Mount St. Helens – 2004

In the fall of 2004, our search for a new place to live had us visiting Washington (the state, not the cesspool out East).  While there we did a bit of tourist stuff, such as a visit to Mount St. Helens.

For those not up on the history, here are the Wiki entry on the volcano, and on the eruption.   On May 18, 1980, at 8:32:17 a.m. PDT, or exactly 32 years ago if you read this right when it was posted, Mount St. Helens spoke with a loud and deadly voice.

This is the stop-motion video of the eruption:

What follows are my pictures from our visit to the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument.  For those who just want to see the map of the place, click HERE.

A nice bridge as we near the park

A nice bridge as we near the park

The park is inside the blast zone, but does not encompass the whole of the devastated area.  

The Weyerhaeuser Company owns, and operates in, parts of the area, as do various state and federal agencies.  The area operated by Weyerhaeuser has been subject to a reforestation effort.  The area inside the park has been left to a natural regrowth process.  The transition from one to the other was quite dramatic (I assume it’s still so).

Part of the reforestation effort

Part of the reforestation effort

Land in between

Land in between

What lies beyond

What lies beyond

The pyroclastic flow followed this riverbed - and it's not the main.  This is a bit to the side of the mountain.

The pyroclastic flow followed this riverbed – and it’s not the main of the blast. This is a bit to the side of the mountain.

The Wiki entry shows the various flows, and how far they reached . . . eleven miles away was not a safe distance.

This next video is a compilation of satellite photos from 1980 through 2011 showing the slow reclamation of the scorched land by things that are green.

Before entering the park we visit the Forest Learning Center, and read the history of the area, the logging activities, and the reforestation program.  They are proud of how fast they were able to erase the scars of the event.  I don’t have any opinion one way or the other, but if pressed, I would have to say I prefer reforestation to letting things get back on their own.  Not within the park, of course . . . that is as much a monument to the event as it is a chance to study how the environment recovers from such devastation.

As we drive into the park we realize the big bank of clouds is hiding the mountain . . . or what's left of it.

As we drive into the park we realize the big bank of clouds is hiding the mountain . . . or what’s left of it.

It does not look promising for seeing the remains of the mountain

It does not look promising for seeing the remains of the mountain

Our destination is the Visitor Center at Johnston Ridge.   David A. Johnston was observing the volcano from the ridge named after him.  The ridge is six miles away from the eruption site.  The landslide moved at a speed of about 150mph.  The pyroclastic flow started out at 220mph, and quickly reached 670mph.  He was one of 57 people who were killed.

From the trail near the Visitor Center on Johnston Ridge

From the trail near the Visitor Center on Johnston Ridge

The mountain kept playing with my hopes . . .

The mountain keeps playing with my hopes . . .

The wind would occasionally drive the clouds from the mountain, but never enough to see the new bubble that was forming.

The wind occasionally drives the clouds from the mountain, but never enough to see the new bubble that is forming.

Not much grows in the area that suffered the initial avalanche and blast.

Not much grows in the area that suffered the initial avalanche and blast.

But there are remnants of what had grown here.

But there are remnants of what had grown here.

The shooting conditions are difficult for me to handle.   By that I refer to the brightness of the clouds combined with the low reflectivity of the ground due to the ash.  My exposure/lighting/compensation expertise is minimal (in 2004), and because I had not practiced as much with changing relevant settings, I mess up many pictures, most of them trying to bracket exposures.  This is the last time I travel without the camera manual.

My attempt at artistic interpretation . . .

My attempt at artistic interpretation . . .

Aside from the combination of the fallen tree and the new growth, there is another image that comes to mind.

Aside from the combination of the fallen tree and the new growth, there is another image that comes to mind.

To me it almost looked as if the tree was trying, after it had fallen, to drag itself away from the inferno .   This is my favorite picture from the park.

To me it almost looks as if the tree was trying, after it had fallen, to drag itself away from the inferno .
This is my favorite picture from the park.

At the visitor center, there is a film documenting the events of March 18, 1980.  It also touches on the history of the mountain and the surrounding area.

When done, the screen lifts, curtains part, and we see the sleeping giant.   . . . maybe it's only snoozing . . .

When done, the screen lifts, curtains part, and we see the sleeping giant.
. . . maybe it’s only snoozing . . .

This is from or near the Visitor Center on Johnston Ridge.

This is from or near the Visitor Center on Johnston Ridge.

We hang around a bit hoping for the wind to clear the clouds from the caldera.   I pass the time by shooting other stuff.

There is more growth on the side facing away from the volcano

There is more growth on the side facing away from the volcano

Not much growth, but it's coming back.  Much more then on the side that got blasted.

Not much growth, but it’s coming back. Much more then on the side that got blasted.

It’s nearing 6:00 pm, and we still want to get to Portland so we can be poised to invade the rest of Oregon in the morning.  Reluctantly, we turn our backs on the shrouded mountain, and begin to make our way out of the park.

On the way out we stopped at the new lake formed when St. Helen rearranged the landscape.

On the way out we stop at the new lake formed when St. Helen rearranged the landscape.

Mud blocked off Coldwater Creek, and Coldwater Lake was born. At least that is what I remember.

Mud blocked off Coldwater Creek, and Coldwater Lake was born. At least that is what I remember.

By the way, that is an early attempt at panoramas. Four shots which did not blend well because of the vignetting on the individual shots.

As we continue along the road, St. Helen plays it coy, showing us little more than hints of its presence.

As we continue along the road, St. Helen plays it coy, showing us little more than hints of its presence.

I was hoping it would clear, so we were not hurrying to leave the park.

I keep hoping it would clear, so we are not hurrying to leave the park.

At each switchback, I glance back.  First, to make sure there’s no pyroclastic cloud chasing us.  And second, I’m still hoping for a clear shot at the mountain.

Almost out of the park, I stop to snap a few more pictures.

Almost out of the park, I stop to snap a few more pictures.

Again I try my hand at faking like I have an artistic eye.

Again I try my hand at faking like I have an artistic eye.

The mountain stubbornly hugged the clouds close to its sides . . .

The mountain stubbornly hugs the clouds close to its sides . . .

That's it . . . it was already later than we had planned, and we are about to lose sight of St. Helens.

That’s it . . . it’s already later than we had planned, and we are about to lose sight of St. Helens.

I would like to go back sometime, but with so many places yet to see this may have to serve as a lasting memory of Mount St. Helen.

If you were not alive in 1980, or if you were too young to appreciate the magnitude of it, take a moment to hit the links, and relive the events and aftermath of an example of what could happen to the other volcano in the area . . . Mount Rainier.

Once again, thanks for visiting and indulging in a look back with me, and as always, for better versions of the pictures, please click on any of them to go to the SmugMug album associated with this post..

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About disperser

Odd guy with odd views living an odd life during odd times.
This entry was posted in Mt. St. Helen, Photography, Photography Stuff, Scenery, Travel Stuff, Washington and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Mount St. Helens – 2004

  1. bluelyon says:

    I remember clearly. We (1st husband and I) moved to Portland in the fall of 1980. Shortly after we moved there Mount St. Helens burped again, spewing more ash which made its way to Portland. I learned then NEVER to use one’s windshield wipers to remove volcanic ashes from one’s windshield. :(

    Like

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