For the past four years, I’ve tried unsuccessfully to gain the required permit to climb Mt St Helens and my luck finally changed this week when I was fortunate enough to buy one off of purmit.com after another couple decided to cancel their hike.
After I paid for the permit, the man I bought it from happened to mention it was going to be a full moon and that I could technically begin hiking at midnight…. hmmmm…. I began to think this was the best idea as it has been 100+ degrees in the Gorge and climbing a mountain in direct sunlight and that level of heat didn’t sound glorious. So I followed his recommendation and after a two-hour drive there from Hood River, Oregon (the place I still somewhat consider “home”) I began my hike at 01:25 in the morning.
It was just me, my headlamp and camelback setting off into the wilderness…. a completely still night, the heavenly smell of the wild pacific northwest and the full moon to guide my way above the treeline.
I ended up summiting at 5:27 just as the sun was peaking over the horizon.
It was an amazing sight to behold as I contemplated the eruption that occurred here only 35 years ago cutting the former 9,677 ft (2,950 m) mountain to 8,363 ft (2,549 m) and replacing its summit with a mile wide crater.
The Mt St Helens eruption was the deadliest and most economically destructive volcanic event in the history of the United States. Fifty-seven people were killed; 250 homes, 47 bridges, 15 miles (24 km) of railways, and 185 miles (298 km) of highway were destroyed.
The downhill hike was much easier and I descended in about 2.5 hours, and was very happy to have begun my hike and ascend in the cooler night air as I passed the day hikers already beat red and sweating in the hot morning sun.
My feet were happy to finally reach my car and head off back towards Hood River, but as I drove away, my heart was happy too and I felt accomplished to mark another item off my bucketlist and time spent in the wilderness, to me are moments never wasted.