Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Mt St Helen - Memories, Destruction and Renewal

There is another story to tell of a mighty sister who stood nearly as tall and majestic as Mt Adams and Mt Rainier. The youngest of the three sisters, she had her own story to tell and did so in our lifetime.

This is the cone that I remember existing till my mid thirties.

Borrowed from the internet, this picture was taken before Mount St Helen's awoke from her long, long nap and changed her skyline. 

The Story of Mt St Helen's Eruption

Most people of our generation have a story to tell of the Day that Mt St Helen's Erupted. 

 I know I do. 

Living more than 250 miles away from the mountain......we felt safe from the effects of the impending eruption.  For weeks we watched the news and speculated what would happen when the mountain blew.  Yet when the sky turned dark and the sun disappeared from the sky....we felt confused and had trouble connecting the dots that the sky and our experience were connected to an eruption that we did not yet know was occurring.

A picture of the sky we saw that day...

For days ash that rained down from the sky coated our landscape like snow.  Travel was impossible as the ash clogged automobiles air filters and cars died.  A massive cleanup of the ash was ordered and citizens were required to clean it from their property.  Yet the impact was really for just a matter of days....unlike the area directly in the blast zone.

I was anxious to see the recovery of the area in Mt St Helen's. 

I had seen the area years ago, when the timber lay as fallen toothpicks on the barren moonscape all covered in an eery ash.   Much of the landscape today has been replanted into baby trees that have grown into towering monuments to where the toothpick appearing logs once laid.  The odd looking forests have a symmetry that is not found naturally in nature which clearly defines it as human planted.  But the green has returned in most places.  The farther from the blast zone the more natural the forest appear.

In my impatience, we arrived at the East side of the mountain in the mid afternoon.  The harsh light made the mountain a difficult photo opportunity but we still had much to experience.

 Looking to the East on the edge of the blast zone.

To the south looking through the blast zone as we wind through the mountains to the Windy Point Observation Point.


At Windy Point we climb 374 steps on a ridge line to get a closer viewpoint of the volcanic crater and surrounding area. 

 Green is slowly returning to the area most effected by the May, 1980 blast.  From this point you can nearly look down into the hollowed out cone from the 1980 eruption and see the bulge building that has happened since that point. 

Spirit Lake after 34 years is still littered with fallen logs moved about in the water by the winds.

          Mt Adams can be seen to the East from this point. 

Looking to the north, Mt Rainier is barely seen in the distance.  But it is amazing to stand on this point and see all three mountains.

Flowers have also been returning.  


    Destruction and new growth
          share the same space.

The mountain tells the stories of tragedy and destruction, and growth and renewal. 

After leaving our little home in North Fork we headed south towards the coast.  I wanted one more look at Mt St Helen's and to see the new State Visitors Center.
As we arrived near the visitors center, it was overcast and hazy so I didn't know if I would drive in and instead took care of business.  We had lunch and gassed the truck and behold..... the clouds began to break up.  So off we went to first one visitors center than another.  There are several centers accessible from a short drive off of the I-5 interstate. We visited several.

  The replanting of the trees on the mountains has restored much of the terrain on the nearby mountains. But the destruction and scars from the huge land slide and mud flows is still visible along the Touttle River.  Melting snow and ice still moves mud and ash changing the landscape in the river valley.
Be sure to stop at the Forest Restoration Visitor Center.  It is free and well worth the time.

 We drove on up to the next view point for one last look at the mountain.

I experienced the Mt St. Helen's eruption in a limited way in 1980. 
The Mt St. Helen's story is still being written today.



  1. The photo of the sky on the day of the eruption is amazing. We visited the east side in 2009. Very interesting to see the plant life coming back.

  2. Great photos, I haven't been there since about a year after the eruption so these photos are great to see!


  3. I have a friend who was a ranger there at the time. They had just finished making some new trails and stopping points for tired climbers. Then the call came to evacuate. His before and after pictures were amazing from absolute beauty to absolute destruction. Thanks for posting these pictures so we can now see the beauty returning

  4. Wow this is a great post showing how things have changed. Gorgeous pictures. What do you think it would look like now if there had been no intervention? If things had just been left for the mountain to do? I really enjoyed this post and am looking forward to seeing in person. Thanks so much.