I car camped for two nights just outside the monument boundary to do some dayhikes on the Windy Ridge (northeast) side of the mountain.
View from the Smith Canyon Overlook
These little cylinders were all over, they are part of a research project into the below-ground magma
My first hike was from the end of the road at Windy Ridge, where I took a variety of trails towards Loowit Falls. This was about 9 miles total. This area is called the pumice plain and was covered in hundreds of feet of debris, slowing regrowth.
A lot of the hiking in this part of the blast zone is desert hiking
Nonethless, there were many flowers about
And creeks flowing from snow patches in the crater, this one quite lush
This little guy was near where I took my break next to the falls. He was less than an inch long
Some thunderheads formed to give some shade from the intense sun and heat, these over the Mt Margaret area. They dissipated by late morning.
There is a stairway above Windy Ridge from which you get a good view of Spirit Lake
Next I hiked the Harmony Trail, which drops to the edge of Spirit Lake in a mile. It's the only place where you are officially allowed to the lake's edge. It drops down a north-facing canyon - facing away from the volcano. This shielded it from the worst affects of the blast, so it has recuperated much better and is one of the few trails with decent shade in the area.
A few pictures of the log mat on Spirit Lake. A ranger told me that half of the logs have now sunk into the lake and more are doing so over time.
Meta Lake, a quarter mile on a paved trail, another place that was protected from he worst of the blast
The next day I did the hike up to Mt Margaret via the Boundary Trail, about 5 1/4 miles one way, and 2300 feet up. Although the blast killed all the trees here, the ground was not covered by debris, so it is greener. And has nice flowers too.
A couple of elk
Along the ridge, notice the trail below the two peaklets
The trail approaches Mt Margaret
Looking across at St. Helens Lake, Coldwater Peak, and The Dome. It was extremely hazy.
The way back
A very hazy view from near Norway Pass