Photo taken near Monument Valley, Utah

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Mt. St. Helens

 At Midway RV Park, Centralia, Washington...

Looking at the title of this post, I guess it's no secret now where we were headed. 

We were in this area around five years ago when it occurred to us that we really didn't want to go home. At least we didn't want to be forced to return for the sake of taking care of our stick and brick house, worried as we were about its condition and whether it had been burgled, as indeed had happened before. It was during that trip that we decided to sell the custom-built house--complete with an RV port--and stay on the road as fulltimers. No matter how perfectly designed or constructed, the house was always calling--demanding our attention and return from what we really enjoyed doing--rolling down the highway to see what was around the next curve. 

Nothing could have prepared us for the realization that we would make that decision on that trip, after having put so much of our money, time and planning into building that house exactly to our specifications. But sell it we did and, after doing so, I felt a sense of freedom that was at least as significant as that of my retirement.

I say all that to explain, possibly, how we managed to miss seeing Mt. St. Helens, which had always been on my bucket list. After all, we passed right by it on I-5 when we were southbound toward California. My only explanation is that, in the excitement of having made the momentous decision to go fulltime (which I had desired long before Sandy's epiphany), I simply forgot. 

I might mention that we hadn't really intended to correct my forgetfulness this summer, as we were traveling with Larry and Carolyn, and it simply wasn't their desire to make such a long trip. However, when we learned they would be leaving us in Salt Lake City (to get back to their stick and brick house--whose call we've already discussed), they suggested that we should go ahead and go back to Washington and see Mt. St. Helens; when would we ever be so close again?

The more we thought about it, the more sense it made, since we were only a couple of states away; and so we did. I must admit that I have always been fascinated by the world of geological wonders, especially earthquakes, faults, volcanoes and the like. If you recall, we stood astride the San Andreas fault during last winter's trip into California, and I still haven't gotten over the fact that Volcanoes National Park was closed during an eruption on our recent trip to Hawaii with some of our friends.

And so, we finally drove up the nearly empty highway to Mt. St. Helens. It was the day after Labor Day, and we saw perhaps only a dozen other visitors during the entire journey to the volcano. There were turnouts at various locations on the access road, each with a more spectacular view. I suppose it's time to get to some photos but, first, let me insert this link to show you the eruption that occurred on May 18, 1980:

It was the most disastrous volcanic eruption in the history of the United States and produced an ash cloud 80,000 feet high. It deposited ash in 11 U. S. states and two Canadian provinces. The blast was equivalent to 26 megatons of TNT and killed every living thing, including 57 humans, within hundreds of square miles as the north face of the mountain blew out. The damage it caused, in today' s value, was about four billion dollars.

I decided to include the most revealing photo first, showing the massive void that is the crater. You cannot really appreciate the size of this from the photo; it simply must be seen in person:

If you look closely, you can see smoke wafting from the right side of the top of the crater and a steam vent further down the mountain underneath the smoke stream at the top. This is after 44 years, mind you. The forces that caused this cataclysm are lurking not far beneath the surface. The mass of debris in the foreground is that which was deposited by the eruption and the landslide that followed. Even after all this time, vegetation is still slow to grow back in this particular area, although it is happening much faster in others.

In the next photo, for example, forests are growing back quickly around Castle Lake, which was formed by the eruption. Above and to the left of the lake, you can see one of the steam vents I mentioned earlier.

Here are some photos showing the trees that still lay on the ground among the millions that were blown over by the blast. Some were recovered for lumber, but most are simply lying in a state of decay after all these years, their bases pointing toward the blast. New trees are growing, however; the cycle goes on:

From a distance, Mt. St. Helens looks like just another beautiful mountain, it's not until you get close that you realize the unimaginable explosion that happened that day--an explosion no one lived to recount after seeing it. At the time, the land containing Mt. St. Helens belonged to Burlington Northern Railroad. Later, it was deeded to the United States to form the Mount St. Helens National Monument.

I must say, the absence of other visitors at the point where we were closest to the mountain was a blessing. Much like our being alone at Promontory Point, Utah, where the first transcontinental railroad linked, I could imagine, even almost feeling, what this event must have been like, yet I would never know for sure. Being at the very place where it happened was the best I could do, and it was enough. In my thoughts, I was there, if for only a few minutes.

Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful life; 
please forgive me if I fail to appreciate it each day as I should.

We don't stop playing because we get old; we get old because we stop playing. 
 ---George Bernard Shaw

"I get up every morning, and I just don't let the old man in." ---Clint Eastwood


  1. Your post gave me chills, seeing that video. None of us can even imagine. Of course, none of us could imagine Covid and what its done to all of us yet Mt. St. Helens showed no mercy and caused immediate destruction to areas that are still now trying to recover.
    Thank you. I'm glad you got to see her in your own time. Not sure we'll ever get there.

    1. I hope you do, Patsy. Photos are a poor substitute for the real thing.

  2. There is always a great sense of satisfaction in crossing an item off your bucket list - good for you! I believe the power of nature is often underestimated. When Alan and I were tent camping out west on our honeymoon, we passed through the Bridger-Teton National Forest just east of Grand Teton National Park. I can still remember seeing the area where the Gros Ventre slide occurred almost 100 years ago and reading the information placards about it. An incredibly enormous amount of rock and dirt slid down the mountain, across the Gros Ventre River and partially up the slope on the other side. It blocked the river and formed at least one lake. We were at the site 50+ years after it occurred and the scar on the mountainside still looked fresh. I've never forgotten that experience, despite the fact that we'll be celebrating our 41st anniversary next week. The natural world never fails to impress me.

    1. So true! This was an awesome experience--especially since it was just us and the mountain. It was almost eerie.

  3. Love this one, and SO GLAD you guys backtracked a bit to make it happen. Can never regret those decisions.

    We missed this one, AND Crater Lake. . .makes me so sad. Glad to see your pics.

    1. Thank you, dear Janice. I'm so glad we did this. I've always hoped to have few or no regrets. This will help reach that goal.

  4. Oh my goodness.....took me awhile to catch up. I was three blogs behind! What interesting routes you travel! I hope you and Sandy used the Gypsy Tour guides. You all hooked us up with them, and we really enjoyed the Rockies, Glacier, Yellowstone, and The Grand Tetons using these amazing audio tours! I think we can match you picture for picture. After seeing each location we wondered how we could ever pick a favorite place because each one had its very own breathtaking majesty! I created a photo book of these memories and we are always in awe. Your salutation says it all.......”Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful life”

  5. Oh yes! We used the Gypsy Guides and love them! What a summer this has been! I'm so glad you have a journal of memories, too. They will come in handy when we can't remember our names! And you're right---how do you pick a favorite?


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