volcano gawkers

We live along a part of the Pacific Rim of Fire, a seismically active horseshoe of volcanoes and earthquakes.   Well before I lived here, in May 1980, Mt St Helens, one of the local conical volcanoes erupted so strongly that it exploded cataclysmically upward and outward, destroying 14 percent of its peak and devastating about 150 to 200 square miles of forested land.

Here’s a very short video that shows the before and after shape of the mountain (with amusing musical accompaniment).  Here’s a National Geographic gallery of pics.  Our pics upcoming will show only the after.

Last Friday we took the camper to a park about 50 miles from Mt St Helens, just to get out of Dodge for a few days.   Almost as an afterthought the next day, we decided to drive the 50-mile road that winds toward the summit and go nose around.

The only other time we’d been here was heavily overcast with no chance of seeing this volcano.  I’ve flown over the area many times, so have seen the destroyed peak and bleak landscape from 30,000 feet.  Our Saturday was clear and warm.

Herewith, perhaps too many photos to illustrate those 8 hours we messed about.  (N.B.  Click on any photo in a section and they’ll get bigger!)

We continued tootling up the road, along sections of the Toutle River that were devastated in the explosion.

For the gawkers, the smart powers-that-be constructed many waysides and several complex interpretive centers.  I kept wondering about having to rebuild if the mountain blew again….  We’re a peculiar species.  I digress.

bunker potty--I'm trying to imagine the request for proposal:  need blast-proof potty in case the mountain blows again

bunker potty near the end of the road–I’m trying to imagine the request for proposal: need blast-proof potty in case the mountain blows again.  Maybe we’re supposed to hide in their for a few weeks?!

We found a wayside about 20 miles (?) away from the mountain, just a parking lot with three interpretive signs, no facilities, and a knock-em-dead view of the peak and surrounding terrain.   We had the camper (with a potty!).  We lingered.  Had lunch al fresco, had naps, and I did laundry because I dumped a cup of tomato juice right into my only bag of clothes.  Sigh… !!

Our final view of the mountain at that spot:

late afternoon and the clouds bathe the broken peak

late afternoon and the clouds bathe the broken peak

The clouds continued to thicken.   Sunday the cloud deck was so low that there was no hint of a peak.   Weren’t we smart to go up the road on Saturday?!

We took kitty Calpurrnia with us because she needs three medicines twice a day, though we’d rather leave her home with Ooper.  They probably snuggle up when we’re not looking.  …  Nah…  Not sure how much longer she’ll be with us, our old girl, and it grieves me deeply to think of her fuzzy tortoise-shell self absent.

The camper road trips are quite demanding of me, but I recover faster now, which inspires lasting hope instead of mere pockets clung to in desperation.


32 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Kathryn McCullough
    Jun 21, 2013 @ 13:08:53

    Wow–those are some amazing photos, Laurel. We have a number of volcanoes here in Ecuador. I love it also that you took your kitty along! Hope you have a wonderful weekend out there in the Pacific NW!


  2. nadbugs
    Jun 21, 2013 @ 14:54:36

    Such a great, information-full post, dear Laurel — and I love that you stayed close w/ Calpurrnia and your own process too. You are a great heart, my friend. And the broken mountain! I remember the event well. One of those larger-than-life demonstrations of how we are a flyspeck in the eye of the divine. Thank you so much for the pictorial record!


    • lahgitana
      Jun 21, 2013 @ 15:10:06

      Were you still in the North Country when it blew? I was in Tucson….

      What you said–a flyspeck in the eye of the divine (=Cat, surely?!): these sorts of wild places give me life-breath; that is why nothing can take the Alaska out of the girl despite long absence. Spent time in volcano-land in AK, too, right in the dust!

      Our little Calpurrnia…. sigh…


      • heretherebespiders
        Jun 21, 2013 @ 15:23:49

        My sister, her hubby and my amazing niece are going to Alaska at the end of August for the next three years! From NC. Oooo. Any tips? It’s Anchorage area, Air Force orders.


