Thursday, October 6, 2016

The Misty Mountain

September 20-22, 2016

Three days on Mount St Helens is probably not enough time, but it was all the fair weather she gave me. After leaving my friends' house on the 19th I hightailed to the rest stop nearest the turnoff to head up to the National Monument.  I wasn't hopeful the next morning after awakening to a thick fog that hid even the nearby freeway but I headed for the hills anyway.  A grueling 1.5 mile climb to the Johnston Ridge Observation Center later I was greeted with this:

Front view.

The view from the side.  The crater is to the left.

The fog was kind enough to stick to the lowlands and give the visitors a clear view of the crater complete with steam coming from the vents in the center.  37 years ago that was a pointy mountain until she collapsed, sending many tons of her mountainside tumbling down into what was previously a deeper valley.  Over the years rain and snow have begun carving into the looser rocks and soil of the landslide creating a hellscape:

All around there are hummocks - chunks of the mountain that were deposited as the mudflow ran into the valleys:

These used to be inside a volcano

And here is the Toutle River, patiently carving her way through the 200 or so feet of rock and ash that was dumped in her path.  I'm pretty sure this is how the Grand Canyon got started.

Despite having 59 days of warning earthquakes not everything was taken out of the area.  Scientists expected a much smaller blast area and unfortunately some of them lost their lives when the mountain erupted.  The area was actively being logged and a few pieces of logging machinery didn't fare well either:

As I was coming down the hill from seeing the logging equipment The Mountain looked as though she'd had enough of the sunny day and started collecting her rain cap for the storm that would unleash that evening.

It poured all night long and I left early the next morning to head to Vancouver.