Little Mt. St. Helens

A dark and dreary day in Seattle. Some forest fire smoke back in the lowlands. What to do? I could not decide. The traffic cam for Snoqualmie Summit showed shadows. Perhaps I could find sunshine and some clean air near the pass. In my continuing efforts to find hikes without many people I thought of Hansen Ridge and Little St; Helens. It was much later than I usually head out 9:00 am. It was misty when I left home. Wipers on and off as I drove east. By North Bend it was clearing. I exited at Denny Creek and headed down Tinkham Road. There were about 60 cars parked parallel turning a two lane road into a one lane road. The Hansen Creek Road was noticeably worse than last year. I reached the trailhead at 10:00 am. There were four other cars in the lot. It was clear and sunny. Mission accomplished.

I was curious if there would be much leaf color along the route. So far this fall I have seen a little lower elevation mountain color but a lot of leaves seem to shrivel before completely changing colors. I headed out to do the loop counterclockwise. I saved the road walk for last. I hoped that would mean fewer people seen doing the less appealing road in the afternoon. I did find some colorful leaves on the lower trail. Not a bonanza of color but some individually good bushes. I met a runner coming down a half mile along. At about one mile I passed two folks going up with big buckets. Probably looking for mushrooms. I have seen quite a few the last few weeks.

The old road/trail is gently graded allowing for good speed. Photo taking worked to slow me down. All in all, I maintained a moderate speed. A few open spots provided views to the north and northeast. There was a little haze but the sky was surprisingly clear. A whole lot better than dark damp Seattle. I turned off on the spur to Little St. Helens and almost immediately noticed all the pearly everlasting. This white flower lasts will into fall and early winter. I see it often. I have never seen this much of it. It lined the trail for a lot of the way out to the south viewpoint. With the sunshine it provided a flower show I really did not expect. Nearing the viewpoint I could see two hikers ahead. They started back just before I arrived at the viewpoint. Now I had the area to myself. Just another in a long series of hikes where I have seen people but not very many of them.

I arrived at the viewpoint at about 11:40 am. Mt. Rainier was much clearer than I thought it would be. I could see Humpback Mountain just east. Over the ridge of Humpback I could see Silver Peak. Just south was Abiel Peak.Looking south and southwest is one of the better views into the Cedar River Watershed. It was getting toasty warm by this time. I stayed until 12:06 pm. On the way back I took the short hike up to the actual summit of Little St. Helens. It was filled with blooming beargrass on my previous visits. This year it was more pearly everlasting and a little leaf color. Views from McClellan Butte to Mt. Defiance to Granite Mountain and peaks of the Cascade crest. I-90 was far below. My stay was short and I was back to heading down. Right near the end of the summit spur I met two women hiking up. The third group of the day.

I quickly dropped back to the Hansen Ridge junction and turned right on the loop trail back to the trailhead. This old road was lined with beargrass in early summer. Now it was mostly pearly everlasting and a yellow flower that might have been goldenrod. The sun was really warming up and much of this leg was in the open. I had to stop to put on some sunscreen. At long last the trail dropped down to the road at the gate for the watershed. I turned left and headed down. There was some shade on this leg and it was strange to be avoiding the heat in October. Two bikers sped by me heading down. With a half mile to go two bikers passed me heading uphill. That was it. The last of nine people seen on the whole loop trail. I made it back to the car at 2:26 pm. The lot was almost full but that was only about a dozen cars. There was room to squeeze in more plus along the end of the road.

The drive down was fast for a mile than very slow for a couple more. I was behind four very slow cars. Understandable in a sedan on this deteriorating road. At the big switchback there were now nearly 40 cars parked on both sides of the road. No visibility around the corner and a very narrow gap. I had about a foot on either side as I slipped through. Rather than head back up Tinkham Road a mile to I-90 behind the slow cars and past that long line of cars seen in the morning I turned left and did a 4 mile dirt road drive down to exit 42 to get on. It was longer but probably faster than 5 mph behind the line of cars.

It was 70 degrees as I passed through North Bend. Still mostly sunny in Issaquah. By Eastgate the sun was gone and it was down to 62 degrees. Arriving in Seattle it was dark and 59 degrees. The sun never did come out in the Puget Sound lowlands. I, on the other hand, had a beautiful fall day in the mountains less than an hour to the east. It did not turn out to be a great fall color hike but the sunshine, views, and lack of people made for a great day on the trail.

Start Of Trail
Pearly Close Up
Good Red Color
Changing Colors
Many Colors
Small Pink Flower
Open Views
Green & Yellow
Trail Junction
A Little Sunshine Ahead
Much Pearly Everlasting
First Rainier View
Past Prime Beargrass
Rainier From Viewpoint
Silver Peak
Abiel Peak
Big Mushroom
McClellan Butte
Backlit Leaves
Great Yellow Colors
False Hellebore
Humpback Meadows
Heading Down
Fireweed Close Up
Fireweed Again
Bright Yellow
Road Color
The Shadow
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2020