Mount St. Helen Trip

Mount St. Helen Trip.





©Photo: Pat Walker 1979





By Pat Walker








Saddling Up.


Bang, the big ramp came down. Kenny peered into the big truck to see the horses. Capital Idea pranced a little and pushed her head side ways to look at Kenny. “Whoa” called Mr. Walker as he started up the ramp. “Take it easy horses.” Mr. Walker always spoke to the horses in a quiet voice, they settle down when he talked to them. “Catch your horse, Kenny”, Mr. Walker said to his son. Idea stopped at the truck door and lowered her head to look around. Slowly Idea made her way down the ramp. Kenny stood to the side so that if she made an unexpected jump he would not get hurt. His dad had always taught him to be careful with the



Idea was an Appaloosa mare. She was white with black spots on her rump. She was really Kenny’s brother’s horse but he was going to ride her today. His Grandma Akridge was on his horse, Tippy. Grandma had not been on a horse for thirty years so he let her take Tippy this trip. Tippy was also an Appaloosa. His shoulders and neck were black with a white blanket on his rump with black spots. Tippy also had white on the tips of his ears. That’s why Mrs. Walker named him Tippy. Tippy’ s legs were black and white spotted this made him a very colorful Appaloosa.


Each horse made its way down the ramp carefully and then they were tied outside the truck to rings that Mr. Walker had attached on the side of the truck. Mr. Walker handed the saddles down from the truck and Mrs. Walker put them on the horses. When they were all done Mr. Walker took Tippy to the side an got him ready for Grandma Akridge. It had been a long time since Grandma Akridge had ridden so Mr. Walker put a breast collar and a breeching strap on Tippy.


There would be two hills to climb and a steep trail to go down, so the breast collar would hold the saddle in place when the horse was climbing, the breeching would stop the saddle from moving forward when the horse went down the steep trails. Mr. Walker wanted to make sure that Grandma was going to be safe

Kenny had been on many trail rides with his parents so he knew how to ride, even though he was only seven years old. He knew to lean forward when he went up hills, so that he would keep his weight over the front shoulders of the horse. His dad had taught him that the horse could move better with the weight forward.

They were almost ready to go Mrs. Walker had put the saddlebags on the horses while Mr. Walker got Tippy saddled and ready. Mrs. Walker made one last check to see that the lunch was packed and the thermos of hot coffee was in the saddlebags with the cups. The other side of the saddlebag had a few emergency supplies, in case there was any trouble on the trail. So far the Walkers, who had been riding for many years in the mountains, had not been in any accidents.


The parking lot that they were in was large and black topped. It was made for hikers, mountain climbers and horseback riders, that wanted to see the mountain.


St. Helen towered above them and this being August there was no snow in the timber line. Kenny stopped for a minute and looked up at the mountain. It was like a huge slush cone that he got at the fair. Her top was perfect in every way. The rocks called the lizards were off to his right and they looked as their name implied, like a huge lizard creeping up the mountain. Dogs head was in front of him but even turning his head from side to side he could not see the likeness of a dog in the rocky outcroppings. On his left was the trail they would soon be crossing up to Windy pass. The *basalt rocks were a little scary the first time you crossed them. But he had been riding in the St. Helen area since he was a year old held in


Mr. Walker was ready to help Grandma Akridge on the horse. Mr. Walker lead Tippy over to the cut off post that marked the end of the parking area. Kenny held on to Tippy’s bridle to hold him still and grandma could step on the post. Even with the extra height grandma could not reach the stirrup on the saddle, so Mr. Walker picked Grandma up and hoisted her into the saddle. Grandma was not a light load for Tippy but he knew that she was a *green-horn and he stood very still for her. When Mr. Walker had finished adjusting the stirrups to fit grandmas short legs, they were ready to go.

Mrs. Walker was on her * Palomino and Mr. Walker was on his long legged Appaloosa. Kenny had to grab the leather laces that hung from the saddle and pull himself up until he could reach the saddle horn. Idea stood patiently but when Kenny was settled into the saddle, she stamped her feet, restless to be on the move.


Ready to Go.

From the parking lot there was on old road that the trail riders followed to the trail head. Kenny and his mother rode side by side. Mr. Walker stayed beside Grandma Akridge watching and reassuring her Tippy knew he was carrying precious cargo, he walked with no trouble. Kenny looked back to see Grandma and smiled, thinking of the time Tippy rubbed him off on a low hanging branch. He had done it on purpose, but now he would be extra careful with Grandma.


