Tuesday, July 14, 2015

A Glimpse of Mount St. Helens

After months of packing and unpacking and living with self-doubt every inch of the way, I am finally settled and doing what I love most--traveling!  From my new home base along the Columbia River, I can roam north and south and find an endless stream of wonders.  One such wonder, only 90 miles away, is Mount St. Helens.
Last Saturday, because there was a break in the heat, we jumped into the van and drove up here.  Of course, what we didn't take into consideration was the cloud-cover.  (Duh?  That's why it was cooler.)  We arrived at McClellan Viewpoint, eager to catch our first glimpse of this notorious volcanic mountain, but it was nowhere to be seen.  The horizon was covered with a swath of white clouds.

We went further and stopped at the Pine Creek Information Station.  A young man at the desk told us there was no seeing the mountain that day, even at Windy Ridge, our final destination.  "I suggest you take a hike through Lava Canyon or go to the Lower Falls."

Because we live so close, we simply shrugged and took his suggestion.  We would come back another day.  A sunny clear day!  However, on the way to Lava Canyon, we noticed the clouds to the left of us were starting to part.  AND there she was!  Mount St. Helens.
For a brief five minutes, we got to see her.  Then the clouds covered her again.  My hands were shaking as I took these photographs.

I was a young woman living in San Francisco when this volcano exploded on May 18, 1980.  My husband and I actually considered packing up our van and driving up to Washington to see the event.  Instead we sat glued to our t.v. and watched with horror and fascination as the entire Northern side of this beautiful mountain, known as the "Fuji-san of America", collapsed.  Intense heat immediately melted the glaciers and snow and caused a roaring river of water, rock and debris to flow down its sides.  A tall column of ash shot upward and then rained down on the entire eastern part of Washington State and  Portland.  Fifty-seven people lost their lives.  Thank goodness we hadn't been there!

I remember reading stories of some of them and how they refused to leave the mountain.  They had several months of warning.  Regular earthquakes started to rattle the area as early as March that year.  Then a steaming vent opened and the northside began to bulge.  "Why didn't they leave?" I wondered out loud.

"They were in denial," my travel buddy speculated.  "They simply refused to believe she would blow."

Thirty-five years later, a gray landscape is becoming green again.  It is a cycle that has occurred many times through history.  It will happen again. 

The Cascade mountains all have the potential of erupting.  They are part of the Pacific Rim of Fire that includes 160 active volcanoes.  So, believe, people.  Believe.  If the earth begins to shake, get the hell out.  Hopefully, like before, there will be months of warning.

We thought about this for the rest of the day.  As we walked through lava flows, we discussed the possibility of climbing to the crater's rim.  It's a steep climb, but not a hard one.  Maybe we should do it now, while we still can. (And while it's relatively calm.)  "Make this our first Cascade," my travel buddy said.  "After all it's the easiest.   No longer as high as the other ones!"

1 comment:

  1. Great pics.
    Thank you so much for your lovely comments