The backside of Mount St. Helens National Monument

Not nearly as well visited as the area around the volcano, this far northern end has miles of singletrack and plenty of hike-a-bike. Reading hiker’s descriptions had made it seem that it’s mostly a steep, wet, overgrown bushwhack, so this area wasn’t high on my list. But, with nothing else left within 2, 3 hours driving distance from Seattle, it was time to give it a try. What made it even more tempting, were the reports on Trailforks of ‘good’ conditions – i.e. someone had logged out the trails.

Due to fire danger, the gravel road from Taidnapam Park to the Goat Creek trailhead was closed. I had planned on driving up, but I suppose another 1500 ft. won’t kill me – especially if I don’t get dusted in by trucks. Taidnapam Park is an interesting place. There were a number of people just walking around, there are group facilities, and a guard house that is open at 8 am on a Saturday to collect my $5 day-use fee with credit card. In the middle of nowhere.

Properly parked, I began my journey and was considering if I should shorten my route a bit to compensate for the extra climbing at the beginning.


After a very quiet climb, the clouds did not appear to lessen as I reached the Goat Creek trailhead.


After seeing loose rocks and overgrown bushes at the beginning of the trail, I had low expectation for the rest – when suddenly this appeared:


I was stunned. This place must be popular! Soon, I reached what must be the main attraction: what could be a giant waterfall was today merely a trickle, splashing the rock covered in brown-green moss just behind the tree:


The huge rockwall nestles a big cave below it – the trail goes right through all this.


There were even short downhill section, which had me thinking “oh no, I’ll have to climb up even more soon”. And so I climbed again.


The trail was mostly cleared: even this tree pile-up was easy to walk around. 20180825_095625_small

There were red berries:


and blackberries and blueberries:


After an honest push up Tumwater Mountain, I finally reached a meadow. But the supposed lake there had dried up. Instead, I met another mountain biker in the middle of nowhere. After agreeing that we were both surprised to see anyone else out here, we continued in our opposite directions. A bit more riding brought me to this delightful lunch spot – which on a clear day would have been a million dollar view. For now, it was my quiet and warm place to eat bagels with cream cheese, banana and a bit of lemonade. Yes, ‘eat’ lemonade because it’s in powder form.


The clouds lifted ever so slightly as I left, and I could can see a hint of Mt. Rainier just below the cliff.


Another window in the trees had a bit of a view of Mt. St. Helens, but the smoke and clouds made it hard to take it in properly.


Here is a picture of a tree, and I have no idea what else there is to see. I suppose it might be Strawberry Ridge, over at the other side, but maybe it’s not.


Goat Mountain trail brings one along the northern side of an impressive rock wall.


Ingeniously, the trail had been seriously brushed out and lined with ripe blueberries.


I scarfed down a few handful of the delicious berries.


Reaching the saddle of the ridge, the views did disappoint. But, it’s still nice to be up here. All alone. Not even pesky flies.


And the trail is first class as it traverses just below the ridge.


On the long downhill to Rifle Lake, I met a couple groups of backpackers and heard exclamations from tiny kids “You have giant tires!”. Oh how true.


After the somewhat mindless waste of elevation, another new-to-me trail was about to be explored: The Green River trail. After being fairly fun and easy initially, it soon became tedious.


I whole-heartedly disagree with it being called “green” river. It was definitely rust-brown.


Some hike-a-bike lurked here and there.


As well as some spooky animal that was surely lurking behind some tree. Certainly, I don’t leave fingerprints like that!


After meeting another hiker couple, those would be the last humans I saw the rest of the ride. 20180825_145918_small

Just me and my trusty hiking companion: my bike.

This tree looked like a pipeline out of the corner of my eye at first:


And here’s a tree that just shed all its bark. Probably not a good idea.


It started to sprinkle as I began the ascent of Vanson Ridge. I have no idea where this supposed ‘ridge’ is; basically it’s many switchbacks up the side of a mountain called Vanson Peak.


At the top, there is a ridge. A cold, windy, wet ridge. A label says “Goat Mountain” trail.


Putting on all my dry clothes, and taking off all my wet ones, put me in a very good mood and after putting front and rear shocks in ‘fully open’ mode, dropper post down, Goat Creek was a sublime descent. The brakes gently swooshing on the rotors, a smooth trail with no-one on it.  A wee-bit of pedaling was necessary to get past a meadow.


Wow. I’ve been in Washington a while now, but this place is spectacular. If you’re going downhill. It’d be quite a push going the other way to be sure.


When I came to this section, it was clear that the chain-sawer was in possession of an advanced degree. Truly impressive work – just so that I can keep right on rolling through here. Thanks you Gifford Pinchot National Forest crew! This was an extraordinary ride.


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1 Response to The backside of Mount St. Helens National Monument

  1. Martin, That was a find! Lee

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