Mt. Saint Helens Volcano

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.

Mt. Saint Helens from Johnston Ridge

Mt. Saint Helens from Johnston Ridge

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.

Tree stump near Mount Saint Helens in Washington
     Driving towards Mount Saint Helens there are three distinct zones of vegetation noticeable. The first looks like the surrounding area. The second is full of small trees and seedlings. This area was destroyed, but replanted by Weyerhaeuser (a forest products company) who lost enough lumber in the blast to build 85,000 three bedroom homes. The third is a protected area closest to the volcano. This area has to be left to renew naturally so it can be studied. In this inner zone the ground is mostly volcanic ash and some scrub. Downed trees are littered throughout the area as far as you can see, resembling dropped toothpicks from afar.

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.

A trail about 3 miles from the volcano

A trail about 3 miles from the volcano

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.

cloud covered peak of Mt. Saint Helens

Cloud covered peak of Mt. Saint Helens

Toutle River near Mount Saint Helens

Toutle River

Toutle River with Mt. Saint Helens in the distance

Toutle River with Mt. Saint Helens in the distance

8 thoughts on “Mt. Saint Helens Volcano

  1. I am always just as amazed by volcanos. This was an enourmously powerful blast. It must have been a fantastic sight, but I guess we were blessed to be far away when it happened.

  2. Kjell, It would have been an amazing sight to see, but if it happens again, I settle for watching video or seeing photos and stay far away. The 1980 blast impacted a huge area. It spread ash over 11 states and the lava flow reached 50 miles(80 km). Pretty crazy!

  3. Quite amazing adventures you have experienced. While I would love to experience nature at its best such as the aftermath of the Mount Saint Helen blast, I know seeing it from a distance would be best.

    Nice to e-meet you as I make my rounds on the Traveler’s Show & Tell. Merry Christmas!

  4. Great post! I really enjoyed this. Like you, I have always found that Truman fellow intriguing.

    I lived in Washington State when the mountain blew its top. The sky went pitch black at noon in our little town that day, even though we were a good 600 miles away. What a day!

    Thanks for participating in this week’s Traveler’s Show & Tell blog carnival. I hope to see you there. again. 🙂


  5. MM, Thanks for the positive feedback and including my post in the Traveler’s Show & Tell. I always thought Washington State would be a pretty nice place to live, but a dark sky at noon, caused by a volcano, would be a little scary.

  6. Those are pretty cool photos that you have taken. I hope I will also have a chance to climb those trails and enjoy that view of Mt. Saint Helens volcano.

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