Mount St. Helens

Yesterday, we drove 40 miles to the end of the Spirit Lake Highway to the Johnston Ridge Observatory.  Situated 5 miles from the volcano, in the middle of the blast zone near the site where David Johnston lost his life on May 18, 1980, this observatory is a must see.

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In 1982 Congress established this area as a National Monument. The Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument is 110,000 acres in size, set aside for research, recreation and education. All within this area will be left to respond naturally to the destructive eruption in 1980.

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This wonderful observatory tells the story well.

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Every hour two different movies are shown..the first movie had amazing color footage of the eruption. At 8:32 AM a major earthquake shook the mountain and the entire north face slid off, the largest landslide in  recorded history. The resulting depressurization of the volcano caused a gaseous lateral blast that tore through the top 1000 feet of the cone and accelerated to 300 mph. This lateral blast devastated an area over 19 miles long covering 234 square miles.

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In the inner zone, extending at least 6 miles out, all trees were ripped off like match sticks. Nothing survived. 36 years later many trees still lie where the were ripped from the earth.

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After the first film ended, the curtain behind the movie screen rose. This was the what we saw…it was quite dramatic…

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What a view…..

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There is a short walk to higher ground for a better view of these high ridges which were all dense forest on that Sunday morning in 1980….

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In the parking lot was a trailer selling sandwiches….we got the Crater Dogs with Sauerkraut and drove to a pretty picnic spot by one of the lakes created by the 1980 eruption…

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There is so much to see on this 40 mile drive…many turnouts with views and two other important centers…

The Forest Learning Center and Hoffstadt Bluffs Visitors Center were all very rewarding stops….this site, in the photo below, about 14 miles from the volcano was still in the blast zone but has been replanted and the trees are now some 30 years old…

…this is the Toutle River valley which runs west from the volcano. The mud flow resulting from the blast in the first few hours afterward raced down this valley taking out houses and bridges and raised the valley floor up 150 feet in places…

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Outside the National Monument area much of the forest has been replanted…at one of the stops we learned about the Weyerhauser project…

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This sculpture tells the story…individuals carrying bags of saplings replanted 45,000 acres ….18.4 million trees ….one by one… by hand!

The project took 7 years.

Our last stop was at Hoffstadt Bluffs where a nice restaurant is located…we noticed that they had the terrace all set up for some event……it was a wedding ….. pretty nice backdrop for the ceremony I would say

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This was a really great day….I think I was on an airplane to a sales recognition event when the volcano erupted. I have wanted to see it ever since.

Today, Sunday, it’s pretty dreary out but supposed to clear a little later. We may do a little driving around later. Tomorrow we are driving 200 miles north to the Olympic peninsula, staying for a few days in a campground near Port Angeles.

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