Sunday, November 29, 2020

Snowshoe: White River Snow Park, Government Camp, OR

Length: 3.4 miles
Elevation Gain: 688 feet
Type: Out & Back

Getting There

The trail starts at the White River Snow Park. There are lots of families enjoying the first 1/2 mile or so to about the ridge on the left (west). There is a large main parking lot and an annex parking lot a few hundred feet away. You have bushwhack a trail through the forest to the main parking lot, then pass through the gate.

The Hike

The road is where most people are recreating on sleds, etc but the valley opens up on the right, though there was a creek running down the middle. About a 1/2 mile up the road gets really steep to access the ridge. Only snow shoers from this point onward. A lot of snow shoers continue below up the middle of the valley. 

On the first recent hike, I stayed on the ridge the whole time. I did take a look at a possible crossing but decided against it. On the second hike, I started in the valley up the top but on the way down I found a suitable crossing onto the ridge.

This is the view of Mt Hood from the ridge

 This is about where I turned around.

Near the top of the trail

The valley about a 1mile from parking lot

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Hike: Ape Canyon Trail, Mount St. Helens, Cougar, WA


Distance: 11.0 miles
Type: Out and Back

Elevation Gain: 2083 feet

High Point: 4359 feet

Duration: 5 hrs 15 mins


Getting There:

I'd originally planned to make an attempt at summiting Mt St Helens via the Ptarmigan Trail. I had a permit for Fri 10/30 but ended up booking a somewhat urgent dentist appointment. Nov 1st is the first day when there's no hiker limit, previously it was 100 per day. I knew the weather was going to be awesome, bluebird day. 

I set my alarm for 5am but tossed & turned. At 5am I hit the snooze but roused myself. I loaded my gear, hopped in the car, and headed toward Cougar.

Some cars were following me for awhile and I had a feeling we were all going to the same place. After the turnoff, I let the eager beavers go by. The 2mi gravel road was empty until I rounded a corner some distance from the parking lot. Way overflowing! If I'd beat those 4 cars I might have had a space on the shoulder. I drove down the hill to the next safe parking spot; 20 min walk to the trailhead. I considered that it was going to packed on the trail, covid-19, some people w/o masks. Fuck it!

I bailed and drove up the Ape Canyon/Lava Canyon. I was the only car at Lava Canyon. I'd wanted to check out the suspension bridge but alas it was closed due to damage. I went as far as I could but hardly got a workout.

Lava Canyon suspension bridge

Lava Canyon

I drove over to the Ape Canyon parking lot, 2mins away. It was about 8am and only a handful of cars. I parked and geared up. The sun was out in full glory.

The Hike:

"This is an incredible trail. Safe to say there is nothing quite like this anywhere in the states. You climb through a forest that somehow survived the blast of St. Helens with views getting better and better the farther you climb. Then, you pop out of the woods and begin traversing the Plains of Abraham."


I'd hiked a small section of this trail in the past while out exploring. I recognized the spot where I'd taken some photos and turned around as I passed it.

The AllTrails description says it all. I didn't know much about the trail (length, elevation gain). I just kept climbing up through this beautiful terrain. I remember looking up in awe at the trees. I interrupted an owl trying to catch a squirrel.

As the ridge narrows you can see Mt Rainier and Mt Adams and even Mt Hood eventually but Mt St Helens kinda looms in the background, a grey mass through the trees. The lahar flow below is otherworldly.

At the trail junction at the top, I continued on the Loowit Trail. There were 4 mountain goats sunning on the hillside a ways away. I'd seen tire tracks on the trails and thought ATVs used by rangers for trail maintenance but there were several mountain bikers.

I knew I had a grueling downhill hike ahead of me but was tempted to keep going forward toward Windy Ridge. In fact, this loop sounds amazing: Ape Canyon, Smith Creek, Lava Canyon Loop, 22.8 miles.

View of Mt St Helens from the Ape Canyon Trail

The white specks are mountain goats

The white specks are mountain goats

Trail junction at Pumice Butte

View of MSH from the trail junction