Last Sunday I rode my bike up Mount St. Helens…

Well, partway anyway. It sure felt like I rode all the way to the top. Of course, I didn’t do it alone. The whole trip was masterminded by the Hymanator who wanted to cross it off his “bucket list”, whatever the hell that is. I’m guessing it involves doing things that make you feel like you’ve kicked said bucket, ’cause that’s sure how I felt after. Along for the ride was D-Bone (AKA Dime Bag) because we figured somebody out of the three of us would probably survive to go for help. We headed out bright and earlyish after a hearty breakfast.


Man what a crappy view!

The trail from the parking lot climbs steadily up through an evergreen forest, following a ridge line that eventually takes you to Ape Canyon, a deep but narrow cleft in the flank of the mountain. Before that, we had to read about the dangers of Giardia.

Not to mention get swarmed by a horde of black flies that were attracted to my sweaty, salty flesh. I felt like one of those kids in the Sally Struthers infomercials, I had so many flies crawling all over me. I didn’t get a picture of the flies, but here’s one from where they were thickest.

The climb was long and challenging, and I’m not ashamed to say I had to walk a good chunk. Eventually it leveled off a bit and we reemerged from the trees to this:

And this:

Another mile or so of intermittent climbing brought us to the actual Ape Canyon.

We didn’t see any apes, though we did see some other primates.

From here the trail wound up and over a rocky saddle to the Plains of Abraham. (Insert biblical joke here.) The trail up this point had been fairly typical of riding West of the Cascades; steep, with roots and rocks, but mostly firm soil under tree cover. From here on, it was markedly volcanic, lots of loose gravelly sections composed of pumice, interspersed with harder rock shelves and outcrops. Also, not a tree in sight and little other vegetation. It kind of reminds me of the plateau of Gorgoroth in Mordor. You know, if it were real.

Once we ascended to the Plains, we had a mile or so of flat, moderately technical riding before transitioning onto a ridge that headed toward Spirit Lake. From here the trail wrapped around numerous narrow drainages cut into the side of the ridge.

Until we came out here:


If you look on the left hand side, you can see where the trail continues.

This seemed look a good spot for a break and a chicken fried steak sandwich before continuing on. From here we dropped down a hundred feet and continued on a trail running along a narrow spine before arriving at the “stairs.”

As you can see, they’re not really stairs, but that’s the easiest way to describe them. We descended 8 or 10 sets of these before continuing a few hundred more feet along the spine to a road. From here, it was an uneventful 2 miles to the Windy Ridge viewpoint.


That’s the rim of the crater in the background.

We loitered around the viewpoint for a bit, wolfing down some more food and water in preparation for the return journey. Of course the trip back required us to go UP the stairs, which was not my favorite part of the day.


View from halfway up the stairs.

All in all the return was uneventful, if a little thirsty. By the time we were back under the trees, I was almost out of water and wishing I had more.


Adams.


Looking East from the top of Ape Canyon.


Almost done!

After a long, fast descent, we were back at the car and ready for some damn ice cream! Fortunately the store in the little town of Cougar obliged us.