June 4, 2009

Washington St. - Mt. St. Helens

We began our exploration of the Mt. St. Helens region with a helicopter tour. It was a bit of an extravagance, but well worth it for the overview of the area, the pilot's explanation of how the landscapes we were flying over were shaped by the eruption, and the stunning views. I was a bit trepidatious about going up, not for fear of life and limb but for fear of motion sickness, but the ride was smooth and steady and I enjoyed it greatly. Below is the Toutle River valley, you can see where trees are slowly reestablishing themselves.

Below is the view travelling up the valley and approaching the peak. The gray parallel lines on the hillside are trees that were instantly snapped and toppled by the force of the blast:

Approaching the crater:

Getting closer. I love the contrast and the patterns formed by the snow:

We flew fairly far into the crater, you can see the dome on the right:

Leaving the crater and flying past Spirit Lake, with Mt. Rainier in the background. The gray mass in the far side of the Lake is composed of thousands of trees deposited there in the course of the eruption and tidal wave that followed. Because the site is a National Monument, they are left undisturbed.

Back on the ground, we went to several of the Visitor's Centers and did some short hikes around the area. Below is Coldwater Lake, which is an amazing shade of turquoise green that the picture only hints at:

From the grand views to a focused one; Oregon Grape Holly blooming:
This was a fabulous day, exciting and awe-inspiring. I had been aware of Mt. St. Helens in a general way, but was not prepared for magnificent the mountain was, and how extensive the area of interest was. I especially enjoyed seeing how plants and animals were regrowing and recolonizing the devastated areas, it was very life-affirming.
One more chapter in the Portland vacation saga coming up--stay tuned!

1 comment:

Terry said...

What great pictures! I have been on the mountain several times, but the view from the helicopter is astounding. Every time I see the mountain, while driving around Portland I can't help but be amazed all over again at how dramatic its eruption was and how it changed the landscape so drastically.