Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Mount St. Helens

We were in Europe on our way to Australia when we heard that Mount St. Helens had erupted on May 18, 1980. each time I have been in the Portland area it has been cloudy and even though there was a good chance of rain, we decided to chance it and try to see something of it.

If you don't know much about the event, it would be worthwhile clicking on this link.

We left about 9 am and returned shortly before 5 pm.

The drive out of Portland and up the freeway was somewhat rainy but it cleared up a little when we turned east towards the mountain. We stopped at a visitors center near Toutle and went through their exhibit. They have a good video showing the eruption and the aftermath.

The clouds were thickening again.

This really caught my attention. When the volcano erupted, the wind blew the ash towards the east. This shows the thickness of the ash and you can see how thick it was so far east. Our bnb host was in Yakima at the time and she remembered the daylight completely disappearing. It was pitch black and 4 to 5 inches of ash fell on the town.

Click on the photo to enlarge it.

We left the exhibit as the rain bucketed down. It's the heaviest rain I have seen for years in the US.

We walked to another look out through a forest with lots of moss on the trees.

It was difficult to see anything through the low clouds.

As we returned to the car it started to hail.

Still we persisted heading east hoping that it would clear up.

We stopped at the Hoffstadt Bluffs where you get a good view of the North Toutle River.

Thierty-six years later, you can still see how the mud and debris from the volcano scoured the valley.

No, not the President. This Truman was 84 years old and lived in a lodge by Spirit Lake at the foot of the mountain. He became famous for refusing to evacuate and now presumably what is left of his body lies under 150' of volcanic debris. They never found him.

Back on the road, we came across a long high bridge. The sign on the right indicates that we would be entering the blast zone.

The road is actually a very nice road to drive, even though there are a few logging trucks.

The clouds never dissipated.

Another valley which was filled with logs after the eruption. This was at the Forest Learning Center which is run by Weyerhauser, one of the largest wood companies in the USA. They owned some of the destroyed forest and have been replanting parts of it ever since.

A photo taken at the time of the valley clogged with fallen trees.

Photo of two photos. Same location and viewpoint, different date.

Some wild flowers.

The Forest Learning Center.

The photo doesn't really show the curious effect of layers of the branches of the trees.

We stopped at a viewpoint just before the Johnston Ridge Observatory at the end of the road. We couldn't see anything because of the cloud. The Observatory is name after a volcanologist who died when the volcano erupted.

Eventually we came to the parking lot of the Observatory. It was raining and snowing and the temperatures were in the 30's. These slopes would have been covered with trees prior to the eruption. Now some of the vegetation is coming back.

Empty part of the parking lot.

However there were quite a few cars with people inside hoping for the weather to clear.

We were hungry about 1:30 om and so M toddled over and got a couple of luke-warm hamburgers while I had a nap. We debated whether to stay longer and decided to leave. I figured that there was a reasonable chance we would come back to Seattle some time and we could rent a car on a fine day and come back to see it.

We headed back down and Marianne glimpsed something at the lower down viewpoint. The lower part of Mount St. Helens was visible. We quickly parked and I snapped this picture in case the cloud rolled in again.

There used to be a lake down there.

As I took this photo there was a terrific clap of thunder so we scurried back to the car. I did not see any flash of lightning.

But I took some photos of these tree trunks which were blown over by the force of the explosion. Nothing living would have survived here this close to the volcano.

As we started the car engine, the volcano had disappeared behind the clouds. Another car rolled into the parking lot and they missed out.

The weather was starting to clear as we returned to Portland but there was still plenty of rain on the way back. Still, we were extraordinarily lucky to get that brief glimpse of what happens when nature does its thing.

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