Saturday, July 23, 2011

Spectacular Mount St Helens!

The Volcanic Eruption
Thirty-one years, two months and one day ago at 8:32 in the morning, on May 18, 1980, Mount St Helens blew 60,000 feet of ash into the sky when a 5.1 magnitude earthquake shifted the earth causing a build-up of pressure and steam.  The mountain had been spewing and belching ash plumes for several months before this day, but now there was no stopping the volcanic activity. Thirteen hundred feet of the mountain top blew outward and crumbled down the lush, beautiful, tree-filled Washington State hillside. Winds of 300 miles per hour, landslides of 155 miles per hour and temperatures in excess of 660 degrees Fahrenheit stripped the land of everything. The landscape was left so barren, in fact, that people who visited the area right after the volcanic eruption said they felt as though they were colorblind.

My New Favorite Landmark
On this day, July 20, 2011, we decided we had to make every effort to see the Mount St. Helens area -- some 56 miles from our Corbett, Oregon campsite as the crow flies.  Turned out we'd drive 127 road miles each way for a 252 mile day trip; but a trip most certainly worth the time and effort. Our route was Washington Highway 504 from the interstate so we would see the north facing side of Mount St Helens -- the side of the mountain that collapsed. We made a quick stop at the Mount St Helens Visitor Center at Silver Lake to get whatever maps and information we'd need to see everything we wanted to see.  We enjoyed a short lecture about the history of the mountain by a National Park Ranger. 

Hoffstadt Bluffs Visitors Center, the second of four Visitor Centers, was next.  At Fire Mountain Grill patio we had lunch outside looking out over the Toutle River and the wide pumice flow area made by the volcano. Helicopter rides were available, but we're not candidates for suicide.
This picture was taken from the outdoor dining area of the Hoffstadt Bluffs Visitor Center.
The helipad is at the bottom of the picture. The wide gray area is the pumice remnant of the volcano.
You cannot see Mount St Helens in this picture.
While we ate, Lexie remained in the car and was most unhappy about it. After lunch I took her for a nice long walk all around the parking lot and she calmed down.  We loaded ourselves into the car and continued along the 45 miles to the Johnston Ridge Observatory. The next stop would be the Forest Learning Center (the third Visitor Center) where we didn't take time to go in but got some great views of the mountain and surrounding valley.
Mount St Helens is near the left edge of the photo. Snow fingers can be seen.

Although the day is mostly sunny, clouds linger around the top of Mount St Helens (right side of the photo).


Mount St Helens and Castle Lake (to the right of the mountain)


Wildflowers of all colors are everywhere!

Tree stumps can be seen all over this area.  We're about 20-25 miles from the mountain itself here.
All the trees along this area are gone.

Another view point.  Clouds linger still.

So many trees were just blown away or burst from the intense heat.
Some large tree trunks stick out of the pumice soil that makes up the new landscape.

Another view of the newly created Toutle River Valley and trees left in place where they fell.

We're continuing to get closer to Mount St Helens and the landscape is getting even more intense.
This doesn't look like anything I've ever seen.
More of the Mountain, the valley created by the volcanic eruption.

We're within a half mile of Johnston Ridge Observatory - Elevation 4,200'



The clouds lifted just a bit more so we can almost see the ridge.... but not quite.



To give some perspective, that's Wayne in the black sweater.


Mount St Helens
Eruption Facts

  1. The eruption of Mount St Helens swept through the Toutle River Valley causing the largest landslide in recorded history.
  2. The lateral blast removed 1,306 feet from the top of the volcanic mountain.
  3. More than 1,000 commercial airline flights were canceled because of the ash and air debris following the blast of Mount St Helens
  4. Some of the north facing side of Mount St Helens slid into nearby Spirit Lake raising it by 200 feet.
  5. In the summer following the May 18 eruption, more than 800 truckloads of salvageable timer were retrieved every day.
  6. Weyerhaeuser planted 18,400,000 trees BY HAND after the eruption. It took four years to complete the project.
  7. Steam from the intense heat caused the bark to literally be BLOWN OFF the trees.
  8. From October 2004 to Jan 2008 ongoing minor eruptions have produced more than 125 million cubic meters of lava.  That's enough lava to pave a three-foot thick, seven-land highway from Portland Oregon to New York City.

Since 1980, plant and animal life have come back to Mount St Helens and the surrounding valley.

My camera batteries finally died.  If they hadn't.... I would have taken even more pictures.  Wayne sighed in great relief.
Unimpressed by any of this... Just looking to stretch her legs

Leaving Mount St Helens, we stopped at Coldwater Lake, one of the three major lakes in the area of Mount St Helens and I snapped a few more pictures -- extra batteries in the car!!

Coldwater Lake

Wildflowers around Coldwater Lake

More Coldwater Lake

Still more wildflowers and still more Coldwater Lake

1 comment:

  1. Awsome pics! Puts a lump in my throat to see such devestation but hope in my heart when there is green growing and such beautiful and colorful wildflowers abound. Just takes time and lots of it! Thank goodness for extra batteries and ones that work, too!