Mt. St. Helens Backpack Hike with Danni
Four-day backpacking trip with my friend Danni on the Sheep Canyon, Loowit, and Blue Lake trails, Mt. St. Helens.

We thought it would be neat to stargaze high on the slopes of a volcano that exploded during our lifetimes, so we headed up the Sheep Canyon trail to the junction with the Loowit trail on the western slopes of Mt. St. Helens. Despite what my map showed, there was no water within miles of our epic hammock camp, but that didn't stop us from enjoying two sunsets, two nights of stargazing, and two sunrises in a surreal landscape of violent destruction juxtaposed with delicate mosses, regrowth, wildflowers, and seedlings.

Day one we hiked a total of 7.5 miles & 2293 feet total elevation from the Blue Lake trailhead (the Sheep Canyon trailhead no longer exists) to the Sheep Canyon trail, and on up to the intersection of the Sheep Canyon trail and Loowit trail. From there we scouted for water (there isn't any, despite what the map shows) and eventually decided to make camp about 1/4 mile south of the Loowit trail/Sheep Canyon trail junction, where we could stargaze, but where there was no water.

Day two we followed the Loowit trail north along the west side of Mt. St. Helens and then down (west) to the Toutle River, where we collected 16.5 pounds (7.5 liters) of water, which we schlepped back up via the same (incredibly jaw-dropping) route to our high camp for a second night of hammock stargazing high on the flank of a volcano that exploded during our lifetimes. 7.6 miles and 2042 feet total elevation gain (and decent.)

Day three we hiked back down to the lush Sheep Canyon camp, where we enjoyed the abundance of water and another night of cloudless stargazing, with a couple side trips to the Sheep Canyon Falls viewpoint. 5.3 miles, 260 feet ascent and 1188 feet decent total.

Day four we returned to the Blue Lake trailhead, with a stop for a swim (dip, really...brrrrr!) in frigid Blue Lake. 3.9 miles, 424 foot ascent and 837 foot decent total.

Sane people would camp at the Sheep Canyon trail/Loowit trail junction and day hike the loop from there. We are clearly not sane people...but both agreed that it was worth all of the energy we spent hauling stuff (and water for two days!) up to our high camp for two nights of stargazing, sunsets, and sunrises in a most epic location!
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