I visit the Mt St Helens National Monument area on a regular yearly basis. Each season presents a different take on the landscape surrounding the Pacific Northwest volcano: spring green vegetation and purple lupine wildflowers; barren, ash blown pumice plains in the summer; shades of yellow and gold autumn leaves; a white landscape with occasional drifts of steam wafting up from the crater during crisp, cold winter days. Regardless of the season, I always get an eerie feeling visiting this lonely, desolate area that constantly reminds me of the power unleashed by a once beautiful summit in the Cascade Range. I had a special affinity for the once snow-capped symmetrical cone. It was so lovely. It was once referred to as the Mt Fuji of North America. It’s Native Indian name is Loowit. I have only a few snapshots taken of the mountain in its pre-eruptive state from the mid 1970’s. Below are a few instamatic camera shots taken from my car on a drive along the road to Spirit Lake during my first and last time before the catastrophic eruption of May 18, 1980.
I can distinctly remember the drive along the winding road following the Toutle River going in and out of the shadows of the thick, green, heavily scented pine forest. It was springtime. The fragrance of the pristine forest was one that I will never forget, and this is what I seem to lament the most about the loss of all these beautiful evergreens. If I could have bottled the aroma and brought it home with me as a souvenir, I would have.
Now take a look at the mountain (volcano) in this shot below taken on May 18, 1980 from a southern point of view. A large portion of its top was blown off leaving a hollow shell. The northern part of the volcano (photo at top of blog post) gave way in a gigantic land slide triggered by a quake, which in turn released the pressure within the volcano, and the rest is history.
Today, the volcano is much more quiet, but still restless. Mt St Helens is the youngest of the Cascade volcanoes and could be likened to a teenager going through its growing pains. It has erupted many times in the past and will erupt again. The question is when. But in the meantime, scientists will continue to monitor her around the clock. She behaves unlike no other volcano studied. I suppose you could say that Washington State has one large science experiment ongoing in her backyard. I like to visit the Volcano Cam frequently to see what’s going on there. http://www.fs.fed.us/gpnf/volcanocams/msh/