THE DAY MOUNT ST. HELENS BLEW ITS TOP

THE DAY MOUNT ST. HELENS BLEW ITS TOP

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Forty years before, almost to the minute, that this article was posted on Tales Told From The Road, Mount St. Helens, a “dormant” volcano in Southwest Washington, blew its top.

If, like my best friend, Bill, I had still been residing in or around my old hometown of Seattle, perhaps I might have heard the sound as the mountain exploded 100 miles to the south.

If I had been 200 miles to the east of Mount St. Helens in Spokane, Washington, where Bill’s wife hails from, I might have seen the sky turn from day to night at midday as ash from the eruption obscured the sun.

(Wikipedia Commons Photo)

But living 700 road miles to the south in the San Francisco Bay Area the only clue I had that the mountain had been forever altered came from news reports.

I wouldn’t see the carnage to the landscape surrounding Mount St. Helens until years later.

In September of 1983 my wife and I flew from San Francisco to Portland, spent time in that city, and stayed a night (or maybe two) at Timberline Lodge near the summit of another Cascade volcano, Mount Hood, just a relatively short distance as the bald eagle flies, south of St. Helens.

While in Portland we visited a museum that featured eye-popping photos (and probably film) of the mountain’s eruption.

But it wasn’t until ten years later, on a day trip out of Portland to the recently opened Coldwater Ridge Visitor Center, that we had an opportunity to see the devastation which still remained in the area near the mountain after it blew its top thirteen years earlier.

At Johnston Ridge Observatory NW of Mt St Helens…every tree was killed and laid out radially away from the exploding Volcano in 1980

Today the best way to view the eruption and what has transpired in its aftermath is through this series of a dozen YouTube videos, many produced for Oregon Public Broadcasting’s “Oregon Field Guide” show.

Twenty-seven years have passed since I stood looking across to what was left of Mount St. Helens. When travel restrictions in the coronavirus era end, perhaps I will have a chance to revisit the scene of one of Mother Nature’s most violent “temper tantrums.”

(Today there are several visitor centers are located near Mount St. Helens about a two-hour drive or less from Portland International Airport, the closest major airport where you rent cars. The New York Times filed this detailed story on the 40th anniversary of the Mount St. Helens eruption.)


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