The plumbing store is closed on Sundays. My DH didn’t want to start excavation by himself unless he had heavy equipment. And since I’m worthless after tweaking my back yesterday he would have been on his own. We spent the morning trying to decide the best route to take to fix the leak. Our goal was to find an option that wouldn’t break us financially or be something slapped together in a half-arsed way, causing another problem in the future. We also discussed ways to pay back my sister and BIL for all they’ve done. Long story short, the day was sunny, we couldn’t work and the girls were getting antsy. In a spontaneous move we ditched the stress and headed for the hills.
Mt. St. Helens is visible from our neighborhood, but in all the time we’ve lived in southwest Washington we’d never been there. We decided to drive up and check it out. The visitor’s center is a little over an hour from our house. It sits on the marshy, west end of Silver Lake and this is what the mountain looks like from the center parking lot.
We walked the 1 mile observation trail. It’s built mostly on a boardwalk over the water and there are some beautiful views. There were lots of insects (which is why A3 has her hood up), but in the midday heat most of the other critters were hiding out.
We looked and looked for signs of life in the water, but nothing was stirring near the walkway. A2 was disappointed when the only things we could observe closely were a few snails, who weren’t fast enough to escape, or interesting enough for people to disturb.
We spotted several Blue Herons/Billy Cranes in the distance, but without binoculars seeing them was quite a strain. There is one in this picture… somewhere near the middle, right side.
There were many lichen and mosses covering the rocks and trees nearby. I think they’re fascinating, but my family wasn’t impressed in the slightest.
Inside the center we watched the movie and toured the exhibits. Watching the footage from 1980 was surreal. I vividly remember watching the build-up during the previous months and eruption when it happened. The local television stations showed little else.
Several of the exhibits were quite bland, even the statues looked bored. But look, I just happened to have a bright, happy hand knitted sock! My family groaned and walked away, pretending they didn’t know me. This often happens when knitting appears. I swear the corners of her mouth raised slightly when she held this though.
The displays weren’t extensive, but they were quite eclectic. Some featured Native American artifacts, others covered seismology. We viewed all we could there, but the inside of a building just isn’t fun place to spend a sunny afternoon.
We loaded up and drove further east towards the mountain itself. The Johnston Ridge Observatory is closed until mid-May, but the views from further back were still amazing. Even 30 years later the destruction from the lahars is overwhelming. The smaller streams and ravines branching off of this valley are still choked with trees and debris. It’s truly humbling to see what nature is capable of.
We pulled over to enjoy the scenery, and some residual snow. This is a hat in progress that came along too.
We drove as far as Elk Rock. From there you can still see the acres and acres of trees blasted flat. They look like match sticks toppled over. Most of the area inside the blast zone (with the exception of the roads and viewing stations) is being left to recover on its own without outside aid or interference. The top of Mt. Adams is peaking up from behind the hills on the left.
We could easily see where the new trees were growing back from the viewing station. In other places the ash is so thick that it still looks like a moonscape. There are probably small bushes and plants growing there, but they weren’t visible from where we were. Obviously there’s a reason it’s called “Elk Rock.”
A nice lady took a family picture of us with the mountain as a back drop. Yes, we are a strange lot.
On the way back we stopped by the south fork of the Toutle River so A3 could collect some volcanic ash. The gift shops were selling it in little bottles, but it was expensive and silly to buy when it could be gathered for free.
We managed to escape the tourist traps without buying any plastic key chains, stuffed animals, shot glasses and coffee mugs, etc. In the end each girl picked out a silver charm for their bracelets (they were still probably made in China, but at least they won’t end up in the bottom of a toy box). A1 provided an ongoing report on cell-phone signal strength throughout the trip.
We got home just in time for dinner and to get the girls ready for bed. Tomorrow it’s back to work/school/major repairs and other drudgery, but the afternoon escape was lovely. Cheers!