Yesterday I decided to wake up at a ridiculous hour and drive up to Mount St. Helens to do my first proper hike on the mountain. Well. I had actually planned a short improper hike for flowers, but it turned proper when I ended up at the top of Harry's Ridge, four miles from the Johnston Ridge parking lot.
My first stop was one of many viewpoints on the road to Johnston Ridge.
Varied Thrushes were calling, bats were swooping out of the sky, and a creature unseen was rustling around in the bushes. Perfect.
I began my hike on the Boundary Trail at 5:30 a.m. in the company of nighthawks and Willow Flycatchers.
The flowers were spectacular as I had hoped, though this was definitely a case of quantity over diversity.
Around 6:30 I heard a coyote give a quick howl and a bark so I stopped to scan for it. I never located the source, but he or she erupted in full blown howls with coyotes in several directions responding. It was lovely.
The coyotes quit howling after awhile and I began to hear a Sooty Grouse. Never saw it. The trail began to hug a cliff face with all sorts of warning signs, though it didn't feel particularly dangerous.
And the view on the return hike later:
I stopped to eat a snack in a spot that was pretty birdy. Slate-colored Fox Sparrows were hopping around the rocks and hummingbirds were chasing each other all over. Mostly Rufous from what I could tell.
One landed super close to me and I shot off one photo without getting an actual look at the bird. Looks Calliope-ish to me, eh? Maybe just a young Rufous.
I continued along the trail and turned off at Harry's Ridge where the trail leads up to a fantastic viewpoint.
View of Spirit Lake which is still filled with dead trees from the eruption:
The Harry for which this ridge was named was famous for refusing to leave the lodge he owned on this lake in the months prior to the eruption. Wikipedia quotes him as saying, "If the mountain goes, I'm going with it." Him and his sixteen cats. RIP.
From the top of the ridge there is a 360 degree view and I could even barely make out the parking lot, where the tiny arrow is in this photo:
To the left of the arrow is the Johnston Ridge Observatory which I unfortunately did not have time to visit. Also at the top of this ridge I saw my first human, a fellow that was trail running. He ran back down the ridge while I was poking flowers, and I didn't see a second human for another hour and a half.
There were a couple kinds of penstemons near the top that I have yet to identify...
A tiger beetle was hellbent on scurrying away from me on the trail back down.
More good stuff along the trail...
Orange agoseris (Agoseris aurantiaca)
Tasty snacks...whatever they are...
A couple sections of the trail were carpeted with lupine. It smelled ridiculously amazing.
I stopped at another birdy spot where hummingbirds were very much interested in me.
So, not the birdiest hike but pretty well-rounded with bugs and flowers and scenery and howls. I definitely recommend it! Good times!!