Thursday, September 4

Carfree Mt St Helens

The Mt St Helens trip was truly amazing. This was the first time I had ever planned
to cycle most of the way from Portland to Mt St Helens. The distance of 70 miles doesn't seem impossible until you figure that our destination was at 2700 ft. Team hardcore left southeast Portland Friday afternoon on our fully loaded ATBs (all terain bicycles) and followed an awesome route through east Vancouver on low-traffic streets. We wound our way through the beautiful suburban blacktop towards farm country. The highlight was definately Padden Parkway.
By the time we left Padden for the rural lands, the golden hour had approached and the scenery was simply stunning. When we finally reached the road which John's parents lived on, it was a wonderful precurser, as the road was very small and we saw no cars.
The next morning Jim and Joyce arrived and so the four of us squeezed into Jim's pickup for a short lift to Cougar.
It was a grand adventure to climb to the foothills of Mt St Helens. We enjoyed amazing viewsof the awesome landscape. There is so much more depth and meaning to the experience of cycling somewhere. We passed through deep woods, a few fields of clearcut, and decreasing traffic before we finally arrived at Marble Mtn Snow Park. We took a long rest and ventured on to the welcome quiet of a completely care-free road. We passed bicyclists and hikers casually meandering down the middle of the street. Obviously nobody was concerned for their safety as there was nothing to be afraid of. The closure not only brought peace to the area, but it also forced the outdoorspeople to travel by their own power down the road.
Our camping area was the middle of a hiking trail which we expected to be unused. We met up with Sugata and we enjoyed the stunning environment of a land minimally touched by humanity. The quilt of a trillion pinpoints of light brought such joy to us that we actually walked back to the road and lay there drinking in the rare experience for dozens of minutes.

The next day we packed up for the far end of the road at Lava Canyon. The road was beyond description in it's splendor. A corridor through thick evergreens surrendured grudgingly to steep sloped canyons formed by the eruption.
The trees reappeared just before we finally reaching Lava Canyon. After a peaceful lunch we explored the gorgeous lookout points to the crystal clear aqua river. The thunderous roar of the river was a marvelous counterpoint to the city's more common roar of traffic.
For someone like myself who doesn't have the ability to just drive out 200 miles from a city, it was a deeply moving experience to be far enough out that the only sounds dancing on my eardrums was the rush of the far away rivers and the swaying of the tree branches.
Then we jumped on the idea of riding down the road back to Marble Mountain. This venture was overwhelmingly worth it as three of us sped down the pitch black road with no fear of automobiles or traffic of any sort. It filled me with longing that more people could experience the public spaces of our world without fear as we did this weekend.
The next morning I woke up before dawn to enjoy the last experience of watching the sun rise on the volcano's slope (it would be saddening and depressing to come back here when the noise and fear of autos pervade the environment).
I was thrilled to see the sky as boundless as the landscape as I stood in the shadow of the mountain peak. The deep crimson sky gradually succumbed to a rich copper as the distant sun's rays leaped over the atmosphere and danced on the peak.
Our morning was peaceful and we shared company with the birds and chipmunks in the area.
Finally we went to June Lake on the way back. Our ride was just as thrilling as it had been every other time. My joy in this quiet environment will forever be a happy memory of peace.
All in all the trip was an unforgetable experience and I will cherish it forever. Though I had always thought that St Helens was a destination which would be unreachable for me unless I could convince someone to drive me out there, it's now clear that with proper planning this area is reachable by bike in less than 2 days.
(read the full photo journal)