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Wednesday July 6- Mt. St. Helens

We were up and moving quickly this morning, as it is about 90 minutes to Mt. St. Helens. We followed the directions, returning to I-5, heading south to Rt. 505, east. We went through the town of Toledo. We liked this mural!

We continued south on Rt. 505, to Rt. 504 where we turned further east, and zig-zag’ed our way to Mt. St. Helens.

Our first stop was at the Hoffstadt Bluffs Visitor Center. The exhibits were all closed, due to budget cuts. They are only open on the weekends. So we just used the facilities and looked at the views. In the picture you are not only seeing Mt. St. Helens, this is also the ash that is on the river. 

Our next stop was the Forest Learning Center. Ditto on the exhibits.

We continued on to this bridge. Across the bridge starts the actually ‘blast area’. This bridge had to be rebuilt after the Volcano erupted.

The trees that you can see were planted by Weyerhaeuser. They lost their tree farms, in addition to a lot of their equipment, when the volcano erupted in 1980. The planted 190 million trees, using 1000 workers. They first cleared as much of the wood that they could, as fast as they could, so that disease and insects did not destroy the wood. Then they planted seedlings. Their first tree harvest was in 2010, so they did not see any money from all this work for 30 years! In 1982, Congress declared the area around Mt. St. Helens a National Historic Monument.

Mt. St. Helens erupted on Sunday May 18, 1980 at 8:32 in the morning. It blew 60,000 feet of heated ash into the sky. An earthquake of 5.1 magnitude shifted the earth underneath the active volcano and caused a build-up of steam and pressure, resulting in 1300 ft of mountain top to launch outward and crumble down the hillside. The valley below was instantly scoured by heat, wind, ash and rock, killing plants, animals, covering up rivers, and forests. Winds raced over 300 mph and the landslide reached speeds of 155 miles per hour and temperatures reached 660 degrees. This was the largest landslide in recorded history! This was a smaller eruption than one that occurred at Mt. St. Helens in 1479.

We stopped at the Johnston Ridge Observatory which is the closest you can get to the mountain by car.

We arrived just in time to hear the Park Ranger’s speech.

She showed pictures of the mountain before, and pictures of what occurred during the eruption. She also told stories from the survivors. The scientists thought there was going to be an eruption, so the governor declared a 20 mile radius around the mountain closed. There were 57 people killed in the eruption, only 6 of them were within the 20 mile radius! The survivor stories were interesting.  There were 7 loggers who were in the area, and they all survived, because they ended up under fallen trees. The heat seared the trees, but since the loggers were underneath, they were able to survive and crawl out after the heat passed over them.

A couple who were camping, outside the forbidden zone, in one of their favorite campsites, were making coffee, when the woman noticed that the river was rapidly rising. When it hit their knees, they tried to get their car started. It would not start. At this point, they climbed on top of the car, and the car started to float down the river. The guy who owned the car had always been teased that his car was like a boat, and it was what saved them. He fell off the car, so did she. His leg was smashed between some logs, but he managed, with the adrenaline, to jump from log to log, looking for her. He found her floating and managed, on the third try, to pull her from the water and mud by her hair. They managed to get to the side of the river and were rescued later, with both of them injured but alive.

Another group of campers one guy had been disappointed that he had not been able to see any steam escaping from the mountain. So while he was drinking his coffee, he was looking at the mountain. He thought it was moving, but he did not have his glasses on, so he got his glasses and realized that it really was moving. They jumped in their car, and ran for it, leaving everything behind. One of the guys knew  of a logging road, so they took that, at 80 miles per hour! They ran into a guy who had driven his ‘maverick’ (1980 remember) off the road and wanted them to help tow him out. They said no, but he could go with them. He refused, but did go with the next people who came through! They all managed to get out.

After the Ranger’s talk, we went inside, again using our National Parks Pass. We were just in time for the 15 minute movie. It was extremely interesting, showing movies of the actual eruption. At the end, the screen went up into the ceiling, the curtains opened, and there was Mt. St. Helens. It was pretty awesome!

This is a picture of a before picture:

This is the after picture!  It is hard to tell, but there is steam coming up off the volcano. In the left of the center, there was a recent small avalanche that we could see.

This is a tree that was 9 miles from the eruption:

The back side of the tree still had bark on it. The strength of the blast just blew the top off the tree.

We wandered around the exhibits and stamped our National Parks Passport. We drove back to the motor home. I took a nap. I took 6 books down to the book exchange, and returned with 6 books, 5 for me and 1 for Bob. We grilled pork chops, read, and started packing for our move tomorrow.

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