Rodent-proof food bag
This section of trail teems with chipmunks, squirrels, and hoary marmots, according to local rangers. The rodents are fun to watch but are known to wreak havoc, targeting campsites for food and scraps. Even hanging your fare isn’t foolproof. Empty your pack and unzip all zippers to keep marmots or chipmunks from chewing through the material, and don’t bring any food into your tent. Package all food, cooking gear, and scented items like toothpaste and chapstick in a bear canister if you have one (they’re not required here), or a chew-proof stuffsack like a Ratsack Cache Bag ($30-$40, armoreoutdoorgear.com). "Squirrels and mice try–and quickly fail–to chew through the steel mesh," says Maine reader Kathy Landry. "I’ve used mine on weeklong trips in the most rodent-infested shelters along the Appalachian Trail–with no breaches."
Western Tanager Consider yourself lucky to spot this stunning–yet shy–red-and-yellow songbird, which often perches on the edges of Spider Meadow. Its coloration comes from a diet of plant-eating insects. The bird then converts pigments from the vegetation. This tanager breeds farther north than any other member of its mostly tropical family. Got an iPhone? Get the iBird Explorer Western App ($10, apple.com) to play its call and lure one in.
See that summit to the south with the huge crater? That’s 8,365-foot Mt. St. Helens, the liveliest of Washington’s five active volcanoes. In the most destructive volcanic event in recorded U.S. history, it famously erupted nearly 30 years ago, killing 57 people, destroying 250 homes, burying 185 miles of highway, and reducing the peak’s elevation by 1,312 feet. According to local Native American legend, the two sons of Tyhee Saghalie, the chief of all gods, both fell in love with the beautiful maiden Loowit. They fought so viciously over her that they created what is now the Columbia Gorge. As punishment, Saghalie turned all three of them into mountains. Loowit became Mt. St. Helens. Discuss: Would you live within 50 miles of this fuming, love-torn peak?