Idea pulled at her bit wanting to stretch out into a fast walk. Mrs. Walker had told Kenny to pull back on the reins and hold her back. The Palomino that Mrs. Walker rode was wanting to move at a fast walk as well. The palomino mare pranced and danced sometimes in a straight line, but most the time in a side step. It was pretty to see, but very uncomfortable. Tippy and Grandma were soon left behind, Mr. Walker stayed close beside grandma in the distance.


The trees were short and had a large circumference. The timber grew slow at the high altitude. The branches were twisted on the mountain side there was no foliage to be seen. The winter storms only allowed the hardies of plants to grow. The higher the road went the smaller and more twisted the trees became. Soon the riders broke into the open and the trees now were scattered and far between. They grew in small clumps of four and five with the protected middle trees growing taller. The outside trees beaten down from the weather leaving them twisted and small.


Mrs. Walker and Kenny waited on a knoll for Grandma and Mr.Walker. They were now well above the tree-line and standing on the side of Mt. St. Helen. They stopped there to look at the beauty of the mountains. The ground was covered with huckleberries Kenny dismounted and gave his reins to his mother. After catching up Kenny’s father dismounted and joined in allowing grandma Akridge to rest and enjoy the beauty. Mt. Margret was behind them and spirit lake was a blue spot under the ridge of Mt. Margret. Kenny knew every rock on the trail above spirit lake. The trail followed Spirit Lake and then went up over Mt. Margret crossing a Glaser and leading down to St. Helen Lake and then back to the highway.


Off to the Left was Mt. Rainier framed in a blue sky, with a ridge of sharp cliffs below, ahead just to the right was Mt. Adams.


There was a cool breeze coming off of Mt. St. Helen and Kenny pulled his coat shut and buttoned it up. “We’d better go, “ said Mr. Walker. Kenny again mounted Idea and Mrs. Walker lead out to the trail. The trail narrowed to single file and they started to cross the side of the mountain covered in basalt rocks. The small basalt pebbles were smashed where the trail was used, On the sides of the trail you could still see the small pumice rocks. Kenny had played with the rocks many times because they looked like no other rocks, when you would throw them in water they would float. The rocks were from the eruption of Mount St. Helen over a hundred years ago. When the horses stepped close to the side of the trail, the rocks would roll and tumble to the bottom of the mountain. Kenny knew how his Grandmother felt right now. He felt it the first time he rode across the area. Your mouth gets dry and there is a funny knot in your stomach; It is a long way to the bottom and the rocks seem to roll forever.



Windy Pass.



The horses came to the edge of the basalt rock slide. The trail was very narrow between two large rocks. Kenny watched his mother carefully guide her horse to miss scraping her legs on the sharp rock outcroppings. Idea followed and the mare was careful as to where her feet were placed on the rocky trail. Kenny knew without looking that Tippy would be careful of Grandma’s legs. Mr. Walker spoke to his horse as she stepped too close to the sharp rocks. Mr. Walker had only started to break his horse to trail ride in the mountains, so he was careful to guide her.

The riders broke into a small pass. The wind whipped through the pass and the riders pulled their hats down on their heads as to not have them get blown off. Wild flowers bloomed and waved amidst the late grass and made a carpet of color. The view i n the *saddle of the pass was beyond words. To the east was the plains of Abraham. The plain was a huge valley.

that started at the base of Mt. St. Helen and extended out in a fan. It was hemmed in by tall foot

hills covered with trees. There were huge boulders scattered in the valley, that had been cast

down by the mountain. Dry creek beds now in the late afternoon showed a small trickle of muddy water melted off from the snow cap of the mountain. The pattern of the winter snow pack could be traced in the growth of the trees. Some standing tall and straight, others short and twisted, completely deformed from the moving winter snow. In some places there where large rocks piled in a long straight lines.


To the northwest you could look back and see Margaret ridge. The land between was small basalt hills with scattered trees where they were able to find a place to grown. Far below was the ribbon of a highway the riders had ridden up hours before.


To the south was the mountain. They were so far up on it they could barely see the top. One lone tree stood as a tribute to nature’s defiance. The bark was beaten off by the wind and weather, making it look white. The top was full of foliage with a small branch of green at the bottom, but the middle was only a tangle of dead branches. Under a protected nook was a row of trees each trying to protect the other from the ravages of nature.

The riders had dismounted from their horses and sat in silence drinking some hot coffee listening to the wind as it circled in the valley below and played in the grass and flowers.


