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:
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
We hang around a bit hoping for the wind to clear the clouds from the caldera. I pass the time by shooting other stuff.
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.
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.
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.
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..
About awards: Blogger Awards
. . . my FP ward . . . chieken shit.