It has been almost two weeks since our last blog. We've spent most of that time moving north and visiting with family in both Oregon and Toronto. We are currently camped in Kelso, Washington, which is about an hour north of Portland, Oregon. This gives us access to both family and a number of scenic wonders. High on our bucket list was a visit to Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. On Tuesday, March 29, 2016, we decided to drive over to the Silver Lake Visitors Center and gather information on hiking around the monument. Here is our first look at Mount St. Helens.
We started our tour of the Visitors Center with a 20 minute documentary on the 1980 eruption. The catastrophic eruption occurred on May 18, 1980, at 8:32 a.m. It was the deadliest and most economically destructive volcanic event in the history of the United States. Fifty-seven people were killed; 250 homes, 47 bridges, 15 miles of railways, and 185 miles of highway were destroyed. A massive debris avalanche triggered by an earthquake measuring 5.1 on the Richter scale caused an eruption that reduced the elevation of the mountain's summit from 9,677 ft to 8,363 ft, replacing it with a 1 mile wide horseshoe-shaped crater. Here a series of photos capture the moment of eruption.
After the movie, we walked around the various exhibits. They even had a model of Mount St. Helens that you could walk into and explore the various layers. The magma chamber inside the model glows bright red.
Outside the Visitors Center is a one mile nature trail that leads out into the marshy area of Silver Lake. Here, a local resident soaks up some spring sunshine.
Mr. Duck wasn't the only one enjoying a sunny day on the lake.
To get to the base of the volcano, we had a long drive up Spirit Lake Highway. There were a number of scenic overlooks. While the Forest Learning Center was closed, the parking lot and viewing platforms were open. Here we are looking down on the Toutle River Valley. After the eruption, grass and clover were planted along the river in hopes of stopping ash and silt from flowing downstream. As the grass took hold, elk moved into the valley. Try as we might, we weren't able to spot any.
We tried again at the Elk Rock viewpoint. While still no elk sightings, we did get some amazing views of Mount St. Helens.
Our next stop took us up to 3800 feet. A snowy blanket covered the ground. We got our first look at Castle Lake, which was created by an avalanche which dammed the mouth of Castle Creek.
We were unable to reach the Johnston Ridge Observatory at 4,200 feet as the road is closed in the winter. We consoled ourselves with a visit to Coldwater Lake. When the landslide from Mount St. Helens slid into the North Fork Toutle River Valley, it blocked the flow of Coldwater Creek. Water backed up behind the landslide deposit, gradually forming this lake.
Concern about the sudden breakout of water from Coldwater Lake from failure of the debris dam or overtopping and subsequent erosion of the dam, led the Army Corps of Engineers in 1981 to control the lake level by excavating an outlet channel that delivers water down to the Toutle River. Here is the new and improved Coldwater Creek.
We had a great first day in the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. She agreed to let us take this selfie with her:
We are looking forward to coming back and hiking in the area, and we think we have some great, scenic ideas for hikes. Stay tuned!