Saturday, September 8, 2012

DAY 18- Mt Saint Helen's...

It surprised me but “Paradise” ended up being a very quiet night of sleeping in the tent.  I heard a bit of coyotes when I got back to my tent at 9PM but after that it was quieter than a mouse all the way to morning.  Then at 6:30AM, I felt like I was the noisy one when I took down my tent. 

The rest of the morning, I worked on writing up and addressing some postcards.  After all, the Popette** needs to know where I am since she doesn’t have access to internet.  I also have been trying to send my nephew Luke some postcards too; thinking it might make me a more interesting Aunt.  Oh, one can dream of being interesting to a 13 yr. old boy that is probably more interested in computer games.   

(**NOTE: Ms. Mary, also known as the Popette, is my 80 year old character of friend whose first in line for being the female Pope if the church ever changes their mind.)

Next, I went to the local post office to mail them.  It was a cute two room building just located a block off of Hwy 12.  The postmistress got me the stamps I needed and she hoped I didn’t mind the Disney Cars stamps that she had.  She had some of her customers complained that they were goofy.  I just chuckled and said no I don’t mind at all.  Then, she gave me my receipt and my treat as she handed it to me like she did it every day to every person that came in.  It was a fancy flavored lifesaver in a foil wrap.  It was just too precious; the small town post office.


It was about noonish when I finally got on the road to head to Mt. Saint Helen’s.  Jerry, the local contractor I met at the Tavern the night before, had given me a back roads direction to the Park that would save me about 35 miles.  I, also, heard from everyone at the tavern that that was the best way to go and the best place to see into the crater of Mt. Saint Helen’s.  That’s the wonderful thing about talking with the local people while I’m on this adventure; I get the inside track.

Photo- First damage that I saw of Mt. St. Helen's-- leftover from mudslide runs.

And the inside track worked wonderfully, I got to where I needed to be.  The first place I stopped where you could start seeing leftover damage from the 1980 blast was at Hoffstadt Bluffs where there was a restaurant and gift shop.  You could see where the mud slides had run down the North Fork of the Toutle River valley.  Most of the valley looked like ash and mud with debris from trees.  There was a small part of the river running but most of that area was dark with no vegetation at all.


Photo- Bridge at the edge of where Mt St Helen blast was in 1980.
My next stop was a viewing area over the largest of three bridges that were built when they put in the new highway after the blast.  It was 17 miles away and showed pictures of blow down trees from the horizontal phase of the blast.  Where that sign was standing was the edge of where that blast had occurred.  Wow, I thought.  I’m standing 17 miles away and a blast from that volcanic incident had blown down trees.  But that wasn’t all; there was still another 3 miles out where vegetation had been superheated from the blast that they died from that.  It was just mind boggling.


As I went further along Hwy 504, there was a small area below the Forest Learning Center where grass had been laid down in hopes to assist the large Elk population that had existed prior to the 1980 blast.  In fact, there were viewing areas to look out at the Elk who had managed to adapt to the new environment. 

Photo- Taken on the Coldwater Lake trail about how a lake is created.

Next, it was on to the Cold Water Recreation Center where I took the best view of the crater of Mt. Saint Helen’s can be seen from the Johnston Ridge Observatory.  That’s what the insiders told me and they were right.  At 4200’ and 6 miles away, there was a wonderful view into the crater. 

Photo- of Mt. St. Helens from 6 miles away.

The rangers give talks out on the patio area just outside of the building.  I got there in time to catch the end of one and then managed to do a bit of hiking around. During part of my hike, there was a woman that had a telescope pointed into the crater and you could see the steam rising from the middle section of the crater.  It was rather cool but kind of like watching a sleeping giant that you never knew when it would wake up.  But I guess that this sleeping giant is one of the best monitored in the world. 

A great deal of studying has been done with it and they are now able to monitor it by looking at seismic activity and steam color activity and be able to help predict when it will blast again.  Because I guess that it is just a matter of time.  It’s the youngest of the mountains of its type in the area and therefore the most likely to have activity.  I guess you could compare it to the teenager that is more likely to act up when they are younger than an adult.   
Photo- of me from the Johnston Ridge Observatory patio.

I caught another talk and then went to watch a 17 minute film they have in an auditorium.  All in all it’s a wonderfully informative place to visit.    I just found it all so fascinating.  Before I knew it was four in the afternoon and I needed to drive back to civilization to find a place to stay.

I ended up working my way south east through to Castle Rock, WA and jumped onto I-5 going south.  Shortly, after that I got off at Longview where I found an Econolodge to stay the night.  Let’s just say that I’m no longer going to consider Econolodges for places to stay.  I never heard so many arguments, doors slamming, or had so many problems with a room.