We’re excited to welcome back Rumblings and all of the great content. Yes, I know, it’s been a while. It’s absence has been a source of anxiety for me, one of those things that can keep me up at night. In fact, as Executive Director, there’s a lot of those things! Rumblings is an important way for us to connect with our supporters. I’d love to sit down with each of you, every month, over coffee or beer and talk about the state of things. The ups, the downs, the good, the challenging. But I’d need to clone myself 10x over. So, I have to settle for Rumblings plus finding time to catch up a few times a year on a hike, at Boots and Bow Ties, or some other event. Our new-in-2019 Communications Specialist, Jared Stewart, is key to making this newsletter happen. Thank, Jared!
I am happy to report that things are going very well at the Mount St. Helens Institute! Our programs continue to grow, getting more folks engaged in science, the outdoors and public lands through Mount St. Helens. We’ve been able to establish and refine a lot of different systems (committees, strategic planning, etc). We’ve expanded and brought on staff, working towards greater sustainability. In 2019, we received a 3 year, $350,000 grant from the Cowlitz Indian Tribe’s Education and Arts Foundation. We have also committed to a bright future in a renovated and expanded Science and Learning Center (former Coldwater Ridge Visitor Center) in partnership with the US Forest Service.
2020 is shaping up to be an exciting year. We’ll be commemorating the 40th Eruptiversary with a special Views and Brews series through May, culminating with Bill Nye speaking events at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in Portland on May 15th, and at the Moore Theater in Seattle on May 16th. The 40th Eruptiverary is a great time to join one of our programs visit the mountain, take stock of 40 years of change, and ponder what the next 40 years and beyond may bring. In between the plethora of great programming and events, we’ll be spending a lot of time and energy plotting our own future at Coldwater.
I’m honored to enter my 6th year as Executive Director, 9th year working for MSHI, and 13th year at the volcano. I hope to see you out and about and look forward to hearing what you’re excited about. If you’re interested in helping us end 2019 on a high note and head into 2020 with momentum, consider making an end of year contribution here. We appreciate all of your support.
Introducing the Mount St. Helens Specialty License Plate
We want to put Washington's most active volcano on a Washington State special license plate! Will you sign our petition to get this design green lit for 2020?
Before the Washington State Department of Licensing considers a special plate series, they require at least 4,000 signatures from Washington State residents. Signing this petition indicates your intent to purchase these plates if they become available. Proceeds from the special license plate sales will go to the non-profit Mount St. Helens Institute in support of youth education, land stewardship, and science at the volcano.
Design by Don Clark of Invisible Creature, Seattle
Feb 8, 2020 – May 17, 2020
Marking the 40th anniversary of the eruption of Mount St. Helens, this exhibition explores the overwhelming power of nature and the epic cycles of volcanic destruction and regeneration with stunning photographs, paintings, and drawings of the mountain from 1845 to the present day.
Curated by Dawson Carr, Ph.D., The Janet and Richard Geary Curator of European Art.
Background: Henk Pander (American, born The Netherlands, 1937), Eruption of Saint Helens from Cable Street, 1981 (a/k/a View of Portland), Oil on linen, 54 x 64 inches, City of Portland, courtesy of the Regional Arts and Culture Council.
2019 Education Season in Review - by Gina Roberti, Science Education Coordinator
Volcano Outdoor School begins, for me, with a flurry of unfamiliar faces. As a science educator with the Mount St. Helens Institute, I stand alongside my coworkers awaiting the student’s arrival in buses or vans. We wave our arms to welcome in a group of people whom we will get to know closely over the next twenty-four to forty-eight hours. Here on the northwest side of Mount St. Helens, the volcano is sometimes visible dominating the eastern skyline. More often it is shrouded in low hanging clouds making it appear ominously large in a landscape masked by sparse vegetation, trees dropped by seeds no more than 40 years old.
From April to November, amidst rain, sun and snow, we greet students from public schools, homeschool collectives, private schools, scouting troops and science clubs. Each group brings a different set of goals and expectations, questions and curiosities about the volcano. We welcome students of every age, from infants to adults, elementary to high school. Our job is to encourage curiosity, exploration and observation of the volcanic landscape of Mount St. Helens.
The setting for Volcano Outdoor School is the Science and Learning Center, an expansive building lined with floor-to-ceiling windows built by the U.S. Forest Service in 1993. Today the building and grounds are repurposed by the Mount St. Helens Institute as a residential environmental learning center for field-based science education programming. Of the over seventy five school groups that visit the Science and Learning Center each year, more than half stay for an overnight field trip.
