St Helens: McBride Lake vicinity

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Chip Down
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St Helens: McBride Lake vicinity

Post by Chip Down » September 16th, 2018, 6:06 pm

Most of this was on-trail, but as often happens, the more interesting parts were not. So where should I post?

Woke at 4:00 Saturday and checked the weather forecast for St Helens. Chance of snow was 30%, down from 40% yesterday. Okay, good enough, I'm off. Decided to park at Red Rock Pass and check out the Toutle Trail headed "the other way" (away from the mountain). A little research before departure showed the trail soon splits, forming a loop along Cinnamon Ridge, down to Kalama Horse Camp, then back along the Kalama River. A nice short easy safe hike for a potentially damp day.

Arrived a little late for me, a bit after sunrise. Popped up to the lava flow north of the TH to check the view. Mostly clear, some high spotty clouds, a bit of fresh snow on the mountain. Looked like it would be a good day to go up there and play around, but I didn't completely trust the weather, so played it safe.

Back to the TH and up the other side of Red Rock Pass, up the Toutle Trail. Brushy, damp. Wished I had my full gaiters, but soon I entered mature forest, and wasn't as impinged. Switchbacks and loops, left and right, swirling chaos. I read a TR by somebody who turned back in the snow, and I see why. As ridge routes go, it's not very straightforward. Gained a open viewpoint and laughed. My sense of direction was way off, and the mountain wasn't where it "should be". Continuing, I undulated a bit, passed some abandoned faint roadbeds, finally reached ridgecrest, narrow here. Looked down on what I assumed was McBride Lake (it was). Looked pretty, and I looked forward to visiting it on my low return route. The drudgery behind me, I looked forward to the funner easier more-scenic part of the hike. Spotted an enigmatic animal that puzzled me. Weird proportions, I couldn't figure it out. Oh, hunter in full camo! When we met, he politely (but somewhat firmly) asked me to turn back (or wait for an indefinite period) as he and his partner stalked their game. I complied, partly because I don't argue with armed pairs of men, but mostly because I was just out having a fun day in the woods, whereas they were confined by a short season.

I wasn't going to retrace my steps and hike that trail down, when McBride lake was right below me. But the ridgecrest was pretty steep, no safe place to drop. Compromise: return to the first faint roadbed I could spot, see where it went. It faded soon, but a rough trail continued. It was flagged occasionally. But it faded, and I wasn't going to waste time looking for it. Followed a mostly-dry creekbed, but soon that proved to be foolish, because the brush was far worse than the forest. I looked for a way out, but soon I saw the Toutle Trail below me.

Turned west/left on the trail, now soppy from the bushwhacking. Passed McBride lake. Disappointed the trail didn't really go down there, except a little spur to a campsite. Continued along the Kalama River, across one road, a little further, to another road. Waking along a small river with road crossings isn't my idea of a good time, so I turned back.

Back at McBride Lake, I explored a bit, circled the perimeter, then walked the road back to Red Rock Pass. Along the way, I watched for Kalama Spring on the north side of the road. All I ever saw was the Kalama River, but I knew the spring had to be just a little creek. Surely if the Kalama River just popped right out of the ground, it would be a notable attraction, with a trailhead and trail serving the sightseers.

At Red Rock Pass, it was crowded, more cars than I've ever seen there. I suppose that's normal, but I'm always early to arrive and late to return. I quickly repacked, dropped of my superfluous rain gear, and changed boots. This was a good chance to break in the boots that have sat on my hallway floor since I brought them home (I bet my bright new lime-green boots caught some funny looks on the trail). Back up to the lava flow again, where I paused for a snack and a couple beers.

