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August 23, 2004

Mt St Helens

Up early again thanks to the jet lag still in evidence on our second
morning, and off to see volcano number two Mt St Helens. When
planning the trip I'd initially been undecided about if we should
drive right up to the visitor centre or see the mountain from a
distance. In the end I'd decided to get up close even though it
added quite a lot of time to the day - good decision !

We headed to the Johnson Ridge visitor centre and all the way along
the road you get glimpses of this mighty volcano which blew its side
out in 1980 before it dissappears again behind a ridge.

Words escape me when trying to describe the impact of standing in
front of the north side of this mighty volcano and 10 miles away
seeing the crater where the side of the mountain blew away. Its just
so big in your field of view you just cannot grasp that it is 10
miles away. Your mind grapples with the magnitude of the blast that
took away so much rock and fails to properly understand. Once again
the majesty, power, size and scale of the natural wonders in North
America blew me away. Take my word for it, if you are impressed by
natural wonders this is a must see right up there with the Grand
Canyon, Crater Lake, Yellowstone and others.

The visitor centre is very well done and if you ever get there take
the time to see the film show. I will not spoil the surprise by
giving away the ending - it will take your breath away. Also take
the time to walk the trail a little from the visitor centre up to
the top of the ridge. You get panoramic views of the area that the
pyroclastic flow devastated and although life is reclaiming the area
and it is covered in green, you can still see the silver trunks of
the trees blasted flat by the explosion.

We took the drive back retracing our steps to the I5 and stopped at
the small town of Castle Rock for lunch. The weather was baking hot
and in the Diner we were told that it was abnormally hot and
breaking records. Due to the hot weather I ordered a beer with my
meal (honest if it wasn't hot I wouldn't touch the stuff - unless it
was cold or raining). 'A Budweiser please' I ordered after studying
the menu. The waitress looked puzzled........ I looked back equally
puzzled....... 'You want a bucket of ice ?' she said incredulously.
I repeated what I actually wanted and was understood that time. For
the rest of the holiday 'bucket of ice' became the name by which my
Father in Law and I referred to beer as in 'its been a hot day, I'll
drink a few buckets of ice tonight !'

We then set off south heading for Oregon. The border between
Washington and Oregon is the Columbia River Gorge. We missed a
terrific photo/video opportunity by not being ready as we drove
across the I5 Columbia river bridge. Be ready for it if you drive
that way. Looking left up the river you can see the gorge in all its
splendour with Mount Hood a beautifully symetrical conical volcano
in the background.

We headed up the southern (Oregon) bank of the Columbia to the town
of Hood River. That night we explored this delightful small town
which clings as well as it can to the traditional grid pattern of
American towns even though it sits on the steep valley side. Its
like a miniature San Francisco in that regard. We ate our evening
meal in a brew pub complete with several home brewed buckets of ice.
A perfect end to a wonderful day.

Posted by Graham on August 23, 2004 01:50 PM
Category: 2004 the pacific north west

I've seen Mt St Helens on the TV. Was it errupting whilst you were there ?


Posted by: Al on October 16, 2004 01:52 AM


We thought we could see some steam venting off but a Ranger said it was probably dust being blown up. Given what has happened since, perhaps he was wrong.


Posted by: Graham on October 22, 2004 02:21 PM
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