Category Archives: National Forests

Lupines in the Mountains – Sand Castles on the Coast

The Annual Spring Lupine Festival in Sugar Hill NH

Fields of Lupines bloom in June in the Franconia Notch Region of the Western White Mountain National Forest

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The International, Invitational, Sand Sculpture Contest at Hampton Beach

Hampton Beach State Park, NH

IMG_9124_edited-1.-sand sculpture competitionSand Sculptors from New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Ontario, Quebec,Ohio, Wisconsin, Texas, Washington, and British Columbia were invited to compete at this years event.

IMG_9123she's busyThe sand, which is better than beach sand for scuplting, comes from a quarry in NH.  Each competitor gets 10 tons of sand.  Look closely at the pictures and you may see some tiny wires sticking out of the top, those are to discourage birds from landing on the work.


IMG_9105a few more

IMG_9109-MichaelsSome of the sculptures are sponsored and are not part of the competition.IMG_9100-putting down roots

IMG_9117 eagle in progressThe solo sculptors must work alone.  They are allowed three 8 hour days to finish the work and all sculpting must be done by hand.  No molds are allowed.  A mixture of school glue and water is sprayed on the finished sculptures to protect them from wind erosion.

We visited on the second day of competition and most of the solo sculptures were not completely finished.  The Sculptures will remain at the beach until July 6th and will be lighted at night.  If we get a chance to revisit before the 6th we will post some pictures of the finished work.


Mt. St. Helens National Monument, Washington – Boundary Trail.

Mt. St. Helens from the west as we traveled around the mountain.
The blast crater would be on the left of the picture.

When Mt. St. Helens blew it’s top in 1980 it did so in a very unusual manner. Rather than pop the cork and send lave flowing down over it’s sides, or exploding upward and spewing lava, smoke, and ash in every direction for many miles, it blew sideways. For several months before the blast a huge lava dome formed on the north side of the mountain growing daily as these things do. When the big day came it started to lift but the massive weight of the dome collapsed back into the explosive upwelling blocking off the top and forcing the blast to go sideways to the north. Hill size rocks flew out of the blast landing several miles away along with a cubic mile of what was the top of the mountain.

In the above picture, along with a profusion of wildflowers, you can see the top edge of the blast crater and, in the foreground of the mountain, the new lava dome that has been building for the last 28 years.

The Blast Crater from Johnston’s Ridge Visitor Center.

A closer view of the blast crater from the Boundary Trail

Note the new lava dome on the left and, for scale, the helicopter (arrow). (Click on the Picture for a new window and again for a larger view.)

Erosion in the floor of the crater. Note the waterfall just left of center on the erosion rim. That is wind driven dust, not smoke or steam. St. Helens is still more or less quiescent at this time.

The Boundary Trail.

Elk in the Lahar path about 4 miles away from the crater.

Spirit Lake and some of the still floating logs that jammed the lake after the eruption.

You can see that the recovery has been very slow on this side of the mountain on south facing slopes (facing the crater) but on the north facing slopes colonies of Cardswell Penstemon, Lupines, and foxglove are in abundance.  This is because when the eruption occurred in May there was a lot more snow on the north facing slopes, protecting the plants, and , of course, much of the force of the blast would have been more severe on the south facing slopes.

View of the new lava dome building inside the blast crater.

The Johnston’s Ridge Visitor Center is exceptionally well done and there is a very informative and interesting movie about the eruption.  At the close of the movie the screen rises up to this view. ⇓

Mount Rainier National Park is just up the road from here and several folks we have met deemed it a must see, so we will go check it out next.

Mt. St. Helens NM, Washington – June Lake

Vanilla Leaf.

While still an active volcano Mt. St. Helens is currently resting, but the evidence of past activity is easy to find in the Monument. The heavily forested hike to June Lake would eventually lead us to the Lava Fields from the Mt. St Helens eruption of 2,500 years ago. We thought it would be interesting to see how much recovery had taken place in that time.

June lake is a tiny tarn that has a couple of gorgeous wateralls feeding it from the snowfields above.

From the lake the trail heads steeply up through a recovery forest onto the lava flow beneath the southern ridge of the mountain.

Bear Grass

The ridge above is, from the south, the top edge of the blast crater that spent all it’s force to the north.
Once up into the lava field we were surprised to see very little substantial recovery with the exception of smaller plants and flowers which were in bloom here in early July and a few small evergreens.  This lava field is from 2,500 years ago, not 1980.

Pink Mountain Heather

Cardswell’s Penstemon

Tomorrow, our last day at Mt. St. Helens, we’ll take a hike on the Boundary Trail to view the Blast Crater.

Mt. St. Helens National Monument, Washington – Lava Falls Trail

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We arrived at Mt. St. Helens National Monument on a Friday. There are not a lot of campgrounds in the immediate area of Mt. St. Helens and those that there were, were full. We hauled ourselves off into dispersed camping in the Gifford-Pinchot NF, right on the edge of a deep gorge looking at the mountains south of St. Helens and caught up on some reading, did a little biking, walked a bit and just generally enjoyed a beautiful spot in the forest while we waited for Monday.

On Monday we drove up to Lava Falls, on the south side of the park and got our first look at the mountain that caused so much news a little over 32 years ago. You can visualize how immense Mt. St. Helens must have been as it is still a very large mountain even with the roof blown off. The Forest Service is very sensitive about Mt. St. Helens and so we would have limits on what we could hike. Most of the the upper mountain is closed to hiking without a special permit (only available online, in advance – tough luck for us), and the crater itself (on the north side) is completely closed to public access. Still, there is plenty of good hiking in the Monument.