My plan was to explore a couple trails that depart the Kalama Trail, headed west. The first isn't marked; the second is a ski trail. I figured they would meet the rocky outwash plain where I struggled to find my way a couple months ago on a descent of the mountain. On that day, I was saved when I found the ski trail headed west, so today I wanted to find the other part of the trail, on the east side of the rubble zone. Turned out the two trails I wanted to explore (departing Kalama Trail and headed west) connected, and then continued west as the ski trail. In addition, I found other trails that served no purpose, just connecting to Kalama Trail. What a mess. There are so many interesting destinations up there, but people feel compelled to build random loops and shortcuts.

When the ski trail hit the flood plain, I felt better about getting "lost" on my last time here. There really isn't much to follow through the rubble. A boot print here and there, a little cairn on occasion. Worse, the route jogs at the crossing, so you won't find the other side with a straight crossing. But I found the other half and turned back, having verified my suspicion of how this all fits together (I'm neurotic, I need to verify these things).

Rather than retracing my steps to the Kalama Trail to Red Rock Pass, I continued down the rubble southbound, towards RD 81. I knew it would brush out eventually, because there's no sign of this flooded creekbed from Rd 81. As I descended, I was surprised to see the flat flood zone re-form a defined gully, a crisp-edged mini canyon, just as it is up higher. Usually, once a gully flattens and fans out, that's the end of it. But sure enough, inevitably, it fanned out again, this time so mossy that it appears green on Google Earth.

From here, I knew it was bushwhacking to the road. Soon I heard water, so veered east/left, and came to what had to be Kalama River. I started to follow it down towards Rd 81, but soon I paused when it occurred to me...there can't be this much water here. This isn't a little hop-across, this is a wader, a stream you could possibly navigate in kayak or raft. I know the terrain here pretty well, from explorations and observations. There was no plausible explanation for this much water here, unless...the spring! Could it be? So back up I went, searching for the source. Probably a couple minutes later, I found it, just pouring right out of the hillside. Fascinating. I climbed up and over, descending the other side, then started off towards the road again. Following game trails and random clearings, up and down, zigging and zagging, back down a steep slope to the river. Dammit. Should have just followed the Kalama bank to the road. I was relieved when I finally spotted a semi-circle that could only be a culvert in the distance.

Not wanting to follow the road again, I bushwhacked and followed followed clearings until I reached the Red Rock lava flow. As I climbed the loose toe of the flow, the rain finally came. At the top, I didn't know where the trail was, but I knew if I walked towards the mountain I'd run into it. Then in the distance, I saw several hikers, headed both directions.

For the third time this day, I sat on my favorite Red Rock rock, the flat one where the trail crests. Maybe you know the one. I didn't mind the rain, but I didn't linger. The clouds were still high, and I could see it wasn't snowing on the mountain, unless way up high. Indeed, my early morning suspicion was right: I could have gone up there. Oh well, glass half full, it was a pretty decent day.
Attachments
1.jpg
Doesn't it look like Adams is just floating there? Cloudy St Helens to the left.
2.jpg
Right in the middle of the trail. Lucky he didn't get stomped on.
3.jpg
Art or trail marker?
4.jpg
Note to USF: A bridge needn't cost $50k. (note the convenient handhold above)
5.jpg
Good luck finding the trail here.
6.jpg
Back in a mini-canyon again.
7.jpg
Hmm...
8.jpg
All this water comes from the spring, which was 15 feet behind me as I took this pic. I know it doesn't look possible. If you don't believe me, go check it out (warning: it's not where maps show it)
9.jpg
The spring.
Last edited by Chip Down on September 16th, 2018, 6:21 pm, edited 4 times in total.

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Chip Down
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Re: St Helens: McBride Lake vicinity

Post by Chip Down » September 16th, 2018, 6:08 pm

I was at Red Rock Pass three times: Shortly after sunrise, early afternoon, shortly before sunset. Although the cloud density varied considerably through the day, the altitude was fairly consistent.