On the north side of the pass there were sharp rock cliffs that looked as if a master brick mason had laid a huge wall.

The trail down from windy pass was steep and rugged. The horses slowly worked their way down the trail. Thankfully Mr. walker installed a breeching strap on Tippy's saddle as this was one of the places it would come in handy. There were many *switchbacks and they were close together. The weather had taken its toll on some of the switchbacks as they were eroded as the horses came across the ones that were eroded they would sit down on their hunches and slide to their next good footing. Kenny noticed that his parent were watching grandma and Tippy closely and he to found himself watching her. Grandma was silent as they descended the trail. Everyone was able to breathe a sigh of relief once they reached the bottom.


Mr. Walker stated “we should eat are lunch”. Mr. Walker dismounted and proceeded to help grandma dismount. Once on the ground grandma found a log to sit on were Kenny joined her. Mr. Walker retrieved the lunches from the saddlebags and poured some coffee for grandma and himself, Kenny preferred water over coffee so he retrieved his canteen.



The Indian Legend



Kenny turned to his mother and asked “tell the legend of the mountains to grandma” Mrs. walker smiled and started to tell the story.


Many years ago the Gods looked down on the Indian tribes in the Northwest. The chiefs of the four tribes were good leaders, so the gods blessed each chief with a child.

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The chief of the second tribe had a son. This son had a strong body. This boy was not tall, but he had the strength of ten warriors. His strength was so great that he could move all things. He was so strong that none of his tribe would fight him. To remain strong he would work like a horse and bring in the wood for the camp fire. But for all his great strength he too was loving and gentle.






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The chief of the fourth tribe had a beautiful daughter. She was more beautiful than the wild flowers and more poised than the great trees of the forest. Her Laughter was as merry as a babbling brook. She always smiled with the happiness of one who is loved and loves.




Each year all four of the tribes would gather to thank the gods for their great gifts and the chiefs would thank the gods for their children.


All four of the children were the best of friends. They would work together as one, ever year they would give thanks to the gods. one year all the children gathered and each warrior looked differently at the beautiful Indian maiden. Each son struck with love.


Each brave tried in his own way to capture the maiden’s heart. The first son showed the maiden the animals of the forest and how gentle he was. The second showed his great strength to move trees. The third his greatness as a hunter. The maiden loved all three as before. But there was no love between the three sons. The Indian maiden’s heart was heavy with sorrow as the fighting became worse between the three sons. Soon even the tribes were fighting each other because each tribe was proud of its own chief’s son.


The Indian maiden cried to the gods and they called her to a mountain to pray. There while she cried. Her tears turned to snow and she turned to stone. It was then she became the beautiful Mt. St. Helen(Loowit). Perfect in form and lovely to see. The father of the maiden cried in sorrow and rushed to tell the other chiefs. But it was too late for all three sons went to a natural rock bridge that crossed the Columbia river “Called the Bridge of the Gods”. The sons met in the middle and there they fought for Loowit. The fathers came and called out to their sons of the loss of the beautiful Indian maiden.

The grieving fathers cried out to the gods “You have taken the joy from our hearts”. When the news reached all of the tribes and the sons. The mountains and the rivers all were filled with grief and they all trembled with sorrow and cried in pain. The sorrow was so much that the Bridge of the Gods fell into the river below. Each son in his sorrow went back to his own land. The gods took pity on each son and each of the tribes. The first son became Mr. Rainier, (Tahoma) his shoulders showing yet in the snow bent in sorrow. The second son become Mt Adams,(pahto) still strong and powerful. The third became Mt. Hood, (Wy’east) his feather of manhood is there for all to see. There was peace then for each tribe had its beloved to look over them. Each tribe had its mountain.



Plains of Abraham


They rode in and out of the trees following the trail single file. It was warm in the valley because they were protected from the wind. As they were being warmed by the sun their eyes droop in sleepiness. They soon came to a creek bed and the horses stopped to drink. The water was gray and murky unlike most mountain streams. (The same color as the sand that it ran though.) The horses did not seem to mind, but the riders broke out there canteens from home to have a drink. This would be the last water from which the horses could drink so the riders dismounted and waited for the horses to have their fill. Now and then a small tree would try to grow in the sand, they were only inches tall but the tree base would be bigger around than the tree top.


