Dan and Hannah Hike June Lake in Mount St Helens Volcanic National Monument in Washington

With an 8A cross the country flight on my mind, I wake twice during the night in anticipation of our 4A alarm.  Perpetually early, I have us leaving with plenty of time as we drive south to Logan Airport in Boston.  Before 6A the one hour plus drive is an easy one down I-95, then Route 1 through Danvers and Saugus, MA.

It’s in Revere, MA where we’ll park our car and shuttle to the airport with Park, Ride and Fly folks.  Hannah registered online and found them to be cheaper than our usual Park, Shuttle, and Fly connection.  Of course, these companies pale next to the personalized service of our son Will chauffeuring us to the airport.  Alas he has moved to Virginia.

We never check our luggage but carry-on; it’s especially easy to travel lightly in the summer when it’s tee shirts and shorts weather.  Cramming our impossibly large canvas bags beneath the seat in front of us – further reducing any leg room – we don’t pay the extra $60 to get aisle seats.

Jetblue TVsJet Blue is a personal favorite of mine because of the mini-TVs with Sports Center and the Comedy Channel at my fingertips.  Our morning non-stop flight from Boston to Portland,OR allows us to “steal a day of vacation.”  If all goes as planned, we’ll depart at 8A in the east and arrive by 11A in the west due to the time change.  We’ll get the smallest rental car, this time a Ford Focus, before noon and motor into the state of Washington and on to Mt. St, Helens for a mid-afternoon hike on what would normally be just a travel day.

Ever think of driving, you ask?  By the time we land in Portland, OR today, we’d be roughly in Pennsylvania if we drove!  It would take three dreadfully long days of driving 850+ miles per day to drive to Oregon.

From Boston to Portland, Oregon

From Boston to Portland, Oregon

Buffeted by west to east headwinds, ours is a six hour flight (It will only be four and a half hours coming home).  Once in the air, I walk the aisle two or three times every hour or so.   A Dunkin’ Donuts decaf coffee and seven one-inch diameter chocolate chip cookies are all they offer.

Shuttled to the Budget Car Rental away from the terminal, we wait in midday lines with the August vacation crowd.

Hah!  $17 my foot.  The Ford Focus was $49 per day.

Hah! $17 my foot. Our Ford Focus was $49 per day.

Once at the counter, the dance begins.  For $5 more per day you can get an upgrade to a Ford Escape.  We never upgrade.  We’d prefer the small Ford Focus because it gets better gas mileage.  She extols the Ford Escape for its mountain climbing ability, but we politely say no.  Then she gets around to telling us, At this time there is no Ford Focus, but for no charge I’ll upgrade you to a mini- SUV, the Ford Escape.  We don’t see the sense in calling it an upgrade; we’ll be paying more for gas!  Wanting to hit the road and knowing they have us over a barrel, we accept the Ford Escape.

Ford Escape

Ford Escape

She then does the usual song and dance about paying for insurance.  We are covered we say.   Then she offers the chance to purchase road side assistance. We think,  Really?  So you are telling me if your rental car breaks down and we don’t buy the road side assistance, we will have to pay because your car broke down!  You’re kidding!  We roll the dice and politely decline.

Leaving Portland, OR airport (PDX), we quickly cross the Columbia River on I-205 into Washington and mistakenly follow our GPS (which we brought from home); it takes us the most direct route (read: through small towns past every strip mall known to man) but not the shortest way.  We break the #1 rule of using a GPS: Always, always, always consult a map with your GPS.  We are such children.

In need of food for dinner and the next day’s lunch, we happen through Battleground, WA (ironically named for a battle that was avoided – click on this link for the full story) and find an Albertson Grocery Store.  Clearly, we have landed in Canada South as four times in the first three minutes we are asked by different smiling Albertson workers, how we are doing.  Four times!

Soon, with bags of salad and cottage cheese, crackers, chips, cheese and wine, we are motoring along route 503 through Amboy, Clelatchie, and Yale to Cougar, WA at the base of Mt. St. Helens.  Nothing says wilderness like a town named Cougar.

Traveling the forested roads to Cougar, WA

Traveling the forested roads to Cougar, WA

Our car thermometer has the temp at 61F under misty skies.  Though the summer months are the dry season, we can’t put aside the thought that precipitation and the Northwest go hand in hand; we have brought our trusty ponchos.  We will hike today.

Route 83 to the June Lake Trail

Route 83 to Mount Saint Helens Volcanic Monument

Though Maine is the Pine Tree State, clearly Washington is aptly named the Evergreen State.

Soon we cross into the land of the 1980 volcano blast.  Mount St. Helens is named for the British diplomat Lord St. Helens, a friend of explorer George Vancouver who surveyed of the area in the late 18th century.   The volcano is located in the Cascade Range and is part of the Pacific Ring of Fire that includes over 160 active volcanoes.

MSH1 June Lake sign 2On this first of August we’ll wear our ponchos over our sweatshirts as the temperature is a comfortable for hiking at 53F.  The June Lake Trail is nestled near a 2000 year old lava flow.

Beginning the June Lake Trail

Beginning the June Lake Trail

Ready to climb through the soft volcanic dust, we hit packed dirt and gentle grade on this sometimes rocky trail; our hiking boots collect the now coagulating volcanic mud on this drizzly day.

Hannah on the trail of lava stone

Hannah on the trail of lava dirt

Liberated by the anonymity of the trail and so far out West that nobody knows our name, we are energized by the elixir of the first day of vacation.  Though we are hiking in a cloud, we are free from the routines and structures (however enjoyable most of the year) of life at home.  Today is new and fresh adventure that just cannot be replicated at home.  It’s day like we have never had before.


Click on this 24 second YouTube video of Dan and Hannah at the bridge approaching June Lake

We have gained 700 feet in elevation to 3400 feet above sea level (we have come from our home at York, Maine at 200 feet above sea level this morning) but don’t feel the elevation in our legs or in our breathing.

MSH1 H ON TRAIL 4An hour into the hike we head north to the Loowit trail, which for 33 miles circles the caldera of Mt. St. Helens.  What was once a pleasantly graded trail to June Lake now becomes some more serious rock stepping and climbing.

The trail turns rocky

The trail turns rocky

When the trail becomes all rocky, we nod to and thank the trail for its time and pleasing-to-hike terrain and head back toward the trailhead.  The mountain top is totally fogged in so we don’t see the picture below.

Mount St. Helens on a clear day

Mount St. Helens on a clear day

We learn that at $22 each only 100 permits per day are available online to climb the mountain.  We meet Jim and daughters who said they got theirs in February.  Click here for more information about for reservations.

June Lake hikers

June Lake hikers (June Lake is there behind Hannah’s right shoulder.)

A final stop back at June Lake completes a hike on a day when this morning we were in York, Maine.  And by the way, we would be just arriving into Ohio if we were driving.

3 thoughts on “Dan and Hannah Hike June Lake in Mount St Helens Volcanic National Monument in Washington

  1. Did you Maine sweatshirt get many comments?! I always prefer a good old-fashioned map to GPS most every time! The foggy, misty pics looked
    very familiar to me — from OR in OCT.

  2. I think the $17/day rate is only good as long as you don’t drive the car beyond Budget’s parking lot.

    I’m going to have to explore Cougar. Looks like fun!

  3. maps trump GPS always,especially when you really need GPS and are lost in the woods and the canopy hinders the satellite reception. You must have slept well that first night. Great entry Dan.

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