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Hiking Mt. St. Helens Trip report Washington Washington Cascades

Goat Marsh Lake and Kalama Ski Trail – 06/25/2022

After a wet and mild Spring, Summer announced its arrival with our fist 90-degree temperatures just in time for the weekend. When it gets that warm we typically turn to the mountains for relief but that’s a little trickier this year due to there being quite a bit of snow still up in the Cascades. Even some of the lower elevation mountains are still in the process of melting out. For instance our original plan for this hike had been to visit Silver Star Mountain (post) via the Starway Trail, an approach that we haven’t done yet. While this mountain is accessible recent reports showed several remaining snowdrifts but more importantly the wildflower show is running late. To decide where to go I turned to my spreadsheet looking for hikes that I had scheduled in coming years around the end of June. Goat Marsh Lake was on the schedule for next year and while the Goat Marsh Research Natural Area is located with the Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. It sits at a low enough elevation that there was a chance that snow wouldn’t be an issue. Using NOAA’s NOHRSC snow depth layer on the PCTA’s interactive map confirmed that snow shouldn’t be an issue at the lake or along the loop we were planning after visiting the lake using the Kalama Ski and Toutle Trails. With a forecast high of 78 degrees it would be warm but not unbearable so with that as our plan we got an early start and headed north to the Goat Marsh Lake Trailhead.

We parked a little up FR 8123 from the trailhead and walked back down to the start of the trail.
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This was the Kalama Ski Trail (Trail 231) and part of the loop we were planning as well as the way to reach the Goat Marsh Trail in a quarter mile.
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We followed this path to the junction where we turned right to visit the lake.
IMG_4722It appeared the trail had been rerouted at least a couple of times to cross this dry creek bed.

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This trail led slightly uphill for 0.5 mile to our first view of the lake. Along the way we’d spotted a cow elk in the trees but she disappeared before we could take a picture.
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IMG_4730Fence at the boundary for the Research Area.

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IMG_4738Goat Mountain and Goat Marsh Lake.

The trail continued around the lake for a little over three quarters of a mile. We spotted two more cow elk and moments later noticed a whole heard, including several calves, further to the north.
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IMG_4746Mt. St. Helens

IMG_4749Trillium

IMG_4750Vanilla leaf

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IMG_4761Frog on a log.

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IMG_4769The two cow elk in the middle of the grassy area.

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IMG_4777Calves lined up, this one is a bit blurry due to them moving and the amount of zoom used.

IMG_4786The elk herd not zoomed in.

IMG_4787Zoomed

After watching the elk for a while we continued on.
IMG_4794Coralroot

IMG_4795Goat Mountain

IMG_4799Avalanche lilies

IMG_4804Mt. St. Helens

IMG_4806Marsh violet

IMG_4811Frog under a log.

IMG_4814Salmonberry

IMG_4816Sign near the end of the trail.

IMG_4818At the end of the trail.

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IMG_4821Beaver lodge

IMG_4826Duck and ducklings

IMG_4836Geese out in the grass.

We returned to the trailhead and crossed FR 8123 to stay on the Kamala Ski Trail.
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IMG_4844The road crossing.

We had a little trouble picking up the trail beyond the sign because there was also a campsite here with several use trails radiating from it. We used our GPS while we looked for the blue diamonds that would identify a ski trail. Heather was the first to spot one and we were soon on the ski trail heading toward Mt. St. Helens.
IMG_4848In the campsite trying to decide which way to go.

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IMG_4851Once we found it the trail was pretty obvious, at least for a while.

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Approximately three quarters of a mile from the road we came to a junction with the Blue Lake Horse Trail. The horse trail can be used to reach Blue Lake (post) to the north via the Toutle Trail or the same Toutle Trail to the south near the Kalama River (post) which we could have done here to shorten our loop. Instead we stayed straight on the ski trail.
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We had remarked several times during our Ashland vacation about the lack of mosquitos, and really insects overall, but that was not the case here. While they weren’t a big issue it was noticeably buggier here than it had been in Southern Oregon. The local birds were busy doing their part to reduce the number of bugs.
IMG_4862Gray jay with a snack.

IMG_4865Western tanager. Right after this photo he flew straight at us snatching an insect out of mid-air.

Four tenths a mile from the horse trail the ski trail made a turn away from the mountain and headed SE.
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The trail became a little more overgrown then came to a series of dry creek beds where we again had to hunt for signs of the trail.
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IMG_4881Butte Camp Dome in front of Mt. St. Helens.

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IMG_4891Crossing another dry bed.

IMG_4892Where is the trail?