The riders soon reached the taller timber and rode by an abandoned camp sites possibly from hikers. Bright colored poles used by the forest service to measure snow during the winter were scattered sporadically. Riding on, the riders came to a big clearing and a sign that read Plains of Abraham, there were the rocks that they had seen from Windy Pass and the scattered clumps of grass that the horses gathered in mouth full’s. Again small trees tried their best to grow and thrive in the sandy ground with little or no nourishment. The riders were looking now at the back side of Mt. St. Helen from the plains. There was also a view of Mt. Adams that was like a painting. Tall fir trees made the bottom of the picture and soft fluffy clouds framed the snowy peak. Mrs. Walker thought again of the Indian legend and pictured in his mind the strong Indian braves.

Ape Canyon



The horses and riders dropped into a rugged wash that had huge rocks making it difficult for the horse to cross. The horses stepped from the tip of one rock to another and sometimes, misjudging their footing they would slip and the rider’s heart would jump. But each times the horses’ would regain their footing and the party crossed the area safely. Now and again a friendly marmot would stick his head out of his rocky home and see who was intruding, only to quickly withdraw and hide again.

Now they could see the beginning of Ape Canyon. The rocky spot that they had just crossed lead down to the canyon’s floor below, dropping sharply. There was a feeling of expectancy in the riders as they came around the hill and looked at Ape canyon. It was two rock ledges. At the top there was little more than thirty feet stretched between them. They were closer at the top and then flared off wider and then narrowed down again to the canyon floor below.

You could see though the canyon to logging roads behind. A small line of a trail was on the east side of the canyon. From the trail the only way the whole canyon could be seen,

From the trail they were on the only way to see the canyon was to step to the edge of the trail and hang out over the edge, on to a tree or bush. Grandma could not see the importance of seeing the canyon at that price so she quickly retreated to a safe distance on top of the hill to eat lunch. Kenny sat close to his mother and asked to hear the story of the canyon that lay before them.

The Big Foot



It was around the turn of the century or right before, that the area was mined by men up from the Kelso area. These men had a cabin and a mine that was below the canyon. The men were sleeping in the cabin and were awaked when rocks were thrown against the cabin roof and walls.

The men huddled in the cabin waiting for morning when they could see their attackers. The rocks continued through most of the night and come first light they stopped. The men decided to try and get away from the cabin and started out with only their guns and enough provisions to get to Kelso. As the men left their cabin they felt that they were being watched. They followed the trail and soon came to Q spot where they could see the Canyon on the other side. They must have been sitting about where you and I are son.

Here they waited knowing that if they were being followed that the person or thing would have to cross the clear area on the side of the canyon. Then they saw it, huge and covered with hair from head to foot. It stood well over seven feet tall and could not have been a bear as it walked upright like a man. Even at that distance they could smell the strange odor, the same odor they had smelled the entire night before, as the rocks had hit the cabin.

One man sat completely frozen with fear and the other took aim and shot the strange creature. The ape like creature fell tumbling into the canyon below. The men took off in fear to reach the settlement below and to bring help. They were back within a few days but there was no body to be found be it ape or man at the bottom of the canyon. The miners found their cabin totally destroyed and they took what they could salvage and returned over the mountain to find a safer place to mine.

Kenny laid there a minute and pictured the scene in his mind, he could feel the fear that had driven the miners to run and he wondered about the ape like creatures that some called Big Foot.

Mr. Walker called out over the hill to Kenny and his mother” Grandma has got lunch ready”. Kenny and his mother got to their feet and started up the trail to the others above. They were a little reluctant to leave their spot on the trail. Each looked back over their shoulder and again saw the canyon. “Are you coming?” Mr. Walker called again a touch of impatience in his voice.

“Mother” Kenny said, stopping for a moment and looking up at his mother. “Is it true that Mt. St. Helen could become a volcano again?” That’s what they say, dear,” his mother replied”. “Will I see it?” Kenny’s face turned toward the mountain. “I don’t know dear!” His mother looked up at the mountain then. Like a friend the mountain seemed to look back.




Kenny did see the mountain turn into a Volcano.

On May 18, 1980 less than a year after the ride he took with his parents,

Mr. and Mrs. Walker and his grandma Akridge.



©Pat Walker 1981 copied by permission only.


  • green-horn; slang word for a person who is not experience in what they are doing.

*basalt rock; soft volcanic rock that will float in water.

  • Palomino; Is a horse that is yellow in color usually with a light mane and tail.

*Saddle; A saddle or pass is a low area between two taller hills, or mountains.

  • Switchback; sharp turn in a trail or road.

Mount St. Helen Trip

  • Author: 99ranger
  • Published: 2016-12-10 05:35:13
  • Words: 4174
Mount St. Helen Trip Mount St. Helen Trip