While staying with a friend near Portland, Oregon, I woke up early and was contemplating what to do for the day. Scanning the map, I saw Mt. Saint Helens National Volcanic Monument. I had never been there before and it wasn’t far (about fifty miles straight line distance), so I decided to go check it out.
I didn’t know much about the volcano except that it had a huge eruption in 1980. Any information I had was from an HBO movie they played over and over when I was a kid. The only thing I retained from that was that there was an old guy in a cabin near the volcano who wouldn’t leave when people were being evacuated. I figured if nothing else I’d see beautiful scenery. I took route 504 so I could drive by Spirit Lake and along the Toutle River.
When I got to Mount Saint Helens I wasn’t disappointed. In addition to pretty scenery, I learned a great story of the volcano, the people there, and the awesome power of mother nature. At the first visitors center I found out that the man from the HBO movie was Harry Randall Truman. He was the owner of the Spirit Lake Lodge. He became somewhat of a celebrity in the time leading up to the blast. Truman was quoted as saying to one reporter, “If the mountain goes, I’m going with it.”, but “the mountain ain’t gonna hurt me… boy”. The eruption killed him along with fifty-six others. Truman’s lodge was buried under 150 feet of volcanic debris.
About five miles from Mount Saint Helens (as close as you can get by car) is the Johnston Ridge Observatory. It was named in honor of USGS vulcanologist David A. Johnston who lost his life during the 1980 eruption. He was on duty at the site where the observatory was later built.
The visitors center here has an informational and entertaining imax show. After the show a curtain opens up to a great view of Mount Saint Helens. I sat there for a few minutes in awe, staring at the mountain. I was picturing what Johnston must have seen before he died when 2000 ft. of the top of Mount Saint Helens blew of, along with the whole side of the mountain, heading straight for him.
After the imax show I took a walk on one of the many trails. The ash on the ground made it seem like walking on the moon(or what I imagine it’s like anyway). I thought that Mount Saint Helens was so interesting that I returned twice, bringing others to show them the surreal landscape. They were as awe struck as I was.