Monday, June 19, 2023

Hike: Ape Cave & June Lake, MSH, WA


Selfie from June Lake

Getting There

From I-5/Woodland, take the Lewis River Road (WA-503) eastbound to Cougar. Continue past on NF-90 to NF-83 (Ape Caves, Ape Canyon, Lava Canyon, etc).

I was out there for my mentor session with an experience MSHI volunteer and two other mentees. We met at a road pullout, then, because of the rain, we stopped at Ape Caves. While one mentee, Evan, was getting instructions on using the radio and other stuff we covered last weekend at SLC, Katie and I introduced ourselves to the Ape Caves staff. 

We went to the lava tube opening and chatted with a few visitors and got some orientation on the area. Katie and I ventured into the tube for a little bit but just to where the trail splits.

When the rain stopped, the four of us drove up to the Marble Mountain Trailhead in order to head up to June Lake.

The Hike

Distance: 4.83 miles
Elevation Gain: 545 ft



From Instagram:

Today I had my mentor session on the south side of Mt St Helens. I met a seasoned MSHI volunteer and two other mentees near Cougar, WA. It was raining this morning so we stopped at Ape Caves to interact with some visitors and take at peek at the lava tube.

When the rain stopped, we drove up NF-83 to the Marble Mountain Sno-Park, where road is still closed. We took the Pine Marten Trail for a while then out on the road. We stopped to chat with two people visiting from Chicago, then continued to the June Lake Trailhead and up to the lake for lunch. We talked with two more people that were from the East coast.

On our way back we met a guy who had a wealth of knowledge and a lifetime experience in the area. You never know who you'll encounter. We chatted for 15 minutes. We passed a couple with a dog and just said hello. Some interactions are brief while others develop into an interesting dialogue.

It was good practice engaging visitors and using the radio. I'm feeling ready to go out there on my own or co-rove with another volunteer.

From the Trailhead parking lot, we followed the Pine Marten trail, while parallels NF-83. We popped out onto the road when we saw a couple of visitors from Chicago. We chatted with them for a bit about their plans and where they could see MSH.

We continued along the road to the June Lake Trailhead. We meandered up the trail, chatting with each other, discussing flowers and the ancient lahar flow next to the trail.

We stopped at the lake to eat lunch but the rain came back. We hiked into the trees for shelter and examined the foliage. When the rain stopped again, we went back to the lake and met two more visitors. We chatted for a bit and they took a group photo for us. Before we left the lake, we popped over to the lahar flow to look at the boulders.

We walked back to Marble Mountain Sno-Park. A car and an RV past us on the road that was supposed to be closed. The car came back pretty soon because the road was blocked by snow.

When we got back to the gate, we called Columbia Dispatch to report the open gate. While waiting two more cars full of people looked like they wanted to go through. We closed the gate but didn't lock it. The RV came back through.

We drove back to where we met in the morning to check out on the radio. We caravaned back to Amboy to the MSHI HQ to return the radio.

Sunday, June 11, 2023

Hike: Hummocks Trail, Toutle, WA


Coldwater Lake from the MSH Science and Learning Center

Getting There

From Castle Rock, just off I-5, take WA-504 east for for 43.3 miles to the MSH Science and Learning Center. Then, take the cloverleaf turn and follow the road for 2.4 miles to the Hummocks Trailhead.

The Hike

Distance: 2.39 mi
Elevation Gain: 273 ft
Duration: 1hr 11min

Fun hike with fellow Hiking Steward volunteers with Mt St Helens Institute. We spent the morning together in the MSH Science and Learning Center learning about the role and responsibilities, practice using the radios when roving, how to respond to visitor inquiries in an engaging way, and learning more about the 1980 Eruption and the mountain's history.

We had lunch on the balcony overlooking Coldwater Lake and views of MSH.

In the afternoon, we split up into 4 groups of about 10 people each to hike the Hummock Trail. We carpooled down to the trailhead because the monument still closed to the public, related to the landslide near JRO.

It was a nice leisurely hike, we went in a counterclockwise direction. We'd stop at various places to point out features and practice out interpretive skills.

Sunday, June 4, 2023

Hike: Hamilton Mountain-Hardy Creek Loop, N Bonneville, WA

Zach Urness / Statesman Journal

Getting There

Take WA-14 from Vancouver, WA east toward N Bonneville.

Just after Doetsch Ranch you'll see the Ranger Station on the north side of the road just before the Beacon Rock parking lot, then another road across from the bathrooms. The road winds up the hill for a bit.

