After a visit to Ape Cave and Lava Canyon in the south-west side of the mountain, we headed up the east side and came in on the road to Windy Ridge, which is as close as you can drive to the site of the eruption.
Even at this distance the blast cloud approached at 300mph and soon engulfed the photographer, but they were able to drive away in spite of the ash cloud.
A bit closer is the actual outer edge of the blast zone where the trees were all killed by the extreme heat of the blast and debris.
Near the present day viewpoint is the area where all trees were basically uprooted and blasted away by the forces. Spirit lake took the brunt of the blast and became roughly twice the size in surface area, and half the depth due to mud, ash, and debris. Even today the surface is a floating mat of logs and wood, but the water is clear and the fish appear to be thriving once again.
The weather was very warm, the hiking was excellent and varied, and the scenery first class. After a number of days basically confined to the trees,it was nice to get out where you could see what was around you, rather than just solid trees hundreds of feet tall. And amazing to think that was how this area looked prior to May 18, 1980! Quite the change. Much of the volcano is closed to hiking, or by permit only, and is being used as a living laboratory to monitor nature healing it’s scars. So when I found the only ‘legal’ trail to access the shores of Spirit Lake I took it.
It looked like good swimming .
Little Meta lake fared a bit better after the blast. Because it was still frozen, and a lot of the vegetation was under snow cover when the hot ash descended, some of the aquatic and other small life forms were able to survive under the snow.
Here is a photo from the web of the same area, sometime after the blast.
This is also amazing because Meta Lake is completely hidden behind a large ridge that would shield it from even worse devastation.