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Mount Saint Helens, WA
uly 2011

Mount Saint Helens is a popular tourist destination, but is well worth seeing at least once. It's best to go on a clear day, as we did. Of course this means there were many more people to share the road, visitor centers and trails. The one problem with Mount Saint Helens is it lack of National Park status. It has National Monument status, but this means less protections - so it's open for logging.

We stopped at the "visitor centers" up to the mountain on the way. The first visitor center next to Silver Lake is run by the State Parks and has a pretty good small museum on the volcano. The second "visitor center," Hoffstadt Bluffs, is a private run center to lure in tourists and give them an opportunity to take a helicopter ride over the mountain. The third "visitor center," Forest Learning Center, is run by Weyerhaeuser and as such holds a lot of logging propaganda - the benefits and coolness of chopping down trees.

The views from the visitor centers were all enjoyable however, even if they took advantage of tourists. We finally entered the National Volcanic Monument and continued to stop at the viewpoints. We stopped at the Loowit Viewpoint right before the Johnston Ridge Observatory (the closest to Mount Saint Helens). We decided to walk up to the visitor center, which was less than 1 mile away on an easy trail.

The trail gave great views of the mountain and the wildflowers along the trail were at their peak. Vibrant fields of penstemon and Indian paintbrush clug on to the rocky slopes. The observatory was crawling with tourist, which was quite a change from the beauty and tranquility of the trail less than 500 ft away. But the observatory gave the best view of the mountain. There's just a lot more people to share it with.

Since we didn't spend a lot of time outside of the car, there wasn't much birding time. The most exciting bird activity was in the fields of wildflowers. Anna's and Rufous Hummingbirds zipped, fed, and chased each other through the fields. A dusting a pollen covered their bills and foreheads. The most abundant animal (besides humans) were the many many herds of elk on the river banks down in front of the mountain. The monument could do with a pack of wolves to help keep the elk in check.


Pictures (click on thumbnail)

Bird List
Red-tailed Hawk
Anna's Hummingbird
Rufous Hummingbird
Common Raven
Hermit Thrush heard
American Robin
Dark-eyed Junco
White-crowned Sparrow heard
Other Critters
Yellow-pine Chipmunk
Golden-manteled Squirrel with young
Elk a lot!
Flowers in bloom
Alpine strawberries
Indian Paintbrush
Davidson's Penstemon
Sliverleaf Phacelia
Pussy Paws



Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument


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page updated: 7/24/11