IMG_4893In one of the creek beds. We were using the GPS along with looking for cairns and/or flagging.

IMG_4894Goat Mountain

IMG_4896You can’t really make them out in the photo but there is a pink flag and a blue diamond (on a downed tree) near the edge of the green trees.

We were now entering the section of trail that the NOHRSC indicated there could be some lingering snow patches.
IMG_4899There was another short brushy section before the forest opened up.

IMG_4900One of the strangest snow sightings we’ve come across.

IMG_4902My theory was bigfoot hung this.

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IMG_4916The NOHRSC estimated 2″-3.9″ of snow and that seemed to be about right.

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Unlike in the Siskiyous this melting snow had produced a fair number of mosquitos so we hustled through this section even though it was scenic.
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We encountered the first other hikers we’d seen when we arrived at the junction with the Toutle Trail (Approx 3 miles from the Goat Marsh Lake Trailhead). The junction was unsigned and they were considering which way to go to find the Loowit Trail. We pointed them north (left from the direction we were coming, straight for them) on the Toutle Trail and then turned south (right) ourselves onto the Toutle.
IMG_4921Looking back at the junction from the Toutle Trail. The post with no sign is the continuation of the Toutle while the trail on the left is the ski trail.

We followed this trail south for half a mile passing through a beargrass meadow that appears to have bloomed heavily last year and a lava flow with excellent views of Mt. St. Helens before dropping to FR 81 at the Red Rock Pass Trailhead.
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IMG_4932Last years beargrass.

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IMG_4937Strawberry

IMG_4938Phlox

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IMG_4952FR 81 below the trail.

IMG_4953Trail sign at the trailhead.

We crossed FR 81 and continued on the Toutle Trail.
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After 100 yards we came to a familiar fork where we had turned uphill in 2019 on our Cinnamon Ridge Hike linked above.
IMG_4961Raven flyover

IMG_4963The fork.

We were going in the opposite direction of what we’d done in 2019. Bugs were a bit more of a nuisance here so we kept a steady pace as we made a little climb then descended to McBride Lake and the Kalama River.
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IMG_4971One of several side creeks we crossed.

20220625_112201Trillium

20220625_112218Avalanche lily

IMG_4976Violet

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IMG_4993Goat Mountain beyond McBride Lake.

IMG_4994Sourgrass

IMG_5004Valerian

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IMG_5012Solomonseal

20220625_115233Saxifrage

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A little west of McBride Lake the Toutle Trail crosses the Kalama River on a closed road bed.
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IMG_5031Kalama River from the road bed.

Our original plan was blown up here. We had intended to follow the Toutle Trail to the start of the Kalama Ski Trail and then take that trail back uphill to the Goat Marsh Lake Trailhead. The problem was I had already forgotten about the Blue Lake Horse Trail and when I had glanced at the GPS and saw a trail extending north from the end of the road bed I mistook it for the ski trail so we followed the road bed a quarter mile to FR 81. (We had a paper map with us but didn’t pull it out to confirm.)
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IMG_5035The Blue Lake Horse Trail on the far side of FR 81.

When we crossed FR 81, two things that should have tipped us off to our mistake. First the sign clearly said “Blue Horse Trail” and second instead of blue diamonds there were orange diamonds with arrows marking this trail.
IMG_5036The sign did show FR 8123 which was the road the trailhead was on so that fed into us not realizing our mistake at first.

We followed this trail for a third of a mile before we realized what we’d done. We stopped and considered our options. We could back track three quarters of a mile to the Toutle Trail or a third of a mile to FR 81 and follow one of them west to the ski trail. Another option was to continue uphill on this trail to the junction we’d passed earlier and retrace our steps on the ski trail from there back to the trailhead. All of those options meant adding distance and retracing steps. Heather suggested another option, simply heading cross-country for FR 8123 and the trailhead.
IMG_5037An orange diamond on a tree ahead.

The forest was definitely conducive to cross-country travel so we struck off in a WNW direction. The cross-country hike was about as easy as we could have hoped for and after 0.7 miles we arrived a FR 8123 just 0.2 miles from our car.
IMG_5038Where we left the horse trail.

IMG_5039Typical terrain for the cross-country walk.

IMG_5040It seems like every time we go off-trail we come across a mylar balloon. We’ve really come to despise those things. We packed it and the ribbon out.

IMG_5041The trickiest part was crossing this dry stream bed but we fortunately came to it at a spot that was perfect for crossing.

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IMG_5043FR 8123

IMG_5045Coming up to the Goat Marsh Lake Trailhead (and our car) on FR 8123.

