Mt. St. Helens, Washington Is A Favorite Place For Avid Mountain Climbers
In spring of 1980, Mount St. Helens erupted.
For nine hours, the volcano threw rocks, steam, lava and ice into the air, fifteen miles high. Ash from the eruption was distributed through eleven states. Hundreds of square miles of forest, lakes and streams were decimated by the violence.
Two years later, President Ronald Reagan declared the area a National Volcanic Monument, turning the area from one of devastation to a place where both research can be conducted and people can come to witness the destruction first hand.
Thirty-five years later, the destruction is still evident, but an abundance of wildlife and plant life has returned, making a trip to Mount St. Helens a true education in the power of nature.
On my recent trip, I headed out of Portland via I-5, drove sixty miles north to the town of Castle Rock then headed east on Washington-504. After a beautiful approach to the summit, I stopped for a short hike on the Hummocks Trail.
A hummock is a giant mound of rock and earth that was catapulted off of the summit during the eruption. As the trail winds between these towering figures you can see the grasses and trees returning to cover the barren landscape. The trail continues on to a great view of the Toutle River and into marshlands filled with birds, frogs and beavers.
After the hike, continue to climb up the mountain for ten more miles to the Johnston Ridge Observatory. Here you can read accounts from people that were on the mountain when it erupted, learn more about the science of a volcanic eruption, watch a film, talk to Park Rangers and enjoy a fantastic close-up view of the crater.
This is definitely a full day trip, but it is one not to be missed!
*Due to the high elevation, the observatory is only open seasonally – typically from mid May through October. Check their website for details before making a trip.