I was 13 years old on May 18th, 1980, when Mount. St. Helens erupted. I was at church, and when we came out to leave there were funny looking clouds in the sky. They looked a bit like storm clouds, but were different, darker and much more concentrated. Many of us stopped and stared at those strange clouds in wonder.
My mom said to my dad, “Look, I bet Mt. St. Helens just blew”.
“Don’t be ridiculous”, was his response. Turns out, it wasn’t ridiculous at all. Mt. St. Helens had indeed erupted, and she took the lives of 57 people with her. For days and weeks after the eruption, ash fell from the sky. Our little town of Vancouver, Washington, only got a few inches total, while places like Yakima were covered for weeks in ash and ran out of places to put it. She blew almost 3,000 feet off the top of what once was an almost perfectly round dome, changing the landscape of our lives forever.
My ride up the mountain
Earlier this week, I enjoyed a ride on my motorcycle up to Mount St. Helens. I, and Baby (my bike), took the curvy road up toward the observatory with barely another car in site. The sun warmed my leathers and Springtime wildflowers lined the highway. It was one of those beautiful days that make you happy to be alive.
Mount St. Helens Science and Learning Center
I rode through the cute little towns of Castle Rock and Silver Lake, and then stopped at the Mount St. Helens Science and Learning Center just before Toutle, Washington. There is a beautiful trail there that makes for a pleasant hike next to the lake. I had a nice conversation with a Ranger about the need for a Discovery Pass, which I had failed to purchase. He let me go with a stern warning, so make sure you buy your Discovery Pass if you are visiting any National or State Parks in Washington this summer.
The Forest Learning Center
Next I stopped at the Forest Learning Center, located at milepost 37 and operated by Weyerhaeuser. The view from there is spectacular! I stared down at the Toutle River, marked with permanent scars from the mud slide and flooding where the eruption had cut a wide destructive path, and marveled at the power of mother nature. The growing clouds surrounding the mountain were turning darker and darker by the moment and I remembered hearing about the potential for thunderstorms, so I made the wise decision to head back and not ride all the way up to the Johnston Ridge Observatory. I have been there many times, and it’s a fascinating place to visit, where you can still see ancient trees laying on their side, flattened by the power of the volcano all those years ago.
I turned around and rode home, a little faster than my ride up. I felt only a few raindrops, but within half an hour of my getting back, the storm started and the sky opened. It was another reminder of the power and splendor of our dear mother.