Adventure Van Travels – Climbing Mount St. Helens

We had a busy day yesterday filled with driving from Crater Lake to Portland to visit Dave’s cousin and her family. It was great to see them! And then we set off for Washington, another new state for us!

When planning our trip, I really wanted to get a permit to hike to the top of Mount St. Helens. So when permits opened up in February, I snatched them up. I read online that Washington’s Seaquest State Park was convenient to the National Volcanic Monument, so we booked a night to camp there. However, while it is convenient to the Visitor Center, it is an hour and a half from the trail head. No matter. Our site was wooded and beautiful and we just had a very early 5am wake up. Next time, I will stay at the Climbers Bivouac in the National Forest.We arrived at the trailhead at the Climbers Bivouac by 7:30 and after talking to the forest service ranger and registering, we hit the trail at 8:15. Thunderstorms were forecast for the afternoon, so we knew we had to hustle. It was chilly, so the girls and I changed into pants before taking off while Garrett and Dave stuck with shorts.adventure vanOnce you leave the tree line, you’re able to see the parts of the mountain devastated by the 1980 eruption. The juxtaposition of the living forest next to huge swaths of volcanic rock and ash is really interesting. And it makes for some fun hiking too! We were now at the Boulder climb which goes on for a couple of miles. We stayed on trail by following the posts stuck in the piles of boulders and just kept climbing until we were above the clouds. We could see the tops of several mountains including Mt. Rainier. It was really quite beautiful.When we passed the boulder fields, the real fun began. We started an uphill climb in pebbles and ash that felt like two steps forward, one step back. It was definitely slow going and we were very thankful for our hiking poles. It was windy and chilly at this part and it was also very tiring. But eventually, by taking one step at a time, we reached the top! And oh my goodness, what a beautiful view.adventure vanadventure vanadventure vanadventure vanadventure vanadventure vanadventure vanadventure vanadventure vanadventure vanadventure vanSince thunderstorms were forecast starting at 1, and it was now 11:30, we didn’t stick around too long because I wanted to get below tree line. But we did take a few pictures and walk the edge of the volcano rim. There was still a large snow cornice, which we were careful to stay off of. We could also still see several vents smoking in the caldera, as Mount St. Helens is an active volcano. The mist and clouds rolled in and out and back in the area in the short time we were at the top, hiding and revealing the view into the crater over and over. It was really awesome.Heading back down was quick in the ash section and we basically slid down this part. We saw several people sledding down here as well. But the boulder climb was slow going as volcanic rock is sharp! We were happy when we finally saw the tree line and the rest of the hike was smooth sailing. All in all it took as about 7 hours and 45 minutes including our breaks to hike the 10 miles out and back. And no storms ever did hit, thank goodness. I HATE lightning storms!adventure vanadventure vanadventure vanadventure vanadventure vanadventure vanadventure vanClimbing Mount St. Helens was even better than I had anticipated, and truly an awesome experience to look into a volcano. But showers afterward felt heavenly as we were crazy dusty with ash! So now we are full of food and clean, and ready to take on adventuring in Mt. Rainier!

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I love to plan family travel adventures with our four kids. Encouraging time in nature, National Parks travel, backpacking and hiking are my passions and I love to write about them.

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