A Weekend 'Round Mt. St. Helens

✍️ 🕑 September 9-10, 2023 • Series: Steve in Seattle

I booked a "two bedroom suite" off Airbnb near Mt. St. Helens for a visit with my parents in June.

Then, I got sick with mononucleosis.

The booking was non-refundable, so I rescheduled it for September. (The months in between had minimum stays of > 1 night, and I was not about to potentially double my loss.)

By the time September was rolling in, things seemed bright. My friend Jim from Milwaukee was planning to visit. The three of us could hit up the volcano, and the extra bed wouldn't go to waste.

Our final plans were a bit tumultuous, but the trip was fun, and the volcano, of course, is amazing.


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Roadside Attractions

Back last year, when I decided to buy a Kiev 60 camera, the seller was quite intent on telling me some areas where he enjoyed taking pictures. And one of those areas was parallel to I-5, around Vader.

We left early enough that I decided to visit...




The town of Winlock claims to be home to the "World's Largest Egg."

Chelsea and I disagreed as to whether it was too large for the "World's Largest Frying Pan" that we previously visited in Long Beach. (post forthcoming)


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The historic Vader Jail was closed to visitors, and not super impressive.


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We stopped for lunch at the quirky Stuffy's II, a diner that served cinamon rolls the size of whole cakes, and featured a christmas tree decorated for different occasions year round. This time it was a "back to school" tree.


Ape Cave

Ape Cave, a lava tube. Third longest in North America. The three of us opted for the easier of the two paths, and it was a fun walk. The forest service had mostly smoothed out the rocky floor through judicious use of sand, and it was.

The lava tube impressed me, simply because of how vast it was.



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Ape cave is massive.



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Trail of Two Forests

Afterwards, we payed a visit to the "Trail of Two Forests" interpretive site, a quarter mile boardwalk around trees growing above old tree casts and tree wells. The highlight of the area is a ladder which leads down to a tree well that can be used as a crawl space.


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Lahar Viewpoint

We visited the Lahar Viewpoint before turning around and heading to our accommodations.


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Our Accommodations

Sometimes, accomodations misrepresent themselves online.

The "two bedroom suite in a bed in breakfast", in reality, and away from Airbnb advertising copy, was a two bedroom suite in a campground motel that boasted that you could fish from your deck.

WiFi was spotty, and the unit smelled faintly of wet paint and stale old smogies, despite the fact that it was strictly non-smoking.


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Check in was with a surly campground host who had me initial next to a littany of rules and regulations (e.g. no pets), but our hosts strangely gave us no check out instructions. When we went to leave, no staff could be found so we just left our key in the room unlocked.

I can't say I'm sorry I didn't bring my parents here.

Perhaps Chelsea wishes for more coffee.
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North Side

On May 14, just eleven days after the road to the Johnston Observatory opened for the season, a massive landslide took it out.

So, we instead took the road to the Mt. St. Helens Science and Learning Center by Coldwater Lake. The educational film was quite, quite dated, but still made for fascinating viewing. Moreover, the observation deck had some lovely views.

You could take the road down to the lake, so we did that as well, and took a brief walk around it.


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We hadn't planned for any longer hikes, and were (I think) rather eager to grab some real food and return to Seattle on a normal timeframe.

And that, then, was our little jaunt to Mt. St. Helens.

Thanks for reading!

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