27 July 2006 Thursday

Our gracious hosts have to head to work and we have more traveling to do.   After a welcomed shower, we’re all out the door.

We are off heading towards Mount St Helen’s National Monument.  The day is quite overcast.  As we head up in elevation to Mount St Helen’s, we are driving up into the overcast fog.  The fog gets very dense and suddenly, we rise above it.  We see the snow capped peak of Mount St Helen with clear blue skies and clouds below in the valley.  Mount St Helen erupted in 1980, 26 years ago and the area is recovering well.  Before the eruption, much of the area was owned by Weyerhaeuser and other private parties.  Weyerhaeuser still has many of tree farms in the area.  The National Monument was formed after the eruption.  Scientists have been studying the volcano, the eruption aftermath and recovery of the land since before 1980.  Mount St Helen is one of several active volcanoes in the area known as the Ring of Fire.  We saw steam coming out of the cinder cone in the center of the depression that was once the mountain peak.  Many small earthquakes tell of  Mount St Helen’s seismic activity, as many as 700 in a day have been recorded, thousands in a week.  

As the fog lifted from the valleys, we could see evidence of the landslides and mud flows of 1980.  During the eruption, the whole side of the mountain slid off, creating the largest landslide ever recorded.  The heat from the blast melted snow and ice that mixed with the ash, dirt and rock creating huge rivers of mud that ripped thru the valley, clogging and rerouting rivers and streams and creating lakes that didn’t exist earlier.  We saw hillsides of tree stumps, splintered about three feet off the ground, trees that were shattered by the blast.  57 people did not heed the warning and lost their lives to the volcano.  Every now and then, the earth reminds man of how insignificant he really is.  But 26 years later, we saw new growth everywhere.  Wildflowers and tree seedlings are sprouting up from the desolation.  The waterways that were superheated organic stews of debris after the eruption are now clear blue lakes and streams, teeming with life.  The volcano is silent… for now.

We left Mount St Helen and moved on towards Mount Rainier.  We found a national forest road along the way and camped for the night.

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