Our trip up the mountainside to Mt St Helen was just as terrifying to me as the road up toward Mt Rainier. It was beautiful on the way up about half-way and then one could start to see the devastation still present after nearly 35 years ago!
I can’t imagine the horror of driving the forest road just seconds after the volcano blew with the force of the explosion and the red hot mud balls spewing down on them and the ash piling up on the surface of the road under them. One photographer did just that and barely made it to safety alive! He had the shot of of a lifetime.
There were 57 others that perished in the explosion. So little was known about what to expect and the thrill of being present and learning about it was just too much for those in the geological center. Personally, I just think that they underestimated the force that would come their way.
We stopped at Spirit Lake which was
changed dramatically with the explosion. It had once been a favorite resort lake with crystal clear waters, cozy cabins and full of life. The explosion took the side of the mountain off and pushed it and the cabins,including the owner to the bottom of Spirit Lake. This debris covered the lake floor raising the lake level up 200 feet, doubling its area. It killed all creatures that lived there. It is still off limits for recreational purposes. Laboratory tests are showing an increase in biological activity and are hoping that someday, life will return there to replace the bacteria present now.
We made it to the aptly named Windy Ridge viewing top and climbed the 400 steps to look directly across at the place where the dome once swelled beyond containment. The mountain is still an active volcano and lava still seeps from the new dome area. That would have been a neat experience to hike and see the new dome. Alas, after up 400 steps to Windy Ridge and down 400 steps, we decided that a 6 mile hike in late afternoon not a good judgement call for us. Instead, we sat through an informational ranger talk, had a picnic lunch and headed down the mountain late in the day.
I think that I left the mountain with a new respect for the wilderness. There is great natural power beneath the beauty in our earth.