Mt. Saint Helens

Thoughts and Opinions

Saint Helens as seen from Coldwater Lake.

On my vacation a couple of weeks ago we decided to take a drive up to Mt. Saint Helens. I’d never been there before and have always wanted to check it out. The eruption of St. Helens in 1980 had quite an impact on me as a child (as it did for anyone who lived in the Pacific Northwest at the time) and I’ve always felt drawn to it for this reason.

It was a lot closer than I thought. It took us less than two hours to drive there. Closer than the beach! We visited Forest Learning Center first and wandered around, checked out the exhibits. One thing that I learned while there was that, due to the way the sound waves bounced when it exploded, the people in Portland didn’t hear the explosion. Yet those hundreds of miles, or more, away heard it! Fascinating. I talked to my mom about this and she told me that she heard it in Spokane. She was outside gardening and heard the explosion but thought something at Hanford exploded. Apparently it was very loud. A few hours later the ash from the mountain would darken the sky and we would be covered by it.

Later we decided to check out Coldwater Lake (photo above). Then we hiked for a bit on South Coldwater Trail.

I was completely in awe the entire time I was there.


I’ve mentioned this before on this blog (here and here. And maybe even here. And here. ), but I’m very sensitive to the vibe, or energy of a place. If that makes sense. Hopefully it does because I don’t know how else to describe it. For example, I love Mt. Hood. Very much. I’ve always been drawn to it, even as a child. When I’m up there I feel very alive and full of energy. Mt. Saint Helens, on the other hand, didn’t leave me at all with that happy, alive feeling. Kind of for obvious reasons, really. When you look around you can see with our own eyes the destructive power of it. And what you see really gives you pause. This mountain, twenty years ago, killed a lot of life. And that destructive energy remains. So my feeling there was this feeling of utter and complete respect, but not warm, fuzzy, happy respect. Respect because she could totally kick my ass if she wanted to. Raf likened St. Helens to the Hindu goddess Kali, “She who destroys.” Yes. Nail hit on head.

Birch trees on the trail

However, with destruction comes new life, too. Life is taken away and life is given in return. It’s the way it is. When we hiked through these birch trees I thought of Doug, the time we went huckleberry picking several years ago in a remote part of the Colville National Forest. Below the ridge we were on was a grove of birch trees. Doug’s mind was a font of random factoids and I remember him telling me, “There was a fire down there. You know how I know? Because birch trees are the first to grow after a fire.”  So walking through this grove made me think of him, which was nice. And it made me think of how things tend to work out, somehow, when horrible events take place. Which was also  a nice, hopeful, thought.

Very dry meadow

The Eruption of Mt. St. Helens

Mt St Helens

Image via Wikipedia

After visiting Daffodil Lane, I just realized that today, May 18th, is the 25 anniversary of the explosion of Mt. St. Helens.

This is significant to me because I am from Washington State and I experienced some of the devestation (on a comparably small scale) first hand. I was eleven years old when this happened and I remember this day like it was yesterday…well, on second thought, the memory gets a little bit fuzzier with age, but I do remember what I was doing when Mt. St. Helens exploded.

My younger brother, myself, and the neighborhood kids had walked to the local 7 eleven (it was, like, a mile or more away) to spend our allowence on candy. God, I think I even remember what candy I bought…Laffy Taffy, those cute little fruit flavored candies that had a really bad joke inscribed on the inside wrapper. It must have been a Saturday because it was in the middle of the day and we would have been in school otherwise. As we were walking home we noticed that the sky was getting darker and darker but didn’t think too much of it. I thought a rain storm was coming in. As we walked up to my house my mom met us in the street, and she was kind of acting worried. She told us to get into the house right away and told the neighbor kids to get home immediately. When I asked her what was going on she said that Mt. St. Helens erupted. I didn’t really know how significant that was or how it affected us. Until the ash came. About an hour later it started raining ash.

Now I don’t really remember much after that, but I do remember that we had to stay in the house for a long time. We couldn’t go outside without a surgical-type mask covering our mouths and noses. We were told that the air was dangerous to breathe because the of the ash particles.

I also remember that I got a silk screen t-shirt (that I still have) that says “I survived Mt. St. Helens” or something like that. (I’m going to see if I can dig it up tonight when I get home from work).

I also remember that my sister got stranded in the Tri-Cities for about a week. She was visiting friends there that weekend and couldn’t get back home.

I recently watched an Imax movie (rented via Netflix) called The Eruption of Mt. St. Helens. Watching that stirred up some more memories for me. The movie had footage of the huge amounts of ash that had piled up in the towns east of St. Helens (including Spokane). The ash would get into carburetors and ruin the cars. The movie also reminded me of the sense of humor of some people. I remember passing by business signs (the ones that have detachable letters) that would say silly things like, “Mt. St. Helens made and ash of herself” or something to that effect.

It was a really interesting experience to go through. It wasn’t particularly happy, but it was exciting for an eleven year old.

Mount St. Helens Sees Second Long Tremor

View of Mt. St. Helens from Climbers Biviouc

Image via Wikipedia

Yahoo! News – Mount St. Helens Sees Second Long Tremor

As scientists warned that an eruption of Mount St. Helens appeared imminent Sunday, eager tourists camped out along park roads, hoping to catch a glimpse of the seething volcano without being overcome by ash and smoke.

Argh! Why are you there? Do you think this is a game? That freaking mountain will kill you! It seriously surprises me how stupid people are. The article has a picture of a little girl with a gas mask watching the mountain.

I was around for the eruption of Mt. St. Helens in ’80.  I remember that day like it was yesterday. My younger brother and me, and all of the neighboorhood kids, walked down to the local 7-11 to stock up on Laffy Taffies and other yummy candies. When we got home, the ash cloud was descending upon our town (Spokane, WA). Then it rained ash. We had to wear masks over our faces for a long time. Months, it seemed. I really hope this eruption isn’t a repeat twenty years ago. These tourists better hope it’s not.