Road Less Traveled: Journey to the Volcanic Legacies of Washington!

Hello everyone!!! Welcome!! We are going on a special adventure today! We have a change of plans, so we will not have any sagebrush journeys along the Columbia River. Recently, we are in a red flag warning and there are around thirty active fires in our area!! Do you see all the smoke filling into Wenatchee, Washington? That is from the Wolverine and Reach Fires.

Smoke near Wenatchee, WA!!

Smoke near Wenatchee, WA!! This is what I picture Venus’ atmosphere looking like.

The Columbia River Tour has been cancelled today due to smokey conditions...

The Columbia River Tour has been cancelled today due to smokey conditions…

So, we are traveling along the Cascade Range and visiting most of the volcanic legacies the great state of Washington has to offer instead! We are on a budget, so we are mainly visiting Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, and Mt. Baker! Each one of those mountains are volcanoes, so we will see an amazing assortment of geology, biology, and meteorology!! Remember to bring your coat and rain jacket! Unlike the intense 100°F +, dry weather of Central Washington, we will be encountering a lot of precipitation and lower temperatures. Let’s go!!!!!!

Mt. Adams

O_O As we approach Mt.St. Helens, you may have noticed another snow covered peak nearby. This large mountain is Mt. Adams!! The second largest mountain in the lower forty eight states. On our trips down to southern Washington during work, we always see this mountain looming over the surrounding landscape. Don’t be fooled! This is not Mt. Hood! That volcano is located further south. You may see this mountain clearly when looking from the top of Mt St Helens and Mt. Rainier! The glaciers and its distinct shape attract a large amount of recreationalists! There are plenty of opportunities to go hiking, fishing, and go camping around there. We will have to say good bye to this stratovolcano and move west to Mt. St. Helens!

Mt Adams from a distance.

Mt Adams from a distance.

Mt St. Helens

Mt. St. Helens….one of the most active volcanoes in the Cascade Range. On May 18th, 1980, there was a violent eruption. Instead of bursting straight into the air like other volcanoes, the explosion left the side of the volcano. The lahars and pyroclastic flow caused a massive amount of damage, which carved out the landscape. You can still see evidence of the violent eruption in the surrounding area. Now foresters are replanting trees and nature is slowly coming back. Fireweed (Chamerion angustifolium) and various grasses are taking advantage over the open space and are now growing throughout the area! Scotch broom (Cytisus scoparius), which is considered an introduced and invasive plant, can be seen in the valley below where the elk herds roam.

Mt. St. Helens!!!

Mt. St. Helens!!!

Scotch Broom and other plants within one of the valleys in near Mt. St. Helens.

Scotch Broom and other plants within one of the valleys near Mt. St. Helens. The scotch broom is the yellow flowered plant!!

They have seismographs all around Mt. St. Helens. If the volcano were to show signs of erupting, many scientists would know.

They have seismographs all around Mt. St. Helens. If the volcano were to show signs of erupting, many scientists would know based on the data collected by these instruments.

The most recent eruption, I heard, was in 2008. Some people were very worried that Mt. St. Helens would erupt again, because the new lava dome started to grow larger….Sorry to worry you! Let us talk about something else!!

The precipitation from the west side of the Cascades envelopes the volcano leaving a nice amount of snow, which usually disappears by the Summer time. When you take a hike around the base of the volcano, you may find ash and pumice from the eruption. Some people use the ash to make green colored glass. People sell it as Helenite. Don’t be fooled! If the seller calls it beryl or topaz, they are totes wrong! D:

People love to grow rhododendron around the Mt. St. Helens area.

People love to grow rhododendron around the Mt. St. Helens area.

There are many opportunities to go bird watching around in the area! Woodpeckers, western tanagers (Piranga ludoviciana), and American dippers (Cinclus mexicanus) make their home in the forested and river regions. Another fun activity you can do is rock hounding. The rivers that flow from the volcano, such as the Salmon River, contain carnelian agate and other interesting agates. You may have to walk up the creek to the rock bars, but it is worth the experience. Do you see that large mountain to the northeast?? That is Mt. Rainier. We will be traveling there next!

Carnelian agate!!

Carnelian agate!!

Mt. Rainier

One of the most famous volcanoes in Washington state is Mt. Rainier. This very picturesque mountain could be seen from Seattle! There are plenty of glaciers that cover the volcano, which gives it a very distinct look. There are plenty of trails, wildflowers, and lakes that you could easily spend a week here exploring! Another interesting fact is that this place is a National Park!!! Make sure to bring your National Park stamp book!!

Mt Rainier!!!

Mt Rainier!!!

In the southeast corner of the park is a place called the Trail of the Patriarchs! This area is a primary forest! Many large trees could be viewed along the trail. It might remind you of a smaller version of the Redwood Forest!

Mid-story canopy of the forest!

Mid-story canopy of the forest!

A massive tree that fell over!!

A massive tree that fell over!!