At Volcano Outdoor School, the landscape of Mount St. Helens is the classroom. All of our activities take place within the blast zone affected by the 1980 eruption. We hike amidst the Hummocks landslide formation, explore the aquatic ecology along Coldwater Lake, and compare patterns of plants and animals in areas affected differently by the 1980 eruption. We encounter snakes, frogs, tadpoles, deer, elk, and birds on the trail and in the outdoor dining area of the Science and Learning Center. We take photographs, test characteristics of rocks and minerals, and use microscopes, binoculars and art supplies. Teaching in such a classroom is a privilege. As one chaperone commented, "The ability to engage directly in scientific inquiry in the field is invaluable!"
The typical size of a group at Volcano Outdoor School is small. Most programs are between fifteen and thirty students. This allows for student-centered learning where every student can participate in hands-on activities and has space for personal investigation.
“My students rarely get out of their neighborhood. This trip helped broaden their experiences. A lot of the students told me this was the best day they ever had. They loved seeing what we were studying. It made the learning process meaningful for them.” - Volcano Outdoor School teacher, 2019
Even when the crater of the volcano is not visible and the landscape is shrouded in low-hanging clouds, the setting of Volcano Outdoor School offers a place-based learning experience. Students can stand amongst noble fir trees steadily working to repopulate the blast zone and see how blown down trees provide fertile habitat for the growth of new huckleberries. To study the impact of volcanoes within the 1980 blast zone is an incredible way to build awareness and inspire appreciation about the power of volcanoes.
Volcano Outdoor School is an outdoor education program focused on community impact and place-based learning. Volcano Outdoor School provides opportunities for students to connect to Mount St. Helens, to learn about the impacts of volcanic eruptions and to become more aware of volcanic hazards in their own communities. Of over 1500 students that attended Volcano Outdoor School in 2019, the majority come from communities living within 50-100 miles of Mount St. Helens, Mount Rainier or Mount Hood. As one student writes, “it is important to know about the world we’re living in and science helps to expand your learning about the Earth and what’s happening to it, so we can help improve it.”
Volcano Outdoor School is not just for those who can afford the cost of a day or overnight field trip. Staff at the Mount St. Helens Institute work hard to fundraise money to provide subsidized experiences to allow all students the opportunity to access the magic of Mount St. Helens. Volcano Outdoor School is one of the many programs offered by the Mount St. Helens Institute in which financial assistance is available.
As the Science Education Coordinator with the Mount St. Helens Institute, it is my job to facilitate many different types of Volcano Outdoor School programs that occur as both day and overnight field trips. I arrived at the Mount St. Helens Institute with experience working at several other similar environmental education organizations. The student-centered focus of our activities, depth of content and connection to real-world science distinguishes Volcano Outdoor School from other outdoor education programs. 2019 was a particularly gratifying season for our education team. I feel privileged to work alongside an amazing cohort of science educators and to have learned from many hundreds of students, chaperones and teachers who came to Mount St. Helens to explore and learn.
The Return of Bill Nye
In honor of the 40th Eruptiversary, Bill Nye the Science Guy joins us for two nights of undeniable conversation about science, climate change, and how we can all work together to move mountains. Plus, Bill will answer questions from the audience. Proceeds will benefit the Mount St. Helens Institute.
Portland -Friday, May 15, 2020 at 7:30 pm
Seattle - Saturday, May 16, 2020 at 7:30 pm
- Winter 2019
- Goat Marsh
- Roundtrip: 2.8 miles
- Winter Roundtrip: 8.6 miles
- Difficulty: easy
- Elevation Gain: 180 feet
- Winter Elevation Gain: 880 feet
- High Point: 2930 feet
- Best Season: Year round
Trail Notes: Northwest Forest Pass or Interagency Pass required at Kalama Horse Camp Trailhead; Stay on the trail within the Goat Marsh Research Area; mosquitoes can be fierce early in the season; Always practice Leave No Trace Principles.
Trail Highlights: exceptional old-growth forest, excellent wildlife viewing opportunities, stunning views of Mount St. Helens from the west
Directions to Trailhead
From Woodland (Exit 21 on I-5) follow SR 503 east for just shy of 28 miles turning left onto FR 81 (before reaching Cougar). Then Follow this (paved road for 8.7 miles to Kalama Horse Camp and Trailhead for Kalama Ski Trail (winter access). For spring to summer, continue another 2.9 miles east on FR 81 and then bear left onto graveled FR 8123. Drive for another .5 mile to the trailhead on your left.
A beautiful spot with a violent past, Goat Marsh owes its existence to intense volcanic eruptions and industrious beaver activity. Composing of two small lakes and a sprawling marsh at the base of Goat Peak, this tranquil wetland complex was created several hundred years ago when Mount St Helens unleashed a series of pyroclastic flows (fast-moving currents of hot gas and rock) down the Coldspring Creek drainage. The flows blocked the creek and created the marsh. Beaver colonies moved in and created the two lakes.
