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Mt St Helens

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            November 5, 2008

 “On the morning of May 18, 1980, a 5.1 magnitude earthquake shook Mount St. Helens, and the north flank of the mountain avalanched downward. A powerful lateral eruption blasted to the north, and a vertical eruption carried ash more than 12 miles into the air. The eruption continued into late afternoon as mudflows and pyroclastic flows flowed down the flanks of the volcano.”

I remember when I was younger hearing about the eruption of Mount St. Helens Volcano. It seemed so far away that I really didn’t take much notice, other than to catch a glimpse of the news coverage every now and then. So, I was not prepared for the awe inspiring site of Mount St. Helens when we turned the corner and were suddenly face to face with this amazing mountain. We started off the day at the Mount St. Helens Visitor Center in Silver Lake. At the center the kids were able to learn a little bit about the history of the eruption. We watched a short film that explained in detail the events that led up to the horrific eruption on May 18, 1980. In the film they talked about a man, Harry Truman, that refused to leave his home on Spirit Lake and inevitably died in the blast. Dylan was very touched by this for some reason and for the rest of the day wanted to go see if he could find any remains from Harry’s cabin. Christian thought it was weird that the blast happened only a day after his birthday. We then took the boys through a timeline of pictures that were beautifully displayed in the center, explaining further the events of 1980. They also got a chance to walk through a replica of what the rock layers would look like inside a volcano, complete with a flowing lava tube, of course their favorite part. The ranger warned us that it was snowing at mile marker 37 and that if we were heading to the mountain we should get going so we didn’t get stuck up there after dark. So off we went in search of the volcano!

It was 52 miles up the road to get to the Johnson Ridge Obervatory that overlooks Mount St. Helens. Sure enough, at mile marker 37 the snow had begun to fall. The farther up the road we went, the more snow we found. We, of course, had to pull over and let the boys have a snowball fight and play in the snow for a while. 

                                 
We then headed further up the mountain and started to see signs of devastation. Twenty eight years later and there were still signs of the forceful volcanic eruption. Trees were lying on their sides like piles of toothpicks. Mudslides had eroded the riverbeds and barren land could be seen everywhere. The trees were like compass needles, facing in the direction of the way the force came crashing down the mountain. When we turned a bend further up the mountain we suddenly saw the mountain directly in front of us. It was a huge mountain, once called the most beautiful mountain top in all of the Cascade region. The mountain was covered in snow and shrouded by clouds, making it ever so eery. We literally stopped the car right in the middle of the road and just stared at the majestic force of this volcano.

         

After a short hike around Coldwater Lake and several more snowball fights, we made it to the Johnson Ridge Observatory. We viewed another film that described the eruption with amazing photos and original film footage. We then attended a ranger presentation and the boys became official Mount St. Helens Junior Rangers. We learned about seismographs and the boys loved jumping on the mat that was set up to record their movements, allowing them to make their own seismographic measurements. The ranger even let them bring home their graph as a souveneir. We learned a lot about how the eruption occurred and why. It was amazing to see the intensity of the eruption and the devastation that it caused. We were told that two lakes were formed from the force of the mudflows and major shipping routes were closed down due to the volcanic ash that was filling the riverbeds. The jet stream carried the volcanic ash across the entire globe within two weeks time. The entire top half of the mountain exploded and came tumbling down the mountain, taking everything in it’s path with it. To this day, the entire mountaintop is gone only to be replaced by a giant crater like hole. It was inconceivable to me to know that the landscape is changing around us so dramatically each day. We think we live in a stagnant world, however, global warming and weather is changing the earth as we speak. It is incredible to know that we are witnessing these changes all around us.

                               

Meanwhile, the snow continued to fall outside and the rangers warned us that darkness would start to fall around 4pm. With ice on the roads, we decided it was time to head back down the mountain. So, after a quick trip to the gift shop for a model volcano for the boys to build, we headed back to camp. On the way down, we saw a beautiful elk with a huge rack. We jumped out of the car to catch a picture and about 15 elk came out of the woods following the buck. It was an amazing sight and the biggest elk herd we have ever encountered. (unfortunately they ran before we got a good picture)  We drove down the mountain and made it safely off the snow covered roads. We got back down to mile 37 and the snow suddenly disappeared and the rain began. Everyone was bummed to say goodbye to the snow and the majestic beauty of standing at the base of Mount St. Helens, the most infamous volcano in modern day history.

              

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