Tag Archives: Mt St Helen’s

Wandering to the volcano

I’ve been feeling really cooped up lately. In an effort to save money, I’ve been trying to focus on things at home. Which is fine in moderation, but I’m the sort of person who needs to get out and do new things and explore and hang out, so after a while, it turns into a pent-up restless cabin-fever.

So yesterday, in an effort to alleviate that, we decided to drive to Mt St Helens. It was interesting because I didn’t really care if we made it all the way there, and it was raining, and would likely be dark by the time we got to anywhere. Which is fine – it’s more that I needed to see new things. We took Highway 30 most of the way to avoid I-5.

Small waterfall
Small waterfall at about 2000 feet on the way to Mt St Helen’s.

The colors were beautiful. A number of times, I almost pulled of the road just to admire a particularly brilliant tree. We drove through small towns and talked about the good signs (vintage) and the bad (wow, one town was honestly nothing by chain stores as much as we could tell).

Trees and clouds
Trees and clouds at about 2000 feet.

As we started the loop around the mountains, the rain turned into some pretty strong fog, and the temperature started dropping. I knew it was supposed to snow, and I don’t have chains for my car yet, so I kept a pretty close eye on the temperature.

Some of this drive is pretty disconcerting – when you are several thousand feet up, and as you approach a bridge, you realize how slender its supports look, and that this area is extremely prone to earthquakes. There’s rocks that crash down the side of the mountains into the roads, and you see them on the side of the road, smashed to bits. You can see the stress fractures in the roads from earthquakes and winter weather, and it makes you think about the brave people who put the roads there in the first place. This particular drive has the added oddness that all the trees are the exact same age which is very, very disconcerting to the eye. You feel like you are looking at lego trees, or that you are actually having that strange dream, you know, that one. The fog really didn’t help with that feeling.

Cloudline at 4000 feet. The bottom of the valley is 4000 feet-ish down and you can’t see the top of the mountains.

At around 4000 feet, we realized it was definitely going to freeze in the next hour or so, and the clouds and fog were going to prevent us from seeing much more than we were seeing, and it was going to be dark in 20 minutes. So we took a few pictures, and basked in the complete silence of that lonely mountain road (we only saw one other car on it when we were heading up) and headed back. We saw the base of Mt St Helen’s, and its snowline, but that’s as close as we got.

Brian at 4000 feet
Brian at 4000 feet with clouds.

A complete success as far as I’m concerned. We are going to go back on a clearer day to take better pictures, and go the visitors’ center for Mt St Helens, but what a great day to go for a wander. I’m feeling much better today.

For your awe and entertainment

(aside) As I type out the HTML to create these, I feel so old-school. That’s how I used to update my webpages, by hand, before I developed a database for them. And once blogging software was released, I eventually moved over to that, conceding that while I could write my own, I might as well be writing words than code for something like this and just use what is already there.


One sunny afternoon in May, my mother gathered my sister and I and led us into our backyard. Our backyard, you see, had a beautiful view of Mt. St. Helen’s. I can remember where we stood in the yard, and even what I was wearing. She wanted us to be able to watch a volcano erupt with our own eyes. I remember standing there, watching it, and thinking that it just looked like a large dark cloud had gone near the mountain. And I remember how it looked, as it grew and grew.

I remember people being afraid that they were going to damage their lungs, and going around in surgical masks. I remember days where you weren’t supposed to go outside because the ash blow was too bad. I collected ash with my mom from our driveway and sidewalks to put in jars to remember this. And after things quieted down (months and months), we traveled to see the damage, which was surreal. All that timber, and that was a river once? I have a great picture somewhere of my sister and I standing in front of ash-banks that look like a huge bank of dirty snow, only it’s ash from the eruption. It’s much taller than we are in the picture.

Moving back here, I’m surrounded by beautiful mountains again, and Mt St Helens is one of them. I can see it each time I drive along the Gorge, or when I go to the airport to pick up new visitors. It’s lovely, and interesting.

It’s also rebuilding itself. This is timelapse photography over the course of three years, and it’s very clear the mountain is coming back. Wow.