Staying in the Mt St. Helen's area was amazing for many reasons. First, we had great (and free) internet for the first time in weeks. Trey was able to get some testing done and accomplished several uploads he hadn't been able to get done. We have our own internet, but it is expensive, and if we go over our monthly allotment, it costs twice as much. We watch our usage carefully. We carefully planned work and sight-seeing to make the most of daylight and uploads.
Second, the weather was wonderful. Except for our last day there, it was sunny and below 80* our entire stay. We still can't believe that any place would have highs of 75* in July.
The Mount St. Helen's national monument was an incredible experience. We learned so much. We were in our teens when the mountain blew, so we remember many news reports of the explosion. There was much, however we forgot. Seeing obvious devastation and how the new growth is advancing 34 years later captivated our eyes and minds.
First, an overview.
Notice North is facing down. Couldn't help this - that is how the map was on the wall.
A = Interstate 5
B = Visitor's Center
C = RV Park where we stayed
D = Castle Lake and Cold Mountain Learning Center
E = Johnson Ridge Observation Center (about a 40 mile drive from RV Park)
F = Windy Ridge Observation Center (about a 105 mile drive from RV Park)
G = Meta Lake
We visited Mt. St. Helen's in 2002 for part of one day. We rode out to one of the observation areas and took a few pictures. There was no time to learn much about it and we remember little from that day. This trip we had more time to absorb the information and we both feel we have a better grasp on the events of May 18, 1980.
If you are so inclined, the National Forest Service produced a great video that gives a very brief overview. It was a part of a longer video we watched at one of the visitor's center and is well worth the time, just 3 minutes long.
Here is a summary of three partial days of sight seeing while were here.
We drove to the Windy Ridge Observatory. It was probably about 30 miles as the crow flies, but we had to drive 105 miles to get there. Love those mountain roads! Although you could see the crater from the parking lot, we hiked up a long series of steps to the top of a this ridge. The green arrow is where the stairs stop and the red area is the viewing deck. Because the side of the mountain fell off before the eruption, the blast zone for Mt. St. Helen's was massive. Windy Ridge is only 4 1/2 miles from the crater and you can see from the photo below how slowly life is returning to this area.
This was the view of the crater from the observation deck.
Down below the observation deck is Spirit Lake. Before the eruption, it was a great tourism center with YMCA camps and resorts dotting the shores. It is said that about 2,000 people could be found enjoying themselves around the lake at any given time. The eruption caused the lake level to rise 250 feet because the landslide went into (and under) the lake. The white area you see to the right of the picture is a log mat from fallen trees from 1980 - still there. Because of early warnings (the mountain woke up about ten weeks before the eruption), only one person was at Spirit Lake when the eruption occurred, and he was there by choice. You can see that some life has returned to the area, but trees are still very small after 34 years.
After Windy Ridge and Spirit Lake, we went to Meta Lake ~ 9 miles from the crater.
We found this picture taken by a photographer in 1992, twelve years after the eruption.
Then the same photographer took this picture in 2008, 28 years after the eruption.
Here are some pictures from that same lake when we visited last week (2014).
[caption id="attachment_2292" align="alignnone" width="450"] Trail to Meta Lake[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_2293" align="alignnone" width="450"] Meta Lake looking NW[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_2291" align="alignnone" width="450"] The uprooted trees were very interesting[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_2290" align="alignnone" width="450"] A sunbather poses for a picture along the trail.[/caption]
Like Spirit Lake, Meta Lake was within the blast zone and devastated by the blast. But because of deep snow cover and some protection from a ridge above, reforestation is occurring at a faster pace. Also, the landslide did not affect Meta Lake. In a lateral blast volcano, location is important.
The lands set aside for the Mount St. Helen's monument have not been touched, only studied since the eruption. Although some vegetation is returning, you can see dead and blown-down trees from 1980. All trees in the area fell in the direction of the blast: kinda like giant matchsticks all lined up. The first shot was within 6 miles of the blast zone.
After driving over a ridge or two, you can see that more regrowth has occurred.
Here is similar comparison from the east entrance. Blast Zone from about 7 miles away (crater is behind the clouds)
Blast Zone from about ten miles away. Notice how much greener and how many more trees? (the first picture was taken on that ridge just above the trees in the picture below.)
We were also able to take a short hike along the top of the landslide in the Toutle River Valley (letter D on the map above.) We were amazed at the regrowth of this area in the past 12 years. We do not remember any trees from our first visit. Not saying they weren't there, but not very big at all.
Here is a new lake formed by the landslide and mud flow from the eruption. We walked along that boardwalk you can see in the center of the image.
Mt. Rainier was completely covered by clouds when we visited here in 2002. This year, we saw many views! This shot was taken about 60 miles from Rainier. That is one big mountain!
Being from Texas, we aren't really used to wildflowers in July. Here in the Washington Cascades, they are everywhere! Below are just a few samples. There are so many more!
We finally made it out of the blast zone and decided to take one more short hike through an old growth forest to a waterfall. This is Iron Creek Falls.
[caption id="attachment_2288" align="alignnone" width="450"] Iron Creek Falls[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_2286" align="alignnone" width="450"] Why do all mountain hiking have to be either up or down?[/caption]
We have so many pictures and we learned so much from our visit to this area. So much about life and death and renewal and time and growth filled our thoughts. It has given us many ponderings for some time to come.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ,
he is a new creation;
old things have passed away;
behold, all things have become new.
2 Corinthians 5.17