- Elevation: 4,665 feet
- Distance: 9.6 miles RT
- NWFP required at Bivouac.
Mary, Jordan, Aaron and I drove to the climbers bivouac for Mt St Helens on Friday after work. It was a lovely, clear evening and a pleasant morning. The northwest had been dry for months now, and warmer than usual so we were expecting relatively good climbing conditions. The hike set out how we expected.
The clouds rolled in shortly after we began the ascent in the scree. And they never let up until we were on our way back down again. This was Aaron and my third time climbing this mountain, and it was by far the worst conditions. I was contemplating turning back, I'm certain Jordan wanted to as well, but Mary and Aaron continued on without hesitation, so I followed in line. Normally, there would be views of Mt Adams and Mt Hood that would be motivating you to continue the ascent. This day, all we saw was white. At times, the visibility was less than 50 feet. The winds increased the higher we got and were relentless. They would howl for minutes without a break. It was very draining physically and mentally. But we climbed on.
When we reached the top, the clouds broke enough to see the lava dome and the rim of the caldera. We hung out there 20-30 minutes maximum and then headed back down.
We got back to camp and decided to spend the night again since it's free and we wanted to enjoy each other's company around the fire again. Despite the poor hiking conditions, it was a great time and challenged us as hikers mentally and physically.
While hiking South Sister, Kate told me about the magic that is Opal Creek. We made plans to go the next week, 4th of July weekend, and so did one third of Oregon's population. Salem is the closest city to Opal Creek, which means the majority of the people there are of a different breed than the typical Portland-type people I'm used to seeing on hikes. More on that later. Kate and Amanda lead the way on this hike as Mary and I were first timers. The road leading up to the trailhead was already lined with cars for near a mile. We tested our luck and continued to go towards the trailhead. As we pulled up, a car left and we literally had the first spot next to the trailhead. As Kate remembered it, the hike was easy, so we all donned Chaco sandals and began to walk...and walk... and walk some more. We came across the "butt slide" and played here for awhile.
After the slide, we continued on the path. When we came to an old town, Kate and Amanda realized we were on a different trail than what they had done before, but we were almost to Opal Pool, so we persisted (side note- at this time both of my Chaco Sandals had broken).
The tiny town we arrived upon is Jawbone Flats. It was a mining town in the 1800's but now is an inhabited area for, I'm assuming, the park rangers and people who work at the forest center. It's pretty weird. A quarter mile past Jawbone Flats is Opal Pool.
After watching several people jump into the pool, we headed back to the car. We turned down a different road to a paved parking lot that was still about half full and Kate realized that was where she wanted to go initially. It was probably about 5pm at this time and we took the short walk to the river and waterfalls. The scene was disgusting to me. There was still over a hundred people there with coolers and even grills out on the rocks next to the water. There were piles of wet clothes and beer cans everywhere. These are Salem people. Groups of drunken young males were filing out of there carrying coolers and stopping only to take pulls from liquor bottles. I can only imagine what the place was like 4 hours earlier. We spent a little bit of time here and left, collecting as much garbage as we could on the way out. This place is absolutely gorgeous, but I will never go there again on a holiday weekend, or, for that matter past noon. I do plan on returning, but I'm going to camp nearby and be there before 10 am to beat the crowds so I can have some sort of serene experience there. So anyways, this place is beautiful, definitely a must-see in Oregon. Make sure to get there very early on the weekend or, preferably, go during the week.
A nice little video about the area, includes people jumping into the
I moved to the Pacific Northwest in August of 2012. I quickly identified myself as a hiker. I want to document my experiences so that I can refer to them for myself and others to provide the best hiking experience. I also hope to learn more about hiking from others comments and recommendations.