Subalpine fir, my favorite tree on 7/3/13

My favorite tree at the moment is Abies lasiocarpa, subalpine fir.  It’s long overdue to bring Pacific Northwest native trees into this blog and I didn’t plan to start with this one.  But Wednesday, I spent the most of the day with this view while hiking up Mt St Helens:


And not only viewing it, but huffing and puffing and dragging my out-of-shape body (in addition to a supply of drinking water that included 2 liters MORE than I needed!) up and over endless miles of boulders.  And then more boulders.


And after the endless miles of boulder fields comes the steep section of scree and ash.  This is where your 12-year old son’s companion has gotten impatient and forged ahead without him, following his not-out-of-shape mom. You are left racking your brain to find any positive motivation for a suddenly obstinate adolescent who is cursing you with every step, stopping and threatening not to progress any further every 5th step, and finally lies down motionless, saying nothing.


Sorry for the strange angle on above photo, but I was distraught at the idea that I would have to hike back down a section I had barely been able to climb in order to kick my kid’s skinny butt up to the summit. Luckily, when he noticed me approaching he found enough energy to sprint the last 100 yards up, arriving ahead of his mom. Naturally.

But when you get to the rim of Mt St Helens crater and the end of your 4,500 foot elevation journey, everything is suddenly awesome. (What a gorgeous day it was to be up there!)



Until you realize you have to traverse all that ash and sand and scree, and boulders AGAIN!

And so now you understand why I was so enraptured by the sight of this lovely tree in close proximity. It signaled the end of the toughest part of the climb and descent, only 900 feet down over 2 easy miles back through the forest to the climbers’ bivouac.


Forgive me for not including any actual details about this tree species in this post.  I’m still very tired.  But I don’t have any regrets.  Mt St Helens summit is a hike I highly recommend, especially for those living in the Portland area.  It only takes a little advance planning and a small fee to purchase a permit between April 1- Oct 31. If you try it you’ll undoubtedly experience a great sense of accomplishment at reaching the summit. But let me know if you also experience joy at returning to the timberline.


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4 Responses to Subalpine fir, my favorite tree on 7/3/13

  1. Julie Fukuda says:

    Having been up Mt.Fuji too many times, I recall how welcoming the tree line becomes … even the small scrubby stuff. And that volcanic rock is plenty hard on shoes. Tell the teenager he is lucky not to have made the climb with a cast of thousands!

  2. I was exhausted just reading about your trek…nice tree though!

  3. Ricki Grady says:

    Hang in there…the kid will reflect on this as a favorite memory many (or even a few) years from now.

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