Photo Journey: The Restricted Area of Mount St. Helens

Taking the Galaxy S6 for a hike! Image courtesy of Beth Santos.

Last week I headed off to Portland, Oregon on behalf of Wanderful to complete a week of being “real-life” Cheryl Strayed while hiking through the Pacific Northwest. This amazing trip was sponsored by Corning Incorporated, known for their incredible Corning® Gorilla® Glass. The glass is found on a number of mobile devices, including the Samsung Galaxy S6, which we used exclusively on our trip.

I took on the adventure with an elite team of travel influencers, including Mariellen Ward of Breathe Dream Go, Teri Johnson of Travelista, and JD Andrews of EarthXplorer. We were known as the “Gorilla Glass 4” — we even had jackets.

Our duty: Share the amazing wonders of the Pacific Northwest, and see if we could capture it all using only a Samsung Galaxy S6 phone.

Trying Out the Samsung Galaxy S6

We started our journey with DSLRs in hand, our “fancy cameras,” as we were unsure if the Galaxy S6 would be able to play in the big leagues. But our DSLRs quickly fell to the wayside as we found ourselves able to flawlessly capture the most high-quality video and images we’d ever seen. Fun things that we could do with the phones include:

  • Taking a picture simply by holding the phone up and saying “Cheese!”
  • zooming in and out while recording video by pinching and releasing the screen
  • Going “pro” by adjusting for macro images, and even taking (what ended up to be hilarious) images that were accompanied by up to nine seconds of sound

Yup, we’d be just fine with our new camera phones, and with ones that were equipped with Gorilla Glass 4, which dramatically improves protection against drops, we even knew they’d fare well on our first (and most challenging) adventure – hiking the restricted area of Mount St. Helens.

Making Friends with Helen

car

A car crushed by the volcanic eruption, miles from the center of the volcano. The family that was using this car was hiking along a portion of the “blue zone,” which was deemed safe. They were killed in the eruption. Image by Beth Santos.

Mount St. Helens erupted 35 years ago today on May 18, 1980. It’s known as the deadliest and most economically destructive volcanic event in the history of the United States. Though there was a general idea that the volcano would erupt at some point, no one really knew exactly when. Not only that, but when it did erupt, it erupted horizontally – spewing lava and ash that killed 57 people and destroyed 185 miles of highway.

A portion of the volcano was preserved both for scientific study and as a memorial to those who had died in this tragic natural disaster. Since the eruption, only 200 people had entered the area that we would enter. It was probably one of the coolest things I’d seen – and I’ve now officially become the subject of jealousy from my geologist friends.

Of course, I wouldn’t leave these adventures for myself, so I’ve captured some amazing photos to share with my Wanderful sisters. Now far more than 200 of us will have seen the “rebirth” of Mount St. Helens.

Here are the photos we took with our Samsung Galaxy S6s:

Entering the Restricted Zone

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These are images of the Mount St. Helens area as you approach it from the road. In the first two pictures you can see a mixture of live and dead trees. Since the most recent eruption happened only 35 years ago, there’s still a long way to go before the forest will regenerate itself.

The third image shows the entryways to the exceedingly more “off-limits” places. As we hike farther north, you will see that the trees fall away and the plants become very tiny and sparse.

Some of the Amazing Details

pumice

This is pumice, the same kind of stone we often use to exfoliate our feet in fancy spa experiences. The rock is incredibly light – you could probably toss the one shown here to someone and they’d be able to catch it with ease.

flower

This is one of the few and incredibly beautiful species of flowers that exist on the mountain. Its familiar name is “Indian’s Paintbrush.” I know you won’t believe me, but I did ZERO editing on this picture and used NO filters. The truly incredible color and detail you see here is all real.

lupine

This is lupine, one of the few plants that exists in even the highest places on the mountain. We were the first people to have ever hiked the restricted area in the rain. It was cold and wet, but we ended up with some amazing photos, like this one of the lupine with dew from the misty air as we neared the top.

water

As you get closer to the top, the colors really dull, especially if the few plants there haven’t seen water in a while. But when it rains, the colors pop. The photo above is some lime-green moss living by one of the small streams along the mountain. It’s as if, here, nature is really fighting to come back to life.

Hiking + Learning: An Eco-Adventure

Beth and team

Me with our guide, Lindsay, who has been studying the mountain for years. 

We had an amazing team of Mount St Helens Institute volunteers and local biologists with us to guide us through some of the beautiful sights we encountered on the way up the trail. Having them there to explain the background of every “wow” was an incredible addition to our eco-adventure.

Below is a video I took of one of the many explanations given by Washington State university professor John Bishop along the way of what we were seeing around us:
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1hUrjlfZ7uo]

mud flowers

These are mud flows that we encountered many times along our trek up the volcano. The mountain is covered with different colors of rocks, each from a different volcanic eruption. The reddish color comes from the oxidation of the iron inside the rock.

Beth

This is me towards the top of Mount St. Helens. We didn’t hit the crater because, as you can see behind me, the fog was rolling in so thickly that even the guides had to keep checking with each other to make sure they were on the right track. This wasn’t normal – many days on the top of the volcano are sunny – but today was particularly rainy. When it comes to hiking an active volcano, safety is the absolute top priority, but our experience was incredible nonetheless.

view

Here’s an image of the view, blanketed in beautiful, thick fog.

team

Here is our team, celebrating our first victory as the Gorilla Glass 4! A special thanks to our amazing Mount St. Helens Institute guides who traveled, laughed, and shared their knowledge with us. What an incredible way to start off a week of tough drops with our friends Corning and Samsung.

Want to win a Samsung Galaxy S6?

Our team is psyched to give away six Samsung Galaxy S6 smartphones over the next few weeks (May 18 – May 29)! This, of course, will happen ONLY if you follow along on our adventures here and on Twitter using the hashtag #GorillaGlass4. Click here for your chance to win.

Editor’s note: This blog post was sponsored by Corning Incorporated. However, all opinions are our own, and we stand by them! Click here for Wanderful’s full disclosure statement.

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