Mt. St. Helens

Yesterday, we finally made it out to Mt. St. Helens.  We’ve lived here for over a year and a half and we’d never made it out there.  The threat of an imminent move is apparently the very thing we needed to get going to see it.

It was beautiful.  The drive was…interesting.  Apparently, the GPS doesn’t actually take you to the mountain itself, but to the ranger station, which tacked on at least an hour to our drive.  The girls mostly did good – Ms Piggy napped for a bit, the girls watched videos on the Kindle, we all admired the beautiful nature surrounding us (and it was beautiful!) and, of course, the girls fought like it’s the only cool thing to do on a road trip.  Ms Piggy has developed the most ear-splitting, annoying scream known to humankind.  And Ms Action is at the age where she has to argue about anything and everything, even – I should say especially – about things that don’t matter. 

But lest you think the road trip part was all bad, it wasn’t.  The scenery, like I said before, was beautiful.  Sunlight streaming through the trees, ferns growing under the tall pines, pines of all different colors: olive green, blue green, deep dark green, even some with yellow – although those were the ones that were a bit dead.  Wildflowers were prolific: Purple, yellow and white flowers grew along the side of the road, waving gently in the breeze.  And, I figured out a few plot holes in my book I need to close up, so it was very good for my creative process.

We did have one rather…strange, potentially scary experience. Apparently, here in the state of Washington, if you’re holding up traffic you’re supposed to pull over and let everyone pass (which, I must say in our defense, we didn’t know about AND there is no place to pull over on a mountain road with no shoulder).  Anyway, we pulled into a campground to ask for directions and someone who had been behind us pulled in after us to let us know about the law.  He came up and knocked on the hubby’s window.  We thought he was offering help, directions.  No, he was belligerent and all “Did you know this is the law?  You should have pulled over.”  The hubby told the guy we had been doing the speed limit (sometimes, honestly, we’d been going over, so we definitely weren’t hindering traffic in anyway).  The guy kept going on and on, getting nastier, so the hubby told him the conversation (such as it had been) was over and rolled up the window.  The guy, fortunately, just drove off. 

After that, we finally made it up to the various lookout points, saw the blast face, Spirit Lake, and learned about volcanoes.  Did you know that Mt Rainier (which isn’t that far from where we’re living currently) is due to blast in the next couple centuries?  And Mt. St. Helens hasn’t exactly been following the schedule it’s supposed to be on, either.  Back in 2004, it started a slow kind of explosion that lasted until 2008, and, according to its schedule, it wasn’t supposed to do anything for around 500 years. 

At the highest lookout point you could drive to, there was a path of something around 330 steps (the hubby counted, he lost track and said it was either 330 or 430 steps).  We walked al the way up.  Ms Action walked the entire thing, and rather quickly at that.  Ms Piggy walked a good deal of it.  I carried her part way and the hubby carried her most of the way.  The view from the top was spectacular. 

There is still evidence of the blast all around – dead trees that fell up the mountain, the trunks and roots bleached white, the roots a gnarled mess, sitting against a stark, nearly bare background.  Although, life is making its come back.  There are small pines, lots of brush, and wildflowers.  I never thought I would describe a dandelion as beautiful, but out there, in that stark barrenness, they are beautiful.  Next to the daisies, some gorgeous orange flower I couldn’t identify, Queen Anne’s lace and baby’s breath, they actually looked stunning.  Some of the dead trees are still standing, jutting up against the sky.  It was amazing, spectacular. 

The sky was a beautiful blue yesterday, fluffy white clouds floated across the horizon.  One of them looked strangely two-dimensional, flat, and blurry.  The trees in front of it, in my line of sight, looked extra three-dimensional because of that cloud.  Oh, and this one huge cloud, directly over the mountain, had wispy arms that descended down into the crater, making it look like smoke was rising from the volcano.  It was truly awe-inspiring.  The beauty and power of nature were on full display up the the volcano site – the evidence of what nature can do, how it can destroy, and yet how life is so stubborn and refuses to every completely go away. 

The dead trees combined with the new life was just beautiful, amazing, incredible, almost beyond words.

If you ever get a chance, I highly recommend going out to look at the volcano.  Just make sure you have a full tank of gas, lots of food and a ton of water.  There aren’t any gas stations, stores or restaurants for miles and miles around.

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