Saturday, September 24, 2011

Mt St Helens–part II

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.

About 11 miles as the crow flies from the mountain there is a viewpoint where some of the most famous photos were taken of the initial blast on May 18, 1980.  CIMG6680


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.


  Closer still is the area where all the trees were blasted flat from the force, and killed from the heat.  CIMG6686

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.CIMG6691CIMG6692CIMG6693CIMG6698CIMG6702CIMG6703CIMG6704

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 Winking smile.


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.

In varying degrees and various stages, life is once again returning to all areas around Mt St Helens.  Until the next eruption, when it will start all over again.CIMG6749CIMG6751CIMG6752CIMG6688CIMG6689CIMG6690

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Fall Road Trip

After an amazing amount of work in a short time, Hailey and I were due for some R&R!  After watering her one cat-nip plant we blasted off in a hurry for central Oregon.  A couple a friends were getting together there and it was a good chance to see them both at once.  The weather was exceptional in the area and we spent time floating about on rivers and lakes in the area.


It was a fast trip down with no stops, but the return trip was to be a different story.  A long time was spent poring over maps, and I broke down and bought the ‘backroads’ atlas for Washington state, to go with my ever growing collection.

In the Sisters area of Oregon, there was a lot of smoke from several large forest fires in the region.  The Shadow Lake fire had been burning for about a week and was very visible from a number of highway viewpoints in the area.CIMG6590CIMG6592CIMG6594CIMG6595

This little guy seemed to be keeping his eye on the fire as well.


Gasbuddy helped us locate some less expensive diesel as well passed into Oregon on a 20’s era toll ($0.75) bridge from Hood River.


I headed for the south-western access to the Mt St Helens area and found a moderately quiet roadside spot overlooking the Swift reservoir.


Someone had hung a tiny little purse in the weeds in front of the viewpoint.  It matched the colour of the stems and  blossoms exactly, and I only noticed it after being there for some time.  It was only about an inch across, there was nothing in it, and I have no idea why it was there?CIMG6623CIMG6626CIMG6627

I hiked a half mile underground in a lava tube at Ape Cave from a previous volcano at Mt St Helens.  My small flash does not do it justice, but it is generally good walking, and in places is about the size of an average railroad tunnel.  In the narrowest spot in this area it is only about 8-10’ wide and about 7’ high, and is a very breezy 47F because of the restriction.


At the end of the road is Lava Canyon with a short hiking trail leading through the path of one of the mudflows from the 1980 eruption.


There is also a neat suspension bridge that you can see down through.


On the way back down from Lava Canyon, the Trail of Two Forests displays some holes in the rock on the ground where lava surrounded standing trees, which eventually burned or rotted away, leaving these round holes!


There is even a ladder down into one, where you can crawl out the exit quite a ways away, through what must have been a fallen log when the lava struck.  Note: this was not the 1980 eruption, but more back about the beginning of time in this active volcanic zone that has seen many eruptions over the eons.


Next:  Windy Ridge at Mt St Helens