Road 83, the 11.3 mile road that terminates at the Lava Canyon trailhead is washed out at about the 7 mile mark. There is a closed gate at the six mile mark (it’s locked…I checked) so access to June Lake, Ape Canyon and Lava Canyon require extra hiking or biking.
It can be somewhat disheartening to plod mile after mile along a broad road where posted signs sarcastically remind you to take the next curve at thirty-five miles an hour. There isn’t much to see besides trees until mile ten or so when one begins to approach a massive lahar spawned by Mt. St. Helens’ 1980 eruption.
It seems our human attention span is just not long enough to register the antics of volcanoes. We think the ground beneath us is stable and permanent and dare to build roads and skyscrapers.
Even so, we biologicals share a certain kind of stubborn shortsightedness.
Probing for weaknesses, the mountain reaches out with a finger of water.
After walking for five miles, I kind of had a hankering to at least see what sort of storm damage had occurred. However, not wanting to defy the forest service, and taking various warnings of imminent death at face value, I could see no alternative but to send in the Monkey-Cam.
Lava Canyon’s story goes something like this: In the distant past, between major events, a big forest covered this canyon’s floor. Then, in the course of time, Mt. St. Helens erupted and sent a river of basaltic lava down the canyon (the thick black layer). Parts of the lava layer cooled slowly enough to form crystal-like vertical columns.
Eventually, the canyon was buried and covered with a new forest that thrived until 1980 when tributaries of the massive lahar (seen earlier) scoured out the valley and revealed the remnants of the ancient lava flow.
The Monkey-Cam refused to cross the suspension bridge because of the sign that explained about it being ‘under repair’. The Monkey-Cam also started to demand more bananas as a hazardous pay bonus. Since I only had so many bananas and was unable to strike a deal with my store of trail mix, I’m afraid I have no data for points beyond the suspension bridge and cannot confirm whether the route to Smith Creek is still passable.The setting sun creates an evocative image, casting a reddish glow in the sky above the restless mountain – as if the atmosphere were illuminated by a crater full of molten magma.