Mt Margaret Backcountry in Mt St Helens Nat’l Monument Trip Report

A recurring character on .douchepacker. had a nice trip planned with his wife to the Mt Margaret Backcountry, part of Mt St Helens National Monument.  Plans fell through, and yours truly was offered the backcountry permit to camp in the Mt Margaret backcountry, which is rugged and stunning.

This area has spectacular views, alpine lakes, and obliterated logging machinery that was destroyed in the 1980 eruption of Mt St Helens.  This backcountry area is almost entirely within the “blast zone” which was incinerated and destroyed.  As you can see, it is coming back to life in its own way.  Where there were massive forests, we now have flowers, grasses, berries, small trees, etc.

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This flower is called Indian Paintbrush.

As we hiked up the ridge from the we met a couple of day hikers.  It just so happened that the man was a logger in the area right before the volcano blew.  He had worked on that very ridge in the weeks leading up to the eruption.  He said out of the whole blast area, only one piece of machinery was salvageable.  I asked him if they were evacuated and kept from working, and his wife chimed in that the explosion happened on a Sunday.  Everyone was due at work on Monday.  Had the eruption happened on Monday many more workers would have been vaporized.  So, people were working in the area right up until the day that Mt St Helens blew the fuck up.  He told us where to look for two other pieces of machinery including an intact fire truck and a bull dozer or something upended further up the trail.  Here’s some of the machinery, check the captions for more detail:

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This tree was blown into this machinery in the blast. Note the buried tire.
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This thing was destroyed and upended in the blast.

In this area, you must have a $6 permit for a few different camping areas in the backcountry.  Ours happened to be a dry one, so we had to pack in water which always sucks.  Online, it said there was a spring near the site till early summer.  The spring was dry, however we found some large puddles with clear water that we were able to use once our supply ran up.  We set up camp, and did a quick hike to a nice viewpoint of Mt St Helens.  No fires allowed, so we made hot chocolate and crashed out for the night.

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The next day we set the goal of making it to Mt Margaret.  The mileage wasn’t so bad, but I’ll tell you: the elevation was bad enough to really make it difficult.  We were pretty surprised to find we were going about 2 miles per hour.  Granted, we climbed another 1500 feet up but it was pretty tiring.  We live at sea level and made it up to about 5500 ft, so you can see our problem here.  We didn’t make it to Mt Margaret, but we did make it to The Dome and turned back the same way we came.

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Our only limitation on this trip was time… we just didn’t have enough to do everything we wanted to up there.  We will definitely be back to explore the rest and hopefully cross the treacherous Whittier Ridge.  Enjoy the photos.

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St Helens Lake in foreground, Spirit Lake in the background. Those are 36 year old dead trees floating in the water.

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