        • lahgitana
          Jun 21, 2013 @ 16:31:13

          Plan to LOVE being outdoors in the winter. Do NOT wear cotton when playing outdoors. Dress properly all the time. Carry the shoes, wear the boots. Have emergency stuff in your car. For the first summer, install and USE blackout curtains.

          Anchorage has superb big-city, quality entertainment–opera, ballet, etc.

          Take cross-country ski lessons in town. Use the fabulous bike trails. Get outdoors.

          Um, this could go on and on. I’d be happy to field any and all questions. The more specific the better. I lived in Anchorage and traveled and worked all over the state.

          Ride the State ferry system.

          Ride the train from Anchorage to Seward gawking out the window. Ditto Anch to Fairbanks.

          Make time to *See* Alaska. You will never never regret it. It is life-changing. For some, it is too much wilderness, with not enough signs of humankind. For others like me, it is a primordial coming-home.

          Get used to bug juice when you’re playing in the summertime wilderness. The mosquitoes really are the size of small birds.


          • heretherebespiders
            Jun 22, 2013 @ 12:48:43

            Thank you! I’ve passed that on, verbatim, to my sister. She just announced to the world where she is going, and I DO have a real-life friend there that I hope is a big help, too :)


            • lahgitana
              Jun 22, 2013 @ 13:11:04

              nuthin’ like a local connection. moving is overwhelming…!!

            • heretherebespiders
              Jun 22, 2013 @ 13:18:22

              Just passed on your email address – I’d copy-pasted your response, and sis said she read it to her hubby :) I adore that you, my friend I’ve never met, have helped my one and only sister – and might do moreso in the future! She’s said the Internet has already been a bigger help to them since their last orders in 2005.

            • lahgitana
              Jun 22, 2013 @ 13:57:48

              I love that I could help, SpiderE. It’s what makes life worth living, these connections. just sayin’!

              I stand ready to go on and on and on! <:-D

      • nadbugs
        Jun 21, 2013 @ 17:52:16

        Goodness no I was nowhere near the blow-out — I forget where I was — but I remember seeing the videos of the thing going up and feeling quite horrified about that flyspeck in the eye of Bast thing. Didn’t a photographer die in it? I seem to remember that. Well — anyways — YAH for your wildness fix!!! So glad to hear it. Felt a little breath of it myself, so thank yew for that!!


        • lahgitana
          Jun 22, 2013 @ 07:14:54

          I’m pretty sure every person should experience that horrifying truth of how insignificant we truly are. That moment changes the way we treat one another and how we spend our time.

          A wildness fix does more for me than any pill or glass of wine. The (usual!) quiet, the rhythms of ocean and earth, and simple beauty of unpeopled land.

          I can’t remember if a photog was among the 57 dead; I only remember old Harry Truman stayin’ put and being vaporized.


          • nadbugs
            Jun 22, 2013 @ 18:20:06

            57!!!! I had no idea.


            • lahgitana
              Jun 22, 2013 @ 19:40:48

              here: http://www.olywa.net/radu/valerie/mshvictims.html to es-plain why so many got it even though there came months of warning.

            • nadbugs
              Jun 23, 2013 @ 14:35:42

              Wow. Tragic, fascinating. And a (“the”?) photog leads the list of the dead . . . .

            • lahgitana
              Jun 23, 2013 @ 14:43:22

              Happy Sunday, nadbugs! hee hee–haven’t called you that in ages!

              I’m a big fan of Ancient Rome, including the time Mt Vesuvius blew its top (79 AD–Titus was emperor, son of Vespasian). Reading a novel right now that mentions the economic troubles, the failed crops, starvation, and disease for yonks following that ‘splosion.

              And here, we had people DRIVING to the mountain and some actually climbing it between March when it started spewing and May when it exploded. Um??!!! Perhaps the gene pool is in better condition now?

            • nadbugs
              Jun 25, 2013 @ 15:55:37

              You really think so??? You ARE an eternal optimist!!