I had estimated a 10-12 mile hike with only about 800′ of total elevation gain and we came in at 10.8 miles.

Our track with the cross-country portion in orange.

While it had been a warm day, the combination of shade provided by the forest and a fairly steady breeze, it hadn’t been too hot. The hike had provided a lot of diverse scenery and great views of Mt. St. Helens. The wildlife was a big bonus along the Goat Marsh Trail too. It seems like we can always count on hikes in Mt. St. Helens area to be great ones. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Goat Marsh Lake

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Hiking Mt. St. Helens Trip report Washington Washington Cascades

Cinnamon Ridge – 7/20/2019

It had been a couple of years since our hikes had taken us to the Mt. St. Helens area. We didn’t want to go a third year without making a visit so we picked the 14.1 mile Cinnamon Ridge Loop Hike described here in the Oregon Hikers field guide. A shorter loop was also described in Matt Reeder’s “Off the Beaten Trail” guidebook.

We started at the Kalama Horse Camp Trailhead and consulted the signboard map to confirm our route. (We had a paper map, a downloaded pdf track, and our GPS with us, but you can never consult too many maps.)
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We set off on the Toutle Trail just to the right of the signboard.
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After a short descent the trail crossed an unnamed creek. Ripe berries were everywhere.
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Two tenths of a mile from the trailhead we came to a junction with the Cinnamon Ridge Trail, our return route. We stayed left on the Toutle Trail.
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IMG_3619Toutle Trail

IMG_3618Candy sticks

A short distance later we stayed right at a junction with the Kalama Ski Trail.
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Beyond this junction the trail approached the Kalama River as it passed through the forest.
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Yet another junction followed about three quarters of a mile later just after climbing away from the river via a switchback. Again we stuck to the Toutle Trail.
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The trail was now a good distance above the river avoiding a series of slides.
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IMG_3648Pinesap

IMG_3651Pinesap and a puffball

Just over 2 miles from the trailhead we arrived at the third and final junction signed for the Kalama Ski Trail where we also stuck to the Toutle Trail.
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There had been plenty of ripe huckleberries and lots of pinesap but not too many flowers. There were a few lousewort and twin flowers though along this section of trail.
IMG_3655Lousewort

IMG_3660Twin Flower

At the 2.5 mile mark we came to a Forest Service Road.
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Reeder’s shorter/easier loop utilizes this road which he lists as FR 8122 (our maps showed it as 8022). He also has you hike in the opposite direction so we would have been coming down the road to this junction then returning to the horse camp the way we’d come on this hike. Since we were doing the longer loop we crossed over the road and continued on the Toutle Trail which was once again closer to the Kalama River.
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Along this stretch we noticed a few really large mushrooms.
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Approximately 1.2 mile from the road crossing we crossed a second road bed where the trail hopped to the opposite side of the river.
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A good sized frog jumped off the trail in front of us here.
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As we neared McBride Lake (now more of a wetland) we obtained our first glimpses of Mt. St. Helens.
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IMG_3706Mt. St. Helens beyond the remnants of McBride Lake.

We averted disaster when a rough skinned newt charged Heather but it was only a bluff.
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The trail climbed through a nice forest as it passed McBride Lake on its way to Red Rock Pass.
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IMG_3722Cars parked at Red Rock Pass

We didn’t go all the way down to Red Rock Pass as the Cinnamon Trail headed uphill at an unsigned junction about 100 yards above the trailhead.
IMG_3723Cinnamon Trail on the left and Toutle Trail on the right from the unsigned junction.

While the Toutle Trail had gained almost 1200′ in the 5.7 miles from the trailhead to the Cinnamon Trail junction the Cinnamon Trail gained nearly 700′ in less than a mile. Although the climb was never particularly steep it provided a good workout. It also provided some nice views of Mt. St. Helens and our first (and best) look at Mt. Adams.
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Things leveled out a bit after gaining the ridge where the trail passed through a variety of scenery.
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IMG_3749Fungus on a stump.

After a little of two and a half miles on the Cinnamon Trail we came to a small meadow with a view south to Mt. Hood.
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Just beyond the meadow the trail reached a saddle with a view NW to Goat Mountain.
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The trail continued to follow the ridge west and then south as it passed around a butte.
IMG_3770The butte ahead (we didn’t want to have to climb that.)

IMG_3774Trail wrapping around the south side of the butte.

On the far side of the butte we arrived at another saddle.
20190720_113203Toad near the saddle.

IMG_3780Mt. St. Helens from the saddle.

The trail stuck to the north side of the ridge for a bit allowing for some good views of Mt. St. Helens and another Mt. Adams sighting.
IMG_3781Goat Mountain

IMG_3783Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Adams

IMG_3796Another frog.

