Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Blown Away by Mt. St. Helens

Fort Vancouver
Top - Garden, Bastion & Palisade
Middle - Fur Warehouse
Bottom - Chief Factor's House
Vancouver Clock tower & Pearson Field
Mt. St. Helens with regrown trees on the mountainside and debris still visible in the river valley 29 years later.
What we saw this year compared to what we saw last year.
Memorial to the 57 people killed in the blast and trees still laying on the ground with flowers growing among them.
Mt. Adams and Spirit Lake with debris.
Looking into the crater!!!!!

We are now in Ridgefield, Washington at the Big Fir RV Park. Our primary goal while here is to see Mt. St. Helens which was covered by clouds last summer when we were in the area. Our first day here we could see the bottom of the mountain but the top was cloud covered. On day two there were clouds hanging over the campground so we did not even think about heading to the top. Later that day we talked to Nanc's brother in Lacey and he said it was clear and sunny. We went on line and found a live video shot of the top and sure enough it was clear and we had missed it since it was too late in the day. That day was followed by three cloudy days and as I am writing we are still hoping for it to clear. For most of our stay we have just chilled.

We did go into Vancouver on Saturday and did some shopping at the farmers market and enjoyed the park along the Columbia River. We also visited the Vancouver National Historic Preserve, a national park that includes a replica of a fort, an airfield with a museum and a restored officers row with homes built from 1849 to 1906. The area served as a US Army base until 2000 and some parts still house Army Reserve and National Guard units. The original Fort Vancouver was constructed by the Hudson's Bay Company in 1824 as a supply depot for its Pacific Northwest fur trade. The replica includes several buildings such as the bakehouse, blacksmiths shop, fur warehouse, carpenter shop, counting house, and the Chief Factor's house. It is surrounded by a palisade and has a bastion that was more to prevent theft of there products than to protect them from attack. The elegance of the Chief Factor's House is most interesting when you realize it shows how well the leader was living just a few years after Lewis and Clark passed through the area in 1805. The fur warehouse has a very good display of the variety of furs taken at that time with the beaver being the most important for its use in making hats in the United States and Europe. The Pearson Air Museum is an old Army Air Corp field that has been in use for over 100 years and is the site of the first dirigible landing in Vancouver and the landing spot for the first trans-polar flight in 1937. The runway is still used for small planes. There was a private event being held at the museum so we did not get inside.

Well, as you can see from the pictures, we did get to see Mt. St. Helens and it was spectacular. The clouds cleared and we had fabulous views of the volcano and Mt. Adams in the distance. I have been fascinated be this volcano since its eruption on May 18, 1980 and the viewing was great. We had a piece of rock from the explosion that someone we meet in Washington on our 1982 cross country bicycle trip had given us. I used it to teach about the effects of the eruption for years and, like me, most students were in awe at the power of nature. Here are a few fact about that power:
* 230 square miles of forest was leveled in 10 minutes
* 1300 feet of the mountain's height was blown away
* 14 miles of river valley was buried in 150 feet of avalanche debris
* ash rose 15 miles into the air
But seeing it in person not only gives you a whole new appreciation of this power as you can still see visible scares on the land, it also gives you a better understanding of how the Earth is recovering with much of the forest replanted and growing.

We took advantage of the beautiful day and hiked through the ash field to a viewpoint overlooking Spirit Lake with a closer and more direct look into the crater. The drive to the Johnson Ridge Observatory offers many changing views of the mountain and surrounding land that were cloud covered last summer. We did not spend time in any of the three visitor centers since we had done that and wrote about them in last year's blog. Getting to see this was very high on my list of things to do when we went on the road and it far exceeded expectation.

1 comment:

MarkandRenita said...

Clear skies and a great view of Mount St Helens! Good job! The only time we were near it we couldn't see anything.