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Coldwater Lake Tuesday, April 14, 2009

My brother Stuart came out here to visit over the Easter weekend (he works for the federal government in Canada, so it was a four-day weekend for him), so we did a bunch of touring around. The weather wasn't particularly cooperative—sometimes dry, but almost continuously overcast—but I tried to show him some of the best sights anyway.

[left] Some
40 feet (713 m) long and 370 feet (113 m) above its namesake stream, the Hoffstadt Creek Bridge is the highest and longest of the 14 bridges on Washington State Route 504, better known as the Spirit Lake Memorial Highway. The bridge was built in 1991.

The "big ticket" point on the itinerary was Saturday's trip to the Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. It is still a bit early in the season, but at least it was pretty quiet. The last seven miles of the highway and the two visitor centers closest to the mountain were closed. But we were able to park at Coldwater Lake and hike around there. Still, even though we were just 7 miles from the rim of the crater, we barely got a glimpse of the mountain through the low cloud cover.

[right] Perrie poses at a viewpoint near the southwest end of Coldwater Lake. [below] Coldwater Lake was formed by the 1980 eruption of Mt. St. Helens when a landslide dammed Coldwater Creek. The hillsides around the lake are covered in the stumps of trees killed when the mountain exploded. Much of the timber in the blast zone was recovered by logging crews shortly after the event.

[right] Standing on a tree stump, Stuart photographs the scene inside the blast zone.

As we started our walk, we found a sign warning that there had been reports of a mountain lion in the area. It didn't take long for us to find evidence of our own (below). It was readily apparent why a mountain lion would be present, as plenty of elk clearly were as well. (below right). Soon enough, we had direct evidence of both creatures coming in contact with each other right beside the trail.

[left] Perrie and Stuart capture a nearly-complete elk skeleton found beside the Coldwater Lake trail. Almost all of the major bones were there, and the carcass was fresh enough that some cartilage and colour remained on the bones. [below] Perrie studies the animal's anatomy. [below left] The skull was missing, but the jaws remained.

[left] I believe this is a mark left by an elk rubbing his antlers against the tree. If you click on the picture for a closer look, you can see hairs trapped in the bark and sap.

(On the way back to I-5, we saw a herd of more than a dozen elk grazing on a hillside high above the highway. Too far away for a decent photo without my telephoto lens.)


Virtuos Violins said...

At first glance in one of the photos, Stuart looks like he's getting romantic with a rock.