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Background Information on Mount St. Helens
On May 18, 1980, a cataclysmic event occurred at Mount St. Helens as the north flank of the volcano slid off in one of the largest landslides in recorded history, unleashing a powerful eruption. This eruption buried 230 square miles of existing old-growth forest with hundreds of feet of volcanic debris. In some places closest to the crater of the volcano, almost no living organisms survived. Ash from the eruption blew across the United States and megatons of logs and volcanic debris clogged up rivers, lakes, and streams. The eruption dramatically reshaped the landscape, creating a mosaic of habitat types that are now home to a diverse suite of birds.
In 1982, the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument was designated to protect the land closest to the volcano as a place for research, recreation, and education. Today, home to more than 80 species of nesting birds, the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument offers unique birding opportunities.
Accessibility: Trips may include a substantial amount of hiking (up to 3.5 miles) depending on the hiking ability and needs of the group.
Rest stops: There are several benches along both sections of the field trip though no section has enough benches for all participants to sit down at once. Resting along the Hummocks trail will involve sitting on rocks and moss and uneven ground along the edge of the trail. Picnic tables are available at the Coldwater Lake Picnic Area which is the meeting location for the field trip.
Sun exposure: Depending on the season and whether the dominant tree type in the forest (alder trees) have leaves, it may be more sunny or shady. The Hummocks trail is ~ 50% shaded.
Amenities: Restrooms are not available at the Hummocks trailhead nor along the trail. Indoor ADA-accessible bathrooms are located at the Coldwater Lake Picnic Area & boat ramp and may be open depending on the season. In fall of 2021, the indoor restrooms at Coldwater Lake Picnic Area were damaged and currently, there are port-a-potties.
Public transit: Public transportation is NOT available for this field trip. Participants are encouraged to carpool. There is a park-and-ride at the Information Center in Castle Rock, Washington, which has free wifi and is a great place to leave vehicles for a day. Another fantastic birding spot along the way and a great spot to meet for a carpool is at the Mount St. Helens Visitors Center at Seaquest State Park (note that Discover parking passes are required).
Cell phone reception: There is NO cell phone reception at the meeting location nor along the drive on WA State Route 504 after leaving the I-5 highway corridor. Please plan in advance.
Distance: Total walking distance of up to 4 miles on uneven terrain.
Elevation changes: Total elevation change of less than 500 feet. The Hummocks trail is a 2.5-mile loop trail that meanders up and down through the landslide deposit from the May 18, 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens. The trail goes up and down hills (hummocks) that vary in height from 30-50’.
Trail tread & average width: The trail tread on the Hummocks trail is majority compact gravel though is uneven and rocky in sections. The surface of the trail is uneven. The trail is wide enough for two people to walk side by side for ¾ of a mile and the remainder wide enough for single file. The remainder of the field trip occurs on a paved ADA-accessible trail and boardwalk.
Pacing: The field trip includes two separate portions: one hike on paved boardwalk trail and one hike on the Hummocks trail. The trip will include hiking the ¼ mile-paved ADA-accessible Coldwater Lake Boardwalk trail for ~ 1.5 hours. The hike along the boardwalk trail will be slow, with frequent stops to view and listen to birds. The group will hike the 2.5-mile Hummocks loop trail in 2.5 – 3 hours. The Hummocks is a faster pace to cover more diverse habitat types and terrain.
Audubon Birding Day Details
- Date: April 29, 3:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
- Class fee: $65 members / $85 non-members
Gina Roberti is a geologist, naturalist and educator who grew up digging quahogs and exploring the shorelines of the Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island (the state with the largest coastline per capita!) amidst ancient metamorphic rocks of the Appalachian Mountains. Since graduating from Brown University with a degree in Geology-Biology, Gina spent several years working as a geoscience educator in various geologic regions in the western U.S., including the Colorado Plateau, Snake River Plain, Klamath-Siskiyou, North Cascades, and presently the active Cascade volcanic range. In each of these places she taught thousands of youth and adults about earth science in a variety of field-based and classroom settings.
Gina currently works with the Mount St. Helens Institute. She strongly believes in the power of education to inspire awareness, appreciation and stewardship for the natural world. When Gina is not working she can be found on long walks or cross country skis, often in the company of birds.
Erin fell in love with birding while working at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. After college, she studied Red-throated Loons, Common Loons and shorebird migration at Grays Harbor, Washington. Erin is passionate about the natural histories of birds, conservation, and advocating for environmental and social justice. She has traveled throughout Latin America and East Africa and loves nothing more than sharing her knowledge and enthusiasm for birds and the natural world, and for all cultures around the world.