At the 4.5 mile mark of the Cinnamon Trail we arrived at the first of three successive road crossings (all of the same road).
IMG_3799Crossing #1

IMG_3800Crossing #2

IMG_3801Crossing #3

Approximately a quarter mile from the third road crossing the trail began to descend through a small meadow with a few cat’s ear lilies.
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Soon we were dropping down along a narrow ridge where we were able to see the top of Mt. Rainier beyond Coldwater Peak.
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The sun was glinting off of the equipment on top of Coldwater Peak (post).
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The trail continued to descend crossing over another old roadbed before reaching FR 8022 (or FR 8122 per Reeder) 6.2 miles from Red Rock Pass.
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IMG_3825old road crossing.

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IMG_3830Dropping to FR 8022(8122).

We crossed this road onto an old roadbed which we followed for four tenths of a mile.
IMG_3831Goat Mountain from the roadbed.

IMG_3835Goat Mountain and Mt. St. Helens

IMG_3838Ripening berries

IMG_3842Rock slide along the roadbed.

Shortly after passing through the rock slide the roadbed ended and we were back on a trail.
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IMG_3847Pinedrop

The trail descended for another mile and a half eventually coming back within earshot of the Kalama River but not close enough to provide many views until we arrived at a footbridge across it.
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From the bridge it was just 100 yards to the end of our loop and .2 miles from the trailhead. The 14.1 miles combined with nearly 3000′ of elevation gain make this a challenging hike. Despite the difficulty and lack of any real big WOW moments it was a really enjoyable hike. There were plenty of positives; the ripe berries, the river, mountain views, a little wildlife (including some grouse which as always gave us a start when they flew off.), a few wildflowers, and some nice forests to keep us entertained the entire way. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Cinnamon Ridge

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Hiking Mt. St. Helens Trip report Washington Washington Cascades

Mt. St. Helens Rim

We kicked off our September hiking with the steep rocky climb to the rim of Mt. St. Helens. After missing out on climbing permits last year (The passes are limited to 100 per day from April 1st through October.) we had scooped up this years permits as soon as they went on sale in February. We were fortunate to have wound up picking a day with a forecast for clear skies and mild temperatures.

After picking up our permits and signing the climbers register at the Lone Fir Resort in Cougar, WA we drove up to the Climbers Bivouac and got ready to climb. The first 2 miles of trail climbed gradually through a forest. There were just a few flowers and a couple of berries left here and there. We had blue skies above us but the sky was hazy to the East and South hiding Mt. Hood and Mt. Adams from view.
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At the 2 mile mark we crossed over the Loowit Trail and continued up the mountain.
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Going up

The trail quickly emerged from the trees and headed for the lava flow on Monitor Ridge.
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Posts indicated the general path to follow up the lava, but it was nearly impossible to tell where the optimal route was. It seemed like no matter where we were a better looking route was just to the left or right.
Following the posts up Monitor Ridge
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We picked our way up and over the rocks as best as we could passing the first monitor (yes there are actually monitors on monitor ridge) and gaining ever better views of Goat Mountain just to the SE of Mt. St. Helens.
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Just under 2 miles from the Loowit Trail we found the second monitor. Used for monitoring any swelling of the mountain we used it as proof that we were actually getting somewhere.
The 2nd of the two monitors
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From the second monitor there was one final pile of lava rocks before a final stretch of loose rock and ash.
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Final stretch up to the rim of Mt. St. Helens

The sky above the rim was a clear blue and we had hopes that maybe the view North would be clearer than the rest of the horizon, but from the rim the view in that direction looked like the others.
Mt. St. Helens Rim 2

There was one big difference, the view down into the crater was unobstructed and Spirit Lake lay beyond with its flotilla of logs.
Lava dome in the crater of Mt. St. Helens
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More of the crater
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We sat on the rim for awhile catching our breath and resting our legs. The steam rising from the lava dome coupled with the nearly constant sound of rocks falling down into the crater gave us plenty of entertainment.
Somewhere out there is Mt. Rainier
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Once we had sufficiently recovered we began our descent.
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Going down was just as difficult as climbing up. We slowly made our way back down though and wound up back in the trees. The final 2 miles seemed to fly by compared to how long it took to come down the lava flow and we were soon leaving the volcanic monument.
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Back at the car we had one final look at the rim we had been on just a few hours earlier. It had been an interesting hike, arguably the most difficult we’ve done, but worth the effort.
Mt. St. Helens from the parking lot

Happy Trail!

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