Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Mount St Helens

Today was a road trip 125 miles down to Mount St Helens.  As the crow flies, the distance is only about 60 miles, but there aren’t many roads in the crow lanes, so we had to drive around.

Mount St Helens last erupted on May 18, 1980 and many of us remember seeing coverage on our local news stations.  It is now a National Volcanic Monument within the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.  This was a very hot and hazy day in Washington, but we still were able to get a bird’s eye view from the Johnston Observatory which sits directly across from the north side of the volcano.

Valley of the mud slide

In March of 1980 the volcano began to rumble.  The situation grew progressively worse until on Sunday, May 18th, triggered by an earthquake directly underneath, the north flank fell away resulting in the largest mudslide in recorded history.  Shortly afterwards, an eruptive blast blew 1300 feet off the top.  In the end, 230 square miles of forest had been flattened, the river valley was flooded to a depth of 150 feet with mountain debris, and 57 souls lost their lives.
Reforested by "the tree people"
Today, the area is recovering.  Thanks to Weyerhaeuser, who owned 96,000 of forest in the blast zone, the tree people were out within a couple of years replanting Douglas Fir and Noble Fir which were the dominant forest before the eruption. These trees will eventually be harvested, of course, but their efforts went a long way to getting the devastated landscape on the road to recovery.

We actually spent more hours on the road today than we spent at the volcano.  Tomorrow we will probably stick close to home.  After big milage days four days in a row, we need a rest day.

No comments:

Post a Comment