Mount St. Helens Summit & Ape Cave

Instagram is great. I use it to follow adventures of my friends and awesome photographers and travelers. That is also where I look for destinations and places to go to. But it can easily have the exact opposite effect of what I wanted. I could sit in a coffee shop and spend hours scrolling through pictures and hashtags while I could have been outside. And if I am not aware, I would consume most of my monthly data allowance on it. Social media is great and definitely changing the world around us, but using it in a wise and productive manner is another thing that I have yet to manage.

Recently, I was going through insta-stories where my friends document snippets of their lives. They were visiting Portland, Oregon and took the OHSU’s aerial tram to the top of the hospital where it gives views from as close as downtown Portland, to mountains as far as Mount Hood and Mount St. Helens. Ahhhh, it brought back the fun memories of St Helens for me.

Mount St. Helens

When we were visiting our friends in Portland, I was researching on what to do in Washington, and I came across a permit trading system where for summiting Mount St. Helens. Then I learned that St. Helens is still an active volcano, and as a matter of fact, its 1980 eruption was the most destructive in the history of US. 1980? That’s so recent! So I decided that I will try my luck to get two permits for us in the peak season, and I got them! 🙂

It was early September which is the perfect time to summit Mount St. Helens. It was also a sunny and nice day. Everything was great. I like to anticipate everything before a long hike, so I understood that it was not going to be an easy hike, but man, 4500′ in 4.5 miles felt like it was 7 miles long.

We parked at the trailhead with many other cars the night before who had the same thing in mind: start early in the morning. We still did not start early, maybe 8:30am? I don’t remember. Continuous uphill through the forestry until we came out of the tree lines and we were able to see the far mountain ridges and Mount Adams in the East.IMAG5779

You can never get lost on this trail. There were numerous tall post to point you where to go, and it is as simple as it gets, just keep going up. Trails disappeared after a while, and we just found our ways through the rock piles following the marker posts.

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Tall markers leading us the way to the far summit

The hike did not get easier. Min was constantly way ahead of me as usual while I took multiple breaks. After the long stretch of rock piles comes the hardest and most frustrating part: the volcanic ash. You take three steps forward and you slide two steps back. We also wore too much and I wish it was not that sunny. I looked up and saw the trail of tiny people making their way up to the summit. I was close to giving up, but I’m almost there and I was the one who suggested this hike, so I shall finish!

After struggling big time on this trail, we made it to the top! We sat at the ridge of the crater with many other people and enjoyed our accomplishments. We could see Mount Rainier, Mount Hood and Mount Adams all around us. From time to time, we heard the rumbling noise from the active crater underneath the volcanic ash. It sounds like it could erupt anytime again. Just imagine the eruption that happened just 37 years ago…

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Crater Ridge and Mount Rainier in the North
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Mount Adams in the East

Min glissaded parts of the way down while I decided to walk through the ash again. Coming down in the ashes was way easier than going up, I felt like I gained an extra step for every step I took. I guessed that balanced out the extra effort I took on the way up.

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Min glissading down the ice

Looking back, it was a very fun and challenging hike and would definitely recommend it to anyone. IMG_20170902_134453

Ape Caves Lava Tube

We also visited this cool and creepy lava tube within the Mount St. Helens Nat’l Monument. It was cool because it is a long cave and it is also really chilly in there. It was creepy because it is absolutely pitch black in there! I kept thinking of the movie, the descent, and it freaks me out.  And of course both of our headlamps were running low on battery, so we had to use our phone and hoped the battery would last. haha.

This lava tube is over 2 miles long, and we chose the 1.5 mile part of it. If you had hiked in the dark, you know it takes like so much longer than when you could see your next step. I had enough of the dark after half an hour and decided that I would rather climb a mountain than go into a cave.

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