After running Cascade Crest and pacing at Wasatch 2 weeks later, I wasn't sure if I should be doing this race one week after Wasatch. But my legs felt good and I really wanted to see St. Helens. I decided to do the race but not race it, if that makes sense. Use the race as a marked and guided tour around the volcano... Enjoy the company of many friends along the way... Soak in the scenery... Having 2 aid stations certainly didn't hurt!
I opted to drive down the morning-of to the race site. It meant a 3am wake up call and on the road by 3:15. I packed the car the night before and set off as planned about 3:20. I arrived at the Marble Mountain Sno Park with plenty of time to spare and even had time to meet some new friends before it was time to start! I also met up with a friend, Jason, who ended up winning the race. He has a tremendous story of perseverance this year and I am super happy for him that things are back on track in a big way. http://jasonleman.blogspot.com/
The race started at 7am and it wasn't long before we were treated to some gorgeous views. I took my camera along and made sure to pause and enjoy all the sights this magnificent volcano has to offer. The race circled the mountain in a clockwise direction starting on the south side.
|My first view of St Helens as I approached the Loowit trail|
|Shortly after the picture above, about 200 yards from the Loowit trail|
|A waterfall so beautiful that I forgot directions to turn left|
|Photo by Takao Suzuki|
The west side of the volcano afforded some amazing views. Unfortunately the sun seemed to obscure the photo opportunities somewhat. It was amazing to me to see how altered this landscape has become since the eruption.
|It's not hard to imagine how much destruction the eruption caused|
Once we reached the top of the ridge, the landscape made yet another change. This time we entered a mostly lifeless area. Trees that were taken down in the eruption still lay prone on the ground, a reminder of the damage done. Small grasses and shrubs grew along this section, but little else. The trail was visible for miles and the gullies we navigated weren't as pronounced as along the west side.
|A plume of gas escaping from the volcano can be seen in the bottom left side of the crater|
|Spirit Lake in the distance|
|View of Rainier from one of the washout sections|
As we neared the south side of the volcano, we once again encountered large lava rocks. These seemed more challenging than the first round, but that was probably because my legs were more tired and I was doing it in the heat of the day. I teamed up with a friend I'd met during the race and we joked and tried to keep the mood light as we moved at a painstakingly slow pace through here. We helped each other spot markers and stay on track. I'd run out of water as well and he graciously gave me a swig from his bladder. (Trail buddies are the best!)
Soon after the lava rocks I spotted the infamous waterfall pictured above where I took the wrong turn at the start. I knew we were close. We made the turn back to the Marble Mountain Sno Park and relished in a nice 2 mile downhill to the finish. I bombed down this section, enjoying the shade and the promise of a drink when I finished. I finished in 8:22, 5th place woman.
At the end of the day I had a race finish and a fabulous day on the trails. Nature astounded me with her beauty and I greatly enjoyed navigating through the varied terrain of the volcano. I marveled in nature the entire day, constantly reminded of her powerful forces and feeling darn glad to be there. The Volcanic 50k+ course is simply amazing and Trevor and Todd put on a fabulous class act event. Circumnavigating St. Helens is a run a highly recommend, and the Volcanic 50k is a way to do that in style.