The south side of Mt. St. Helens is, due to the impressive blast crater on the north side, now the backside of the mountain. All the force of the blast went north, but there was still a lot of action on the south side, mostly due to Lahars.

Lahars are mudslides caused by the superheated volcano instantly melting the snow and ice, and thawing the frozen ground, around the mountain. As a result rivers of water, mud, ash, rock, and other debris rocket down the sides of the mountain at tremendous speed. A Lahar scours the land down to bedrock, removing topsoil, bushes, trees, buildings, etc, whatever is in it’s way.

When Mt. St. Helens blew, one of the Lahars raged down through the path of the Muddy River scouring trees and soil off of the 2500 year old lava flow that is the bed of the river. The Muddy River, and it’s marvelous waterfalls, is no longer hidden in the forest as it had been for millennia. The Lava Falls trail follows the course of the river on the steep cliffs above the river for about 2½ miles until it meets the Lower Smith River.

Way Cool Suspension Bridge over the Muddy River.

The waterfalls are spectacular. The trail crosses a suspension bridge then continues down canyon until the Muddy meets the Smith.

Columner Andesite (Basalt) Canyon Walls in Lava Canyon.

After hiking, and a nice Deschutes Mirror Pond Ale (for re-hydration purposes don’t ya know), we found another excellent dispersed campsite just a mile from the trail, several hundred yards off the access road, and right near the June Lake trailhead that would take us up closer to the south side of the big mountain tomorrow.

Factoid: I was curious as to why the mountain is called Mt. St, Helens (no appostrophe) as if it were named after more than one Helen. Seems it’s named after Lord St. Helens, an early British Explorer of the region. I don’t know where he got his name.

Mt St Helens – The fifty Four Road

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Several folks along the way have told us that Mt. St. Helens National Monument is a must see in Washington. Of course we should have know that, but it just never occurred to us and we might very well have missed it, so thanks to all those who mentioned it.

What do we do when we arrive at a major National Park on Saturday, knowing the campsites will be hard to find? We go dispersed…into the wilderness. Mt St Helens National Monument is, unlike most National Parks and Monuments, operated by the Forest Service. This anomaly usually happens when the need arises to create a National Monument, but time is of the essence and the National Park Service moves too slowly. Suddenly, Very Suddenly, in May of 1980 Mt St Helens became, if you will, a mountain of interest. The Forest Service stepped in and very quickly created the protections and restrictions that this unique and new environment required. They did a good job. Unfortunately there are no campgrounds in the Monument and we needed to look to the surrounding Gifford-Pinchot National Forest for camping.

Forest Route 54

Route 54, skirts the southern edge of the monument and winds for many miles along the steep forested slopes. Along the 54 there are numerous little roads and pulloffs for dispersed camping.

Did I mention that FR 54 is a gravel road uphill all the way for 13 miles to our campsite, and that if you were to ride a bike another 5 miles, that would be all uphill also? It was fun ride back to the campsite, just in time for sunset.

This must be the Grandmother of all Foxgloves.

While I was riding, Cheryl was taking pictures of flowers.

Wildflowers Everywhere.

Almost every morning there is a thick mist in the valleys and it is likely that accounts for the proliferation of ferns.

Misty Morning.

Wild Grasses at Sunset

That’s not a reflection, that’s the sun just about to set.


Washington – The Evergreen State.

There are no campgrounds, but there is some dispersed camping closer in to the National Monument and we were looking for some hiking on the, more or less intact, south side of Mt St Helens, saving the blast zone for later. The weekend is over and it’s time to move.

Northern Oregon Coast to Washington.

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Three Arch Rock.

Our last day in Oregon was a long one, campgrounds are hard to find this far up the coast and we figured we could easily make it across the Columbia River into Washington, but there was still a bit of Oregon yet to see.

The View from Cape Mears.

Stone Art at Cape Mears Beach.

Inside the Devil’s Punchbowl. The reddish-orange color is from Lichens.

A Colony of Common Murres (A penguin like bird that can fly) at Yaquina Head.

Yaquina Head Light and Cobble Beach.

Pacific Surf.

Crossing the Columbia River at Astoria.

Sunrise on the Columbia at Lewis and Clark’s “Dismal Nitch”.

We are in Washington now and heading in a direction that we had not anticipated. Mt. St. Helens National Monument.

Whalen Island, Oregon

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Tillicum Beach was lovely, and we saw some fantastic sunsets over the ocean, but as you can see from the picnic table this is a damp, often rainy area, and we were ready to move north in the hopes of finding some sun.

We found a nice little county park a bit north of Tillicum. Whalen Island is actually a peninsula that bounds the Clay Meyers estuary on it’s east side. We took an early morning walk in the estuary, at low tide. The floor of the estuary is sandy and quite easy to walk on when the bay is empty.

We knew that our walk would be 6 feet under in a couple of hours, but we caught the morning rush hour traffic of the local fauna before the tide.

Blue Heron.

Springtail. While this looks like shrimp it’s really an insect.

After the walk, with the tide coming in, we headed out into the estuary in our kayaks.  Remember, an estuary, unlike a lagoon which is often cut off from the sea, has an opening to the ocean.  Estuaries are actually the mouths of rivers where the meet the sea.  There is usually some mixing of salt and fresh water in the river, but the large bay that is the estuary is for the most part salt water.

The Old Man and the Seal Lion.

There were some nice rollers coming off the breakers at the sand bar beyond the estuary and we had some wild surf rides. It was the first time I actually got to dip my paddle in the Pacific Ocean…Very Nice.

That’s it for Oregon. We will finish off the northern coast as we head to Washington tomorrow.


art therapy in India

Winter in the Desert, Summer in the Mtns

Sharing our love of America's Natural Wonders


Sharing our love of America's Natural Wonders