However, the summer hiking season is in full force with the warm weather and end of school term. The sign at the bottom of the hill said the parking lot is full. I probably could have found a spot but opted to park on Hwy 14 by the Beacon Rock Trailhead and walk the road to the trailhead.

Indeed, there were several cars leaving as I walked up and I could see a few empty spots. It looked like the upper parking lot was open as well but no clue on openings. The Discover Pass seems to help.

Anyway, it was a little extra distance and elevation so I didn't mind where I was parked.

The Hike

Length: 8.13 mi
Elev. gain: 2,346 ft
Moving time: 3:17:24
Avg pace: 24:16
Calories: 1,988
Total time: 3:25:50

I haven't really been hiking lately. Too many other things going on. Besides some low effort hikes at Sandy River and Cooper Mountain, my last rigorous hike was Forest Park when I had some hydration issues.

Before that, I hiked a mostly flat out-n-back at Coldwater and had lower back problem. My last visit to Beacon Rock SP was the big, 2-summit hike to Phlox Point and Hamilton Mountain figure-8 loop, a 14+ miler, 3600+ ft of climb.

This hike was fitness gauge, let's see how well I do and a first hike in my new Lone Peak ALL-WTHR Mid Hiking Boots.

I also practiced talking to people like I will have to do when I'm a Hiking Steward. Obviously, I didn't introduce myself as volunteer, I did realize that I am not as shy as I imagine. Maybe it would be as difficult at I think it will to do "customer service" on the mountain or in the Visitor Center.

The Boots

I used my REI points to get these for around $20! (My Keens Targhee IIIs went for $20 at their sidewalk sale last summer!).

Last summer, while the price was right, the fit of the Targhees felt wrong. The fit of boot on my right foot just didn't feel the same as my worn in boots. I tried different sole inserts, adjusted the lacing, and even bought a second pair from the store in case there was some kind of manufacturing defect I could see. I also saw a podiatrist but they didn't find anything wrong with my gait or otherwise.

It turns out the issue between old and new boots was uneven were on the tread. I returned the 2nd pair of Keens and the Lone Peaks and just powered through on the $20 Keens. I eventually broken them in enough where they felt right.

I picked up the Lone Peaks while trying some other boots but returned them after walking around the office for a 1/2 day. I noticed Kyle from Kyle Hates Hiking on YouTube wearing some low-top Lone Peaks. This spring, when I saw them on-sale and realized I could get them for almost nothing, I bought 'em. I bit of an impulse buy as there's nothing wrong with my Keens. I wanted to try a lighter-weight "summer" boot.

My Review

They're pretty comfortable. I didn't had any issues on the uneven terrain, even on the rockiest part of the trail where you can feel them through the soles. Even with the Size 11s, it felt like my toes were really close to the end of the boot.

I accidentally kicked a few rocks and didn't stub my toes. The Keens have a distinct advantage over the Lone Peaks, the rubber toe cap, which has saved by feet many, many times over. 

While the Lone Peaks are a great shoe, I prefer my Keens for all-year protection.


Fitness Check

Given my recent hikes, I always worry about my fitness, especially as I anticipate going out on the trail for MSHI. Reaching the Hamilton summit is morale booster and decent gauge on my readiness. I tend to have doubts on my hiking ability but have realized time and again, that it takes a lot more time before I lose my stamina and strength.

As with many previous posts, I've been more conscience about my hydration and electrolytes. I forgot to bring any LMNT packets but I had bit bottle of sugar-free Gatorade. That's pretty much all I drink but I had extra water, ~48 oz.

One Day Later

My legs feel good today, no major soreness. I think I can handle longer hikes around MSH.

Other Thoughts

The foliage was pretty thick, esp. between the summit and the Saddle. I don't recognize poison ivy or oak but I suspected I was walking through some of it. Indeed, because I could feel some itchy parts on my arms. I should have worn a long sleeved shirt.

I used rubbing alcohol when I got home and that seemed to help a little, I still have some spots there I really want to scratch but won't.

While I needed this hike for my mental health, I did have complication. I stopped briefly at far end of the Saddle to rest and sit for a minute. I noticed my Nest camera notification that a person was at my door.

I looked at the video and saw some guy hanging out on my porch. He didn't ring the doorbell but was mumbling like he was talking to himself or maybe he thought someone was watching and listening. He even tried to open the realtor lockbox that was there since I moved in. I removed the key not too long ago and reset the password. Still disturbing to see someone attempting to gain access to my place. 

My adrenaline shot up because I felt helpless. I was at the inflection point on my hike and still had over an hour to go plus a 45min drive back home. I could have called the cops or maybe triggered my alarm to scare him off. I was just glad I'd put the dumpster inside the garage so I didn't look like the place is vacant.