St Helens: Spirit Lake to Alpine Butte via Forsyth Glacier

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Chip Down
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St Helens: Spirit Lake to Alpine Butte via Forsyth Glacier

Post by Chip Down » July 16th, 2020, 8:53 pm

Started with the walk on the gated road from Windy Ridge TH down to the blast zone. Just before dawn, I was shocked to find a U$F$ truck coming down the road behind me. He parked next to an unmarked SUV, and I passed by and started down the Truman Trail. I was finally going to head down to the south shore of Spirit Lake for my first visit, but noticed somebody ahead of me, likely the driver of the vehicle joined by the U$F$ truck. I was guessing the U$F$ employee(s) would be along shortly, so I scrapped my forbidden side-trip. Besides (sour grapes) I think I procrastinated too long. It's getting really overgrown down there, and I bet the dramatic views/scenery from that shore are a good decade behind us.

Next I visited the confluence of Loowit Creek and Step Creek (down Loowit Creek from Loowit Trail, then up Step Creek). That was slightly interesting.

Then up Loowit Creek from Loowit Trail to Loowit Falls. Wow, Loowit Creek is just falls after falls, through steep canyons, beautiful and fun. I had to eventually get across the creek to the east side, and would have been nervous about that except that I've done it several times (although never on a hot afternoon).

Down the Loowit Falls trail, then east on Loowit Trail, then up the general neighborhood of Forsyth Gully to the Forsyth Glacier, which is now just a rubble heap (possibly some stagnant ice beneath). It was as ugly as I figured it would be, but I was curious.

Then spiraled clockwise up the mountain to the slopes above Plains of Abraham. All day, a helicopter had been ferrying loads to several monitoring stations, and I was looking forward to looking down on the one above the north end of PoA, but when I arrived there it looked normal. Hmm. Saw evidence of recent landings on Alpine Butte, so headed over there (was on my itinerary anyway).

Down to Windy Pass (fast!) and up Alpine Butte (fast!) for my first visit. Neat spot. Gravel exhibited slight concentric circles, about the size of washboarding on a gravel road. I attribute this to multiple helicopter landings. I can't even guess what they were up to. Oh, and there were a couple trips to the vicinity of the Spirit Lake bathtub-overflow too, in addition to the monitor visits.

From Alpine Butte, I dropped north on a fun scenic shortcut to Abraham Trail. First time for that.

As much as I love clouds for the way they enhance scenery and create a mystique, I wanted a clear day to see how things fit together, and I finally got it. Not a cloud all day. Unfortunately, the cooling breeze that was forecast finally arrived a little too late to really help much, and by 7 or 8pm it was getting a bit uncomfortable (especially dust in the eyes). Overall, not a bad weather day.

Afterthought: I just remembered how funny it was watching goats react when the helicopter came over a ridge. It was as if they had never seen one before. Panic! :lol:
Attachments
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Confluence of Step Creek (left) and Loowit Creek.
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Step Falls. Notice the upper tier is hidden in a dust cloud. That was happening maybe about every ten minutes. Look at those cliffs to the right of the falls. Amazing it hasn't all collapsed. In the outwash plain below, there's evidence of big slides, or possible many smaller slides. I elected not to walk up to the base of the falls.
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To my left is the divide between Loowit (right) and Step (not shown). I had wanted to walk the crest north to its end, but it looked like it might get tricky.
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Loowit Creek
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Forsyth Glacier
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From Alpine Butte.
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Plains of Abraham. I was pleased to see that high point barely in sun, surrounded by shadow.
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Parting shot, from Abraham Trail I think.
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in a nine day stretch, six nights were spent here. I'm going to find a new obsession now.

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teachpdx
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Re: St Helens: Spirit Lake to Alpine Butte via Forsyth Glacier

Post by teachpdx » July 17th, 2020, 9:52 am

I wouldn’t be surprised if all of the helicopters (and the FS employees) are doing the first stages of the Spirit Lake outflow work, along with all the drilling that they are planning to do on the SW edge of Spirit Lake.
That’s the same project that will be closing down the Truman Trail (and turning it into an access road) for the next five years.
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Chip Down
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Re: St Helens: Spirit Lake to Alpine Butte via Forsyth Glacier

Post by Chip Down » July 17th, 2020, 4:57 pm

teachpdx wrote:
July 17th, 2020, 9:52 am
I wouldn’t be surprised if all of the helicopters (and the FS employees) are doing the first stages of the Spirit Lake outflow work, along with all the drilling that they are planning to do on the SW edge of Spirit Lake.
That’s the same project that will be closing down the Truman Trail (and turning it into an access road) for the next five years.
When I saw vehicles, and a person walking that direction, I assumed as much. First two helicopter trips were to the tunnel (blocked from view, but I know where it is, and that was roughly where the pilot went). Strange that they had people drive and walk, but whatever. Maybe the helicopter dropped loads but never landed. Next morning I checked the tunnel but saw nothing staged (binoculars, not in person).

Anyway, I'm still curious about all the other trips. First trip after Spirit Lake was to the Sugar Bowl instruments, and there was another trip there towards end of day, so maybe he dropped a technician and then picked him up later. All the trips to PoA are particularly perplexing.

This day reinforced that I made some very bad career choices. Hard to complain though. I didn't get paid for my adventures, but not a bad way to spend a day.

Oh, just remembered, I saw a drilling rig headed up as I was driving home, but far enough from St Helens that there's no telling where they were going.

johnspeth
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Re: St Helens: Spirit Lake to Alpine Butte via Forsyth Glacier

Post by johnspeth » July 18th, 2020, 5:25 am

teachpdx wrote:
July 17th, 2020, 9:52 am
I wouldn’t be surprised if all of the helicopters (and the FS employees) are doing the first stages of the Spirit Lake outflow work, along with all the drilling that they are planning to do on the SW edge of Spirit Lake.
That’s the same project that will be closing down the Truman Trail (and turning it into an access road) for the next five years.
That's my guess too. But isn't it amazing how much money the Gov will spend when a much less costly alternative probably exists? I'll bet you a renting a helicopter for a day is in the range of $10K (just a guess). You saw a truck in there. Why couldn't a fit hiking crew do the same survey from the truck for about 10% of the cost.

I saw the same thing on Black Butte about 10 years ago. A helicopter landed on the top while I was there. A guy got out, went into the now-gone cabin, a minute later he came out, and the helicopter left. I and several others probably took about an hour to climb to the top from the upper trail head all for the price of a bottle of water, some snacks, and a little sweat.

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