Exploring the backcountry of the Mount Saint Helens National Volcanic Monument gives you incredible insights into the force of the mountain’s blast and nature’s ability to recover. Here in the face of the blast zone, trunks of giant Douglas firs stand tall and lifeless, driftwood-like remnants of the eruption still marking the event. Yet, the ground beneath them is now covered with grasses and shrubs. Hawks circle above and elk herds and mountain goats have returned to browse the grass.

Just before I rounded a corner on the Mount Margaret range, I heard the sound of hooves. In only a few seconds, the family of mountain goats I startled was perched on a rock outcropping to my left. Another unexpected highlight and reward for simply putting the pack on and walking.

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