This is part one of a multi-part trip report from my recent outing to climb Mount Saint Helens using the Monitor Ridge route. It's taking me some time to organize the photos and do everything else on my growing To-Do list, so the multi-part report is just my way of tiding you over until I can get to it.
Saturday, October 10, 2009
Woke up to a slightly overcast day.
Resumed the packing that started the night before.
Coached a soccer game.
Came back home to finish packing.
My ride showed up right on time at 12:30.
Erik H. graciously offered to share the RV with us for this trip. It was well worth the effort (and gas) since overnight temperatures were forecasted to be in the "below 30 degrees" range.
We hit the road and soon found ourselves in Lynwood where we picked up the rest of our crew: Steve, Ray and Tim.
After a quick meet & greet at the Park & Ride, the five of us cruised on down to Cougar, WA in full RV luxury.
Trip Tip #1: Google Maps said to take the Dike Access exit (exit #22)... don't do that. Take Exit #21 to Woodland/Cougar. Much easier. Especially if you are in an RV.
Trip Tip #2: It's like 250 miles... ONE WAY from Mount Vernon. Bring reading material. Or a pillow.
Trip Tip #3: Eat dinner in or before Woodland. Once you leave Woodland there are only about two restaurant choices. Both are in Cougar. Both are fighting to get the Runner Up position in the Worst Places To Eat in Cougar contest.
We arrived in Cougar and quickly located the Lone Fir Resort where we were to pick up our required Climbing Permits. Upon exiting the RV we all began to notice the temperature was significantly colder than we had felt in a long time. Drove 1/10th of a mile down the road to the Cougar Bar & Grill. It was too cold to walk (just kidding, actually we just wanted to show off our ride).
After "Dinner" we left Cougar and made our way to the trail head located at Climbers Bivouac, about 15 miles beyond Cougar. We arrived at about 8:00pm.
Climber's Bivouac is located at the end of Forest Road 830, south of the volcano. At 3,700 feet elevation, Climber's Bivouac has the highest vehicle access on Mount St. Helens. There was a steady arctic breeze which forced all of us to don most of our layers simply to spend a few unforgettable minutes outside to gaze deep into the Milky Way.
My photo does not do justice to what you can see on a clear night when you are away from all the light pollution.
Shooting stars and satellites were abundant.
Bugs were nowhere to be found.
We took a short night-hike up the Ptarmigan Trail in the dark just for kicks. It was dark... and uneventful.
Chilled, we made a prompt return to the comfort of the RV and rejoiced that we weren't sleeping in tents.
We sat around for awhile, making idle chit-chat, trying to find clues that might imply whether any one of us was some kind of insane lunatic that we had voluntarily stranded ourselves with up in the mountains.
As it turns out, we all seemed pretty normal.
Well, relative to me.
We shut down the lights at about 10:30pm and wrestled to sleep until daylight.
Erik H. woke us at about 7:00am by graciously brewing a pot of real RV coffee. We were all very appreciative of the warmth and caffeine, particularly after spending a few Polar Bear Minutes outside to try and capture the morning Alpenglow on the mountain.
Unfortunately, the ISO on my camera was still set at 1600 from taking pictures of stars the previous night, so what should have been a fantastic photo is simply a snapshot photo.
Back to the RV for some breakfast ('on your own'), more coffee and more Layers!
Just after 8:00am we were all outside, posing for a picture and ready to embark on a journey that we will all remember for a lifetime.
Pictured, left to right: Steve, Erik, Tim and Ray. The Trail head is just off to the left, the RV is just behind the photographer (me) and the summit of the volcano is in the distance. A short 4 miles away and 4,500 feet above us.
Stay tuned for Part 2.... coming soon to a computer near you. (Part 2)