As thick wildfire smoke permeates the air outside here in Washington, I have decided sitting in my favorite comfy chair and catching up on the hikes I never wrote about is the best way to spend this gloomy, hazy Saturday. When I realized all these hikes included Heidi, I knew I had my title.
I started this website with a post about backpacking with a group of gals I had never met, and what a wonderful adventure it was. (Thank you Facebook special groups! Facebook may drive us all crazy at times, but it does have a few redeeming qualities.) Soon after that experience, I decided to try my luck again with yet another stranger’s invite into the woods. Heidi posted she had a permit for Mount St. Helens and wanted to know if anyone was brave enough to join her. Why not?
Normally I would never agree to spend a couple days with a complete stranger, but hiking tends to make me throw all caution to the wind. I’m so thankful. Turns out Heidi lives just minutes from me, and from the moment we met she has felt like an old friend.
I knew I liked her when she said she wanted to throw in a bonus hike on the way there. So hike #1 is the Ape Caves in Cougar, WA.
Things to know about the Ape Caves:
- Thankfully, there are no apes. (Named in honor of a local boy scout troupe called “The Apes.”)
- It’s touristy. Huge parking lot, lots of people. You can walk barely a few feet, go down into the caves via a big staircase, get a pic, and leave. I’m guessing about half the people do just that.
- You can also walk 1.3 miles to the cave’s exit and go backwards. We did this by accident, but were very glad we did because it felt way more adventurous. Though be warned, the hole you go into is easy to miss, and we probably wouldn’t have found it if not for the people who popped out just as we were about to give up the hunt. (The stairs are not very visible from up above where the trail is.)
- You have to do some serious climbing. There is an eight foot lava fall wall that is no joke, and climbing down it in the dark is tricky. But totally fun if you like that kind of thing. The idea of bringing small kids though is not a good one, IMO, unless you are okay doing it the touristy way.
Hike #2 was of course Mt Saint Helens, after a stay at the Lone Fir Resort. Getting an early start is very important if you are slow like me, so the Lone Fir is a great way to make that happen. Some things to know about summiting Helens:
- The Monitor Ridge hike requires a permit, which is not easy to get because they fill up fast. The cost is about $20, and you will find them here: https://www.recreation.gov/permits/4675309
- The permits are very specific. Heidi filled hers out with “hiker #2” because she didn’t know who she’d get to go with her. On the way up, another hiker let us know this was a no-no, so we seriously tried to outrun the ranger when we saw him coming. (He goes up every day…he will catch you. But he was nice and just let us know “next time” to put the actual names and have ID on you too. No worries, I told him, because there was no way I would be doing Helens a second time!
- It’s not easy…but it’s not horrible. There is a lot of scrambling over rocks, and gloves are handy– but seeing questions now on aforementioned Facebook groups, it seems many people over-think this. I might say this a lot, but it’s true: if I can do it, just about anyone can. Give yourself plenty of time is all.
My third hike with Heidi was our “spook-tackular” trip to check out the Iron Goat Trial off of Hwy 2. I actually wrote an article for “Explore Washington State” about it, and you can find that story here: https://explorewashingtonstate.com/conquering-the-iron-goat-trail/?fbclid=IwAR25PTI_TliW4gEZSu85AN6pnpvqZ0Oe41DmiNXiEpWdSqIwHWuQvk0SYcg
And last but not least, Heidi took me on one of her favorites on the Mt Loop Hwy: Things to know about #4 Mount Dickerman:
- Get ready for switchbacks…there are somewhere around 52…and then you are still not at the top.
- Lots of sun exposure once you are out of the woods. I should have brought my new hiking umbrella!
- There is a great parking lot with lots of room…for God’s sake, skip Lake 22 and just go here instead. Yes, it is hard, which is why it is less crowded. But you will be glad you pushed yourself–and VERY glad you didn’t have to park your car out on the highway. (Cars lined up from Lake 22 parking lot overflow for a good quarter mile on the day we drove by. Ugh.)
- If you want to giggle whenever you say “Dickerman,” you are my kind of person.
So, there you go! Thank you smoke, I am all caught up! And because winter will soon be upon us, I should be able to get my upcoming hikes on here lickity split. I have two more planned (fingers crossed the air quality improves) and guess who I’m going with? My hiker soul mate, Miss Heidi. I hope everyone reading this finds theirs. Happy Trails!!
AND CHECK OUT MY HOMEPAGE FOR INFO ON MY BOOK! YOU’LL LIKE IT!!!