There is absolutely no shade on this trail. But the view is worth the ordeal!
We arrived at the Johnston Ridge Observatory as the clock ticked one and dutifully bought the wristbands.
The observatory and its viewing platforms were flooded with tourists on this beautiful Sunday.
There’s only one way to get on the trails, and it did not say Harry’s Ridge.
We had our doubts but kept on walking…
fixing our eyes on the big volcano to our right for any signs of smoking.
After a while, small pockets of greeneries appeared in the otherwise arid volcanic landscape.
Together with blankets of wildflowers
They painted the landscape a multi-colored canvas
against the backdrop of the snow-dusted crater.
They were mostly Indian Paintbrush
We even caught a glimpse of a lake far out in the distance.
Soon the trail veers to the left, bypassing the steep and nerve-wracking Devils Elbow traverse.
Finally we saw a sign for Harry’s Ridge for the first time!
Followed by another with 1 3/4 miles to go.
Thereon, the trail leads downhill then up overlooking a “green” valley
before reaching a junction – Harry’s Viewpoint is on the right, but not without a 20% degree climb.
Surely it was hard work, but this view, of Spirit Lake and Mt. Adams, took our breath away.
Here we stopped for lunch soaking up the view with avalanche lilies by our side
before proceeding to the top of Harry’s ridge
where both the peak of Mt. Adams and what’s left of Mount St. Helens can be seen simultaneously
My friend stopped here while I kept walking towards the end of the ridge
getting a closer look at the 1980-1986 lava dome.
Spotting a herd of elks lounging near the Troutle River with the help of the binoculars of a fellow hiker.
All in all, it took us 4.5 hours – with lunch and a lot of photo stops – for the 8.2 mile hike that was relatively flat.
The only challenge came from the sweltering afternoon heat, made worse when an earlier breeze faded away.
We returned to the Johnston Ridge Observatory just in time to catch the last movie of the day documenting the 1980 eruption and its devastating impact. When the curtain lifted up, this view revealed.
Harry’s Ridge trail is a feast both for the eyes and for the mind, as long as you wear sufficient sunscreen and bring plenty of water.
Note: On March 20, 1980, Mount St. Helens awoke after 123 years. Magma (molten rock) rose to the surface, fracturing rocks and producing earthquakes. The volcano’s summit diverted rising magma sideways, pushing the north face dramatically outwards. The thick, pasty magma contained dissolved water and gases under immense pressure. At 8:32AM, on May 18th, 1980, the bulging north face of Mount St. Helens collapsed. With the pressure removed, groundwater flashed to steam and magma gases expanded almost instantly, unleashing a hurricane force blast that shot across the landscape, removing toppling and scorching 230 square miles of forest in three minutes. Johnston Ridge Observatory was built right in the heart of the blast zone.