During the months of June to July, you can see a huge variety of wildflowers. With the wet meadows present from the snow melt, this area contains a massive amount of flora diversity. On Snow Trail, you could see Bear grass (Xerophyllum tenax), false hellebore (Veratrum viride), and various gentians (Gentianaceae) growing along the streams. The talus slopes on this trail still retain the snow from the winter time. The lake found at the end of the trail is very cold, but it is a good fishing spot for trout. You may even see various grouse species along the way!! Before we move to the northern side of the mountain, you may want to take a stop at Reflection Lake! This lake provides stunning views of the mountain. The reflection of Mt. Rainier from the lake creates great pictures!!

Reflection Lake and Mt. Rainier!

Reflection Lake and Mt. Rainier!

Indian paintbrush (Castilleja) are also a wildflower that grows abundantly by Mt. Rainier!

Indian paintbrush (Castilleja) are also a wildflower that grows abundantly by Mt. Rainier!

Sunrise is an area located to the northeast section of the National Park. There are many trails located around here that will bring you right up to the mountain! Mountain goats (Oreamnos americanus) could be seen foraging along the talus slopes on the local vegetation. Pumice and other volcanic rocks could be found along these trails. They are considered leaverites, which means you have to leave them right where you found them :p There are many dwarf versions of the wildflowers and trees surrounding the sub alpine tundra. When you approach the end of the Burroughs next to Mt. Rainier, you would get fantastic views of the mountains. There are plenty of flies and insects flying around, which makes this a great place to go bird watching. Birds love slow, flying insects!! There is a lot of rock stacking in certain areas, but it is frowned down upon by certain conservationists.

Mountain goats relaxing in the open meadow!

Mountain goats relaxing in the open meadow!

There is a lot more to explore in this region, but we have to move onto our next destination, Mt. Baker!

Glacier Peak
We are off to Mt. Baker!! I am very exciting to go to this large mountain and……oh? What are you looking at? Right on! That is Glacier Peak!! I heard from some of my friends that this is one of the most active volcanoes in the Cascade Range. Within the last million years, this mountain produced many violent eruptions when the continental glacier receded from this area. You can look at the topography of the landscape and see evidence of lahars and pyroclastic flows. The geologic topography such as the lava domes and cinder cones really add character to this mountain. I heard the hot springs were active in the region and there are some pretty cool hikes and bird watching opportunities. Let us move on!!

Glacier Peak from a distance!!

Glacier Peak from a distance!!

Mt. Baker

To the east of Bellingham and near the Canada border, I present to you Mt. Baker….hmmm… It is extraordinarily misty right now. Usually this type weather is very common in this area. They would get misty rains and fog rolling in most of the time. We would see Mt. Baker, but the clouds are covering the volcano up. There is still plenty of things to see though! Let us hike around until the fog lifts…

Hopefully, the sun will come out soon!!!

Hopefully, the sun will come out soon!!! This area has phenomenal hiking and ski trails. There are plenty of rare flora here as well!!

One of the notable trails for views is Table Mountain. From what I have heard, this rock structure formed when lava was being expelled and settled in between two glaciers. When the glaciers receded, there was this butte with very steep sides left behind. There is plenty of flora and fauna that could be seen. Pikas (Ochotona spp.), marmots (Marmota spp.), and American Pipits (Anthus rubescens) can be seen in this area. The large mountain hemlock (Tsuga mertensiana), silver fir (Abies amabilis) and different kind of Ericaceae plants provide food and shelter for many animals. This place usually has fantastic views of Mt. Baker and Mt. Shuksan, but with this fog, we get to see cool, shrouded landscapes.

Wow!! Look at this cool geologic feature!!

Wow!! Look at this cool geologic feature!!

It's a steep, slippery hike up Table Mountain!!

It’s a steep, slippery hike up Table Mountain!!

Hey!!! The sun is coming out!! There is Mt. Shuksan!! Now that the clouds have parted, we get to see a better view of the area! There are plenty of alpine meadows that various butterfly and honeybee pollinators use. This region also has a variety of different birds you can see such as western tanager, evening grosbeak (Coccothraustes vespertinus), white tailed ptarmigan (Lagopus leucura), various crossbills species (Loxia), gray capped rosy finch (Leucosticte tephrocotis), and gray jays (Perisoreus canadensis) to name a few. Many lichen, mosses, ferns and bryophytes have been found and studied for a variety of purposes. This “Island in the Sky” is home to a huge diversity of plants and animals and everyone who is interested in botany or wildlife biology should take a visit to this region and explore it.

A gray jay planning hi jinx, shenanigans, and tomfoolery.

A gray jay planning hijinx, shenanigans, and tomfoolery.

Mt Shuksan decided to show itself!!!

Mt Shuksan decided to show itself!!!

Mt. Baker!! Where are you? D: Stop hiding behind that cloud!

Mt. Baker!! Where are you? D: Stop hiding behind that cloud!

I hope everyone enjoyed the Volcanic Legacy Tour!!! Next time, we will be heading back to Wenatchee, Washington for more adventures! Have a great day!!

And now…..Your Moment of Zen….

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About Justin

Hello! My name is Justin! I am an intern working for the BLM in Buffalo, Wyoming! I will be working on remote sensing and GIS projects. My favorite outdoor hobbies include bird watching, plant identification, rock hounding, exploring, and fishing.

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