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Mt St Helens - Day 4 Tuesday July 26

Today, the big story is the journey, not the destination.

View Alaska 07/2022 on Cybercsp's travel map.

The answer to yesterday's bonus question was "The Mountain Goat Bakery." This morning we had blackberry scones (the berries were picked from the bush behind the shop) and they were delicious! We will miss this place.


It was quite a ride from Packwood to the Windy Ridge viewpoint at Mount St Helens this morning. We set out before 8 AM, driving along a "normal" state road, but the journey quickly devolved onto various "forest roads." On the way in, Charlie used Google Maps, which seemed to stay current, even though GPS appeared to be limited. We thought that it must be an error when the GPS said that it would take 134 minutes to travel 19 miles. It wasn't.

We did manage to achieve our goal, without blowing a tire or (to the best of our knowledge) ruining the undercarriage of the rental car. Because these backroads are basically wide enough for one car to travel, we were grateful that we only met one vehicle coming in the opposite direction, but less grateful that it was a huge horse carrier. Charlie had to drive in reverse for a good bit to find a place where he could squeeze off the road without creating a Thelma & Louise moment. It would have helped had we been able to see the megtruck coming from a distance...but that doesn't work with hairpin curves. Have I convinced you that you'd like to take today's trip yet?

Maybe these photos that I took along the journey will provide some balance to the narrative.


Let's set the stage for what you are about to see.

The eruption of Mount St Helens was foreshadowed by a two-month series of earthquakes and steam-venting episodes that began on March 27, 1980. Explosive episodes and lava flows escalated until a major eruption took place on Sunday, May 18, 1980, at 8:32 AM. The eruption has been declared the most disastrous volcanic eruption in U.S. history. Eleven seconds later, an earthquake caused the entire weakened north face of the mountain to slide away, leading to the largest landslide in recorded history. This allowed the partly molten rock, rich in high-pressure gas and steam, to suddenly explode northward toward Spirit Lake, where a hot mix of lava and pulverized older rock, overtook the landslide. An eruption column rose 80,000 feet (15 miles) into the atmosphere and deposited ash in eleven U.S. states and six Canadian provinces. At the same time, snow, ice, and several entire glaciers on the volcano melted, causing a series of large volcanic mudslides that reached as far as the Columbia River, some 50 miles to the southwest. Less severe outbursts continued into the next day, followed by other large, but not as destructive, eruptions later that year. The final toll included 57 people dead, thousands of animals killed, and hundreds of square miles reduced to wasteland; the event caused over $1 billion (estimated at $3.6 billion today) in damage and Mount St. Helens was left with a crater on its north side. After the explosion, the volcano and surrounding area were designated as the Mount St Helens National Volcanic Monument.

As we entered the monument, our first stop was Miner’s Car. These poor folks did not make it out alive.


We then walked the path to Meta Lake. We were the only people there, but there were lots of flies. Later on, one of the rangers mentioned that he eats lunch by that lake everyday, and has seen fresh cougar tracks over the past two days. I am frankly relieved that we are not adding the cougar to the wildlife viewing report. Here is the lake.


We pulled over at every scenic overlook point and, as you can see, did not have have to fight for parking.


Here is our first peek at Mt St Helens.


Spirit Lake, which was the site of a very popular summer resort at the base of the mountain, was completely devastated after the eruption. It was filled with debris that killed every living organism; the debris raised the lake level by 200 feet and the surface area was doubled. Today, it is a triumph of recovery; but take a close look, the gray area around the lake is not beach, but a floating log mat of huge trees that were swept into the lake during the eruption and remain floating there 40 years later.


Once we arrived at Windy Ridge, which mercifully was windy because the temperature had climbed into the 90s, we climbed the 368 step "sand ladder" (that would be 368 steps UP and 368 DOWN) to get to the observation deck. Here is a photo of the ascent, which fails to do it justice.


Just in case you are not impressed about the height that we scaled, can you spot the little car in the lot below?


Photo proof that we made it!


I hope that you can see the steam that is still vented from the volcano.


A few close-ups of the mountain. She is covered in ice, but the ice is covered in ash, so she looks rather dirty.


And here is Mount Rainier, peeping out in the distance across the lake.


So what is left 40 years later? A plain of pumice and ash and denuded hills, still somewhat barren, but now greening with vegetation.

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Life is resilient!


Just FYI: The other entrance to the monument is at Johnston Observatory (named for the ranger who was on duty during the blast, and used his last moments to inform the nearby cities that they were in danger). We did not go there because the drive between the two observation points takes 4.5 hours! (Ironically, the hike across is six miles, but no thank you.)

When we left Mt St Helens for Portland, Oregon we had no GPS connection, so we had to resort to the old school method of reading a fold-out paper map (thank you, Jan, for saving the day). Once we determined which side of the mountain we were on (in case you wonder, it was East), we backtracked on Forest Road 25 to Forest Road 99. We suspect that this probably would have been a better route from Packwood, avoiding the hellish Forest Road 26. There is a moral to this story there, but then our day would have lost some entertainment value!

Our home for the next two nights is a Hampton Inn in Portland (no photos, they all look alike). On Jan's advice, we had dinner at McMenamin's Edgewater, which is an old hotel and restaurant complex with a lot of charm.


We enjoyed dinner at the Black Rabbit Restaurant (halibut and rib eye)...


...followed by a drink from the "distillery" in the garden.


Perfect end to a great day!

Another early night!

Photos are tagged Alaska, Mt_St_Helens and Portland_OR

Posted by Cybercsp 14:05 Archived in USA Tagged alaska mt_st_helens portland_or

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Love following you and Charlie on your NW adventure.
I am amazed how far you walk and climb so soon after your hallway spill. The pictures are beautiful.

by Claire

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