            • lahgitana
              Jun 25, 2013 @ 16:11:14

              It’s weird, isn’t it, how I can seem so optimistic when I *believe* that we’re gonna end up just like in all those apocalypse/end of the world movies. Ewwww….

              OK, so I think the gene pool is in horrible condition. Thanks for the reminder. Sigh….

  3. heretherebespiders
    Jun 21, 2013 @ 14:55:11

    I remember the big blow up. My aunties live in Oregon, and one sent us a little pumice stone that I used to use to scrub dead skin off my heels :) Really beautiful photos, I’m so happy that you got lovely days!


    • lahgitana
      Jun 21, 2013 @ 15:11:54

      I kept looking around for ash, remembering the many sales of same in tiny vials for ages!

      Yes, we were very lucky that Saturday. Our weather has been *cloudy* since last October!


  4. ~ Ivy ~ (@ivyft)
    Jun 22, 2013 @ 13:33:28

    It seems like some days… they’re just great. It’s when everything just lines up and ends up in a great memory, huh? I love the pictures, the information and I’m glad you were lucky on that specific Saturday. Thank you for sharing! A big hug for you and a smoochie for Calpurrnia!


  5. IsobelandCat
    Jun 22, 2013 @ 13:37:53

    Wonderful photos and account. It looks wilderness empty, and made me want to visit. Or were you cleverly not including skyscrapers and Macdos to left and right?
    How does Cal travel?


    • lahgitana
      Jun 22, 2013 @ 14:06:01

      Nope, it really is wilderness. After the explosion, the feds decided to protect the area so they could watch the rebirth, which has at times surprised them! >:-D It’s a HUGE area–110,00 acres!

      True, you’d have to come along a large highway to get to the smaller road because this is a heavily populated area. But it’s close to Portland, OR, which is a bonus! Nice city for a city.

      Cal does fairly well. Big says that she “loves camping”, but he always says it with a slightly kooky voice! Like most cats, she wonders what the hell we’re doing and why is her house moving. Again?!

      She does get even with us, I’m sure you can imagine. Like walking on our heads as we sleep so she can get to a window.


  6. Dianda
    Jun 23, 2013 @ 02:07:02

    Wow, what a beautiful view!


  7. Pix Under the Oaks
    Jun 23, 2013 @ 17:52:02

    Such a beautiful place Laurel. I know how you feel about the outdoors. I am always happier outside under the oaks listening to the birds, checking out the sky and feeling the breeze. Instant peace. I am glad you had a great get out of dodge! I gotta tell you that whatever that is for dinner looks delicious. You know me and FOOD.. :) Give Calpurrnia a scritch please.


    • lahgitana
      Jun 24, 2013 @ 08:32:32

      Big Mister roasted a turkey with stuffing and made gravy before we left. The intent was to have hot turkey dinner. He is a great cook!

      I’m so glad to hear from you, Pix. Hoping that things have calmed down there on the Tiny Ten. Maybe by now the weather has calmed enough that you can actually get outdoors?!


      • Pix Under the Oaks
        Jun 24, 2013 @ 10:27:09

        Laurel I think we have angered the gods.. :) We have had so many health and home catastrophes that if it wasn’t so aggravating, emotionally draining and sad I would be laughing. I am waiting for Fall. Seems things improve in the Fall.. :) I saw the gravy in the small pot and wanted to pour it over EVERY thing!


        • lahgitana
          Jun 24, 2013 @ 11:06:17

          Oh no. I’m so sorry. One thing after another is *exhausting*! No time to recover….

          I’ll have to tell Big Mister about your gravy-lust! hee hee!


  8. jacquiefioramonti
    Jul 02, 2013 @ 11:28:37

    What a spectacularly beautiful place. I love the bunker loos – someone was risk managing every case scenario …


    • lahgitana
      Jul 02, 2013 @ 11:37:37

      hahahahaha! You understood that, too! I kept staring and staring at that bunker, then dared to take a quick pic. Can you imagine the underling working on the request for proposal, trying to please some committee? hahahahaha!

      Oh, it was stunning, Jacquie. And a lovely respite from this overpopulated area.


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