The hike to the marsh is easy, and the view of Mount St Helens from across the lakes is stunning—especially in the winter when the volcano is shrouded in white. But the views are just a small reason of why this place is special. In 1974 nearly 1,200 acres of the marsh was established as a Research Natural Area (RNA) by the Forest Service to: “represent an array of mountain wetland communities-marshlands, swamps, bogs, and ponds, and xeric noncommercial lodgepole pine forests which characterize youthful pyroclastic flows, mudflows, and alluvial surfaces associated with Cascadian volcanoes.”
The forest here is especially remarkable containing one of the finest stands of old-growth noble firs in the state—including the largest noble fir in the world. According to Darvel and Darryl Lloyd of the Cascade Forest Conservancy, the fir “is located in a 70-acre stand that contains the highest wood volume per acre of any research plot in the world outside of the California coast redwoods.” The tree was discovered by Robert Van Pelt (a forest ecologist who started the Washington Big Tree Program) and named the Goat Marsh Giant. It stands nearly 265 feet tall, measures more than 8 feet dbh (diameter breast height), and is believed to be more than 300 years old.
From spring through fall, start your hike from the small trailhead on FR 8123. The first 0.2 miles are actually on the Kalama Ski Trail. Walk through a lodgepole pine forest along the edge of an old lahar and reach the junction with the Goat Marsh Trail. Then head right passing an old gravel pit and soon coming to a split rail fence marking the entrance to the Goat Marsh Research Area.
The trail continues over a small rise adorned with fine Douglas-firs and noble firs. You’ll soon be able to see the marsh through the trees. The way then comes to the first of two small ponds in the marshy expanse. Enjoy a good view across it to 4,965-foot Goat Mountain, a plug dome volcano (its roof composed of a “dome” of solid lava). The trail then skirts a marshy cove and rounds the small lake coming to a point above a long beaver dam. The trail continues a little farther reaching water’s edge at the second lake at 1.4 miles. Gaze out across the marsh’s golden sedges to Mount St Helens. Late in the day when the sun is hitting the volcano at a low angle, the view is stunning. Admire the view too of Butte Camp Dome, which like Goat Mountain is also a plug dome volcano.
If you’re intent on visiting during the winter, Goat Marsh makes for a great avalanche-free snowshoe or cross country ski trip. From the day use area at the Kalama Horse Camp follow the Kalama Ski Trail east. While it’s open to both skiers and snowshoers, the trail is primarily used by skiers. If you’re snowshoeing, remember not to walk on the ski tracks. The trail ascends traversing attractive forest on a high bluff above the Kalama River. At 0.8 mile it merges with the Toutle Trail. At 1.9 miles it parts way with that trail heading left and coming to FR 81 at 2.3 miles. Cross the road and continue on a gentle climb coming to the Goat Marsh Trail at 3.1 miles. Now enter the RSA and enjoy the old growth forest and Goat Marsh lakes in their snowy winter attire.
Treading Softly on the Land
Enjoying the Sound of Silence!
Some folks can’t fathom the idea of running, walking, or hiking without music playing. Yes, music can be inspiring, calming, and motivating—but it can also be an affront on the sanctity of nature and to other trail users who seek solace in silence. If you must listen to music while recreating on backcountry trails, leave the wireless speakers at home and use earplugs. Loud music can startle wildlife and harass other trail users who come to the backcountry to get away from the noise that is ever so present in our urban areas. In the backcountry, the sounds of chickadees, thrushes, cascading creeks, and chirping Douglas squirrels is far more soothing than anything blaring out of an electronic gadget.
Map: Green Trails Mount St Helens 332S
Guidebook: Day Hiking Mount St. Helens by Craig Romano and Aaron Theisen (Mountaineers Books)
Managing Agency: Mount St Helens National Volcanic Monument
Winter means Adventure at Mount St. Helens
Explore popular destinations around the monument. Saunter through old-growth forests, trek to June Lake, or head into the mouth of the Ape Cave this winter. Our guided programs are tailored to all skill levels.
Join our experienced guides on this unique trip to the rim of Mount St. Helens. After reaching the summit, participants will be able to carve their way down the volcano, on their skis or splitboards. This one day summit attempt is for those looking to develop the skills necessary to travel safely in the backcountry.
Want to spend the night on the mountain? Join our guides this winter and camp on the mountain.
Big News for 2020 Views and Brews
We're shaking things up, but not too much; it's a bad idea to shake a beer. Want to stay informed as details bubble to the surface?
Sign up for our Views and Brews announcement list to ensure you get the latest information sent directly to your inbox.
Become a Volcano Naturalist
Become an expert on the volcano in your backyard through the Volcano Naturalist Program with the Mount St. Helens Institute. As a Volcano Naturalist, you will discover all aspects of Mount St. Helens' geological, biological, and cultural history, learning from experts in the field. The 12-week course will meet at the Woodland Community Center in Woodland, WA on Tuesday evenings between January 28th and May 5th, 2020, plus three additional Saturday field trips. Learn more and register here.