[unfortunately, I can't post the three images, unable to troubleshoot the problem]

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Chip Down
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Re: St Helens: McBride Lake vicinity

Post by Chip Down » September 16th, 2018, 7:12 pm

another stab at the last three images:
Attachments
a.jpg
b.jpg
c.jpg

Chazz
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Re: St Helens: McBride Lake vicinity

Post by Chazz » September 17th, 2018, 9:00 am

Does all that water just flow through the lava flows above and then pop out at that "spring"? That's a lot of volume of water but the same thing essentially happens for the Mackenzie river just a 100 yards from the edge of Clear Lake.

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Water
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Re: St Helens: McBride Lake vicinity

Post by Water » September 18th, 2018, 2:36 pm

thanks for the report. So that's interesting that there's at least 20-30 year old trees just down from the spring. They look dead... was this spring re-routed/created/etc by the eruption? Given the flow it's clear it's not just seasonal.. so if trees grew there, it was because the water wasn't previously there/routed that way---what changed?
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Don Nelsen
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Re: St Helens: McBride Lake vicinity

Post by Don Nelsen » September 19th, 2018, 11:39 am

Chip, Thanks for this TR! I had not heard of this spring and was looking for something to do Monday and so went up there to take a look.

I thought I would just hike up the creek to find it so parked at a turn out a short distance from where the creek runs under road 81 and to my delight found a more-or-less trail leading in the right direction. It petered out after about 2/10 of a mile but I spotted flagging heading east that led into a marshy area where it looked like either a few hikers or a couple elk had walked recently. The flagging ended but the track continued to an open area and I could see the stream off to the right. This led directly to the spring.

The marsh was never even half way up the sides of my boots and the brush wasn't too bad either. All-in-all, a nice journey on a great day. Thanks!

dn

A few pics:
The spring:
Image

Looking downstream:
Image

Wandering around I spotted this?
Image

On the way back:
Image

The map: My route in red.
Image
"Everything works in the planning stage".

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Water
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Re: St Helens: McBride Lake vicinity

Post by Water » September 19th, 2018, 3:07 pm

still really curious why the spring is routed into trees that look at least as old as the eruption, maybe. Did its course change or did a slide or ash block off the old direction of flow?

really cool, thanks for additional pictures Don!

Seems like it could be a nice place to splash around on a hot day..
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Webfoot
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Re: St Helens: McBride Lake vicinity

Post by Webfoot » September 19th, 2018, 7:12 pm

(warning: it's not where maps show it)
From Don's map it's as close as can be expected, isn't it?
Last edited by Webfoot on September 19th, 2018, 9:59 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Don Nelsen
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Re: St Helens: McBride Lake vicinity

Post by Don Nelsen » September 19th, 2018, 7:28 pm

Webfoot wrote:
September 19th, 2018, 7:12 pm
(warning: it's not where maps show it)

From Don's map it's as close as can be expected, isn't it?
It was about 50' to 75' off but, yes, that's pretty darn close and I checked maps from clear back to 1953 to see if there was any difference and there isn't. If the original 1953 or earlier survey got it that close, I'd say they did a darn good job.
The red line is my GPS track for the return on the "trail". I removed my other wanderings to make it clearer.
"Everything works in the planning stage".

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Don Nelsen
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Re: St Helens: McBride Lake vicinity

Post by Don Nelsen » September 19th, 2018, 7:34 pm

Water wrote:
September 19th, 2018, 3:07 pm
still really curious why the spring is routed into trees that look at least as old as the eruption, maybe. Did its course change or did a slide or ash block off the old direction of flow?

really cool, thanks for additional pictures Don!

Seems like it could be a nice place to splash around on a hot day..
That area got hit with mudflows in 1980 and again at least a couple more times since due to rapid snow melt and heavy rain events that even washed out the road at least once. Each time, more ash/rocks/etc. push the stream up against the slope and fill in the marsh (that was probably once a lake). Who knows when those trees were inundated and killed but from their condition, I'd say likely one of the more recent mudflows from about 2006 or so. I say this noting that the trees still have their branches and moss still hangs from them. I don't remember exactly when the road washed out but it was about that time.
"Everything works in the planning stage".

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