The Plains of Abraham, 1987

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sparklehorse
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The Plains of Abraham, 1987

Post by sparklehorse » May 17th, 2020, 5:18 pm

D952AD28-A1B7-4598-AD44-3FE5FA040DBD.jpeg
(Opening shot)

Well, here’s a blast from the past, pun intended.

In June of 1987 I hiked the eastern flank of Mt. St. Helens with my friend Jeff and my dog Dusty. This was the first year the area was opened to hikers following the eruption seven years earlier. With the 40th anniversary of the eruption coming this week I thought it might be fun to post up some photos from that hike.

The hike took us across “The Plains of Abraham’, a large, flat stretch of land on the eastern side of the mountain. The flatness of it wasn’t caused by the eruption as you can see from this pre-eruption forest service map...

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We started at the Ape Canyon trailhead on Forest Road 83. The first few miles are in the trees, but occasionally we got a nice view of the mountain...

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That big notch in the mountain was carved by the Shoestring Glacier. Like other glaciers on St. Helens, it was ravaged by the eruption. Much of the ice and snow in that narrow canyon rapidly melted, sending a torrent of water, mud, ash and debris down the mountain, eventually reaching the Swift Reservoir. This type of debris flow is called a lahar, and you can see some of its remains in the left foreground of that picture.


After four and a half miles we reach the sharply cleaved gash of Ape Canyon...

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In another half mile we reach the southern end of the Plains of Abraham. Pyroclastic flows had incinerated the landscape here, leaving behind an eerie, ash-covered moonscape...

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Plant life was making a slow comeback amid the scalded, capsized trees...

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A small stand of trees had survived, guarded by a knoll...

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Mt. Rainier appears as we make our way north...

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A look across to Windy Ridge with the Mt. Margaret Backcountry in the distance...

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A better view of Windy Ridge...

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Past The Plains now, we make our way the last mile toward a viewpoint near Windy Ridge, which is our goal for the day. Note the two hikers out ahead of us, at the crest of the hill...

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Botanical pioneers...

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An oddly chiseled streambed, which I believe was the only water source we encountered all day...

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Nearing the viewpoint...

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Finally, after 8 miles of ash, dust and heat, we reach the viewpoint that almost looks into to the belly of the beast...

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Easily the wildest of the wild places I’ve been.


Here’s a map of the hike. About 16 miles round trip, 2800 feet of elevation gain.

Thanks for looking!

Gordon

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Last edited by sparklehorse on May 18th, 2020, 12:58 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Charley
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Re: The Plains of Abraham, 1987

Post by Charley » May 17th, 2020, 6:04 pm

GREAT report! And so timely, too. I guess I'm surprised the Plains took so long to be colonized by the lupine we are all used to seeing.

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drm
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Re: The Plains of Abraham, 1987

Post by drm » May 18th, 2020, 8:19 am

Does anybody have a photo of the plains from before? Was it forested?

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sparklehorse
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Re: The Plains of Abraham, 1987

Post by sparklehorse » May 18th, 2020, 10:33 am

drm wrote:
May 18th, 2020, 8:19 am
Does anybody have a photo of the plains from before? Was it forested?
Hi Dean,
According to one book I have, the Plains of Abraham was mostly treeless prior to the eruption due to frequent winter avalanches. The book includes a 1962 USFS photo of the Plains showing some avalanche activity...


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I also recall reading somewhere that the soil wasn’t good there, even before the eruption.

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Last edited by sparklehorse on May 18th, 2020, 11:06 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: The Plains of Abraham, 1987

Post by sparklehorse » May 18th, 2020, 10:45 am

I also found this pre-eruption image I intended to use for my 2009 trip report on the Plains of Abraham. It’s hard to tell, but it may show some stunted trees growing there prior to the eruption...

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drm
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Re: The Plains of Abraham, 1987

Post by drm » May 18th, 2020, 12:32 pm

Yeah, thanks! Come to think of it, the name suggests it too. I'm not sure why actually, but Plains of Abraham is not what you would name a forested area.

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Re: The Plains of Abraham, 1987

Post by arieshiker » May 19th, 2020, 8:13 am

Man, that was neat to read and view. I moved from Iowa to Seattle in 1984 and remember the ash falling on us in Iowa about a week after the big bang. After settling in Ballard, I drove down to the eruption area and wound through some of the open forestry roads where there were numerous pull outs for viewing and photo ops, but every time I got out and stood there looking, I just couldn't take a photo. I didn't have wide angle and the regular lens just wouldn't capture what I was seeing, which was nothing but scarred earth and downed trees stripped to bare trunk, similar to your pick-up sticks images. It was both awe-inspiring and tear producing. We eventually would our way further east and crossed one of the rivers the lahar flow passed through, and there were signs on a bridge pointing out rocks the size of mansions in the river bed said to have been rolled down from miles up stream. I regret not taking any photos that day even had they turned out being puny compared to what they were showing. Great post of a great exploration.

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oldandslow
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Re: The Plains of Abraham, 1987

Post by oldandslow » May 19th, 2020, 2:31 pm

I hiked across the Plains of Abraham several times in the 1940's. I don't remember any trees.

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