch French knots, so placed the final stitches in Jane Austen’s house. My next step is to figure out how to frame it. And then move on to my Nova project, teach myself the canvas stitches – tent, cashmere, mosaic, Scottish. A new stitching adventure awaits.

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