Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Mount St. Helens, Washington

Roger and Dianne here (joint effort this time)....  

The opening photos show the valley below the Mount St. Helens volcano and the top of the volcano.  Unfortunately, the cloud cover hid the lava dome and the crater.  It was well worth the drive over from Fort Stevens to witness the rebirth of this area and the areas still devastated after the volcano's eruption 33 years ago.

We boarded the dogs at the Bay Breeze facility in Warrenton, OR where they spent the day and received a bath and (needed) nail clipping to get ready for the upcoming visit from  Robyn, Amanda, and Kaia.  So good to know that they will smell sweet (not like dogs) for our kids.  The drive to the national park took about one and a half hours.  After arriving at the park, there was an additional 46-mile drive to the visitor center that was seven miles from the summit.

There were four visitor centers along the way. 
The first was just off the interstate highway and was sponsored by the State of Washington instead of the National Park Service.  It had some interesting displays and we were glad we stopped in there, but be forewarned if you visit there your national park passes will not be honored.  The admission fee is $5 per adult.  How quickly we get spoiled by our senior national park passes!

When we arrived at the Toutle River area, the explosive destruction of the 1980 blast was apparent.  Look at these views of the Toutle 
River that show it has not yet completely recovered from the event.  It was totally scoured and changed by the avalanche of mature trees and rocks that rushed down from the sudden snow melt caused by the volcano eruption. 

As we drove up the side of the mountain and the numerous (and informative) information centers, we encountered a little bit of fog.

This my first view of the volcano.  Look at the detail!

When we entered the Johnson Observatory area, the view improved, somewhat....  We could see the top of the volcano....

and the bottom, but not the middle where the new lava dome is forming ...

We watched the clouds drift by for a while and then went inside to watch an amazing movie of the 1980 eruption of Mt. St. Helens.  The movie itself was worth the 46-mile drive.  At its conclusion, the massive screen lifted to show a partially-cloud-covered view of the volcano through a huge window directly behind.  The visual effect of the final scene of the movie, then the lifting of the curtain to see the same view in real time, gave me chills.  

After the movie, we spent some time at the exhibits while we waited for the clouds to clear (which they did not).  We learned that during the 1980 event, hikers at nearby Mt. Adams and others within the 60-mile "silent zone" did not hear the blast -- while those hundreds of miles away could hear it -- because the sound waves were vertical and not lateral. 

The total destruction of the forests by the pyro flows and heat were mind-boggling.  

I always wondered what happened to all those trees.  Turns out that Weyerhauser, who owns large tracts of land around the volcano, harvested the logs on their property.  They then pondered whether to let nature take its course or to help it get a jump start by replanting thousands and thousands of trees.  The national park service took a different tack on their land, allowing the area to rejuvenate on mother nature's schedule.   Look at this poster showing recovering forests on Weyerhauser's land, and the areas on the NPS land beyond that are still barren.  There are still differing opinions on which position is better; only time will tell.

These recovering "Indian Paint Brushes" make a bright spot in the National Park Service area of recovery:

In the distance, Spirit Lake is recovering after its massive disruption.  The shape and depth of Spirit Lake is totally different than it was before the eruption.  Somewhere, buried in its depths, is Spirit Lake Lodge and its owner, Harry R. Truman, who refused to leave it during the evacuations before the event.

While we were still at the Johnson Observatory, we were very fortunate to see an excellent presentation from one of the park rangers.  I wish I had caught his name --- it was an outstanding presentation. 

We learned that the areas with only stumps remaining (like where we were standing) took the full explosive force of the blast and landslide.  Nearby, the areas with huge trees downed like matchsticks were all blown down by the pyroclastic flow -- all of the "matchsticks" pointing in whatever direction the hot, hurricane-force winds of gas and rocks from the blast took at that moment, as it swirled around the topography.  Other areas have large stands of dead trees still standing.  The ranger explained that these areas were damaged by just the heat of the event.  

One last look at the hummocks (remnants of huge rocks that were hurled from the volcano), before we head back to pick up our dogs in Warrenton/Astoria just before the doggie day care closing time.

Unfortunately, when it was time to go, the complete view of the volcano was still blocked by the fog.  After driving through very dense fog to get there, we felt fortunate to be able to see any of the mountain at all.  It was totally worth the trip.

SO EXCITING!!!!  On  the way down the mountain, we encountered a rare viewing of Sasquatch!

Here is a shot of Dianne (reluctantly) thanking Bigfoot for allowing us to visit his domain.  (You would not believe the persuading that was involved in taking this picture).  

Actually, you would, if you look at the attitude in 
Dianne's posture.  (She was supposed to be flirting with Bigfoot, like 
Wray did with Godzilla.  Oh, well.)  (Dianne:  After looking at my picture, he's lucky I let him use it at all.)

We passed through the interesting town of Astoria for one last time on our way back to the motor home.  This home was about a block away from the "Goonie" house.

One more cool Astoria house before we head to Portland to pick up our girls at the airport. 

The pet picture of the day shows Bandido on our last day at Nehalem Beach with his "precious" stick.
I love my stick!   It smells like fish!


klbexplores said...

I love Mt St Helen's. My love affair with the Mountain began in 1974 when I climbed Mt Adams. I could look out and feel almost one with Mt St Helen's. I was living in Spokane when the mountain blew.... right in the ash path. I remember being in our new house when the sky became completely dark. It was was the beginning of several eery days filled with uncertainty. I have visited the mountain many times and am filled with awe each time. The devastation was incredible and yet the earths ability to heal itself never fails to astound me.

heyduke50 said...

we too loved our visit to the volcano and we also had fog that never lifted completely...

Bill and Nancy said...

Out visit to Mount St. Helens was a real highlight of our trip to Oregon!!! As you said, "well worth the drive!!"

Bon'O said...

Just recently found you, via friend's FB link, and must pop in long enough to say thank you! Born ('47)and raised in and around Astoria, so you really re-opened the treasure chest of memories. A Seattleite from '65-'91 so I'll be tracking your adventures in Washington as well, and look forwarding to catching up with your earlier travels. Thanks again, and safe journeys!