Due to large floods and rock slides a few years ago, the six-mile road to the Sheep Canyon Trailhead on Mt. St. Helens is impassable beyond about 1.5 miles.
On the last weekend of spring, I parked alongside the road not far from the 3,200-foot Blue Lake Trailhead. Instead of heading north and hiking the 11-mile Sheep Canyon Loop, I turned east for two miles.
Turning uphill, I hiked by Butte Camp Dome to the Loowit Trail (the round-the-mountain trail that stays mostly at the alpine level.) The meadows along the middle section of the 2 1/2 mile Butte Camp Trail were lush with grasses and false hellebore. Several horse camps were in the area.
At the Loowit Trail intersection I should have had full and unobstructed views of the volcano’s summit. But not this day. Although I was treated to a few sun breaks after a while.
Soon I began heading north along the flanks of the mountain. In several places the Loowit Trail had been washed out causing me to scramble down and up the crumbly walls of ravines. There was a cold wind coming out of the north but at least it had quit raining.
After 1 1/2 miles I found a sheltered spot and ate a small lunch. Even with the clouds, the views were spectacular.
After a long break I hiked the six miles back to the trailhead, enjoying the nice variety of colorful wildflowers along the trail.