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Trip Report: Mount St. Helens Loop – Ape Canyon to Smith Creek

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Mount St. Helens

A little exercise, occasional solitude, and a few pretty views are all I need to have a great backcountry adventure. But every now and then I find that my expectations have been set far too low and the stunning beauty of a new place overwhelms me. In times like those I try to remember just how fortunate I am.

Earlier this week, Annie and I took a trip to the east side of Mount St. Helens to explore a 28-mile backpacking loop a friend had recommended. We were blown away by how remarkably beautiful, surprisingly diverse, and unexpectedly secluded the route was.

Here’s a quick post to share some of my favorite photos and notes on new gear I’m testing. I’m also working on a full trip guide for anyone interested in exploring the same route: Ape Canyon Trailhead to the Loowit Trail to Windy Ridge to Smith Creek to Lava Canyon. Enjoy!

New Gear:

NEW MOUNTAIN HOUSE MEALS – Mountain House recently released three new meal favors that are very tasty: Chicken Fried Rice, Italian Style Pepper Steak with Rice and Tomatoes, and Biscuits and Gravy. All the meals were excellent, but we especially enjoyed the chicken fried rice and the biscuits and gravy. We definitely recommend giving them a try. Full review here.

FYRESTIK MAGNESIUM FIRE STARTER – A small magnesium fire starter can be a useful tool in nasty weather. The Fyrestik is similar to other magnesium starters, but it has a small reservoir for a kerosene soaked cotton ball, which is a nice touch. 

ENLIGHTENED EQUIPMENT REVELATION QUILT – I absolutely love the Revelation Quilt that I’ve been testing. It can lay completely flat like a blanket or cinch up tight to keep increase warmth. It has exactly the type of flexibility I’m looking for in a backcountry sleeping bag and I highly recommend it. I’ll post a full review on the site soon. Full review here.

GOSSAMER GEAR GORILLA BACKPACK – Annie and I have been testing the new Gorilla backpack over the past few weeks. We both think it’s an absolutely fantastic backpack that’s extremely comfortable and has great features. I’ll post a full review on the site soon, but we both give this pack two thumbs way up. Full review here.

PACK-N-WIPE COMPACT TOWELS – These lightweight paper towels pack small but expand big. They’re a surprisingly durable and absorbent way to clean off the grime from a long day of hiking. 

SAUCONY PEREGRINE 5 TRAIL RUNNING SHOES – I’ve worn the Peregrine 5 running shoes on my last few trips and I really love them. They’re light, they have a great fit, and they provide excellent traction. Annie’s shoes didn’t have enough traction for this trip, so she’s planning to try out the women’s Peregrine 5 running shoes soon.