Mortaljive: The Rest is Silence

There is no still point in all the Universe, and that is the rock upon which I stand

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

What Time's the Next Eruption?

My wife Donna and I (joined by our neighbor Mike) went to Mount St. Helens last Sunday (September 27th, 2009)--we went to the Johnston Ridge Visitor Center, saw the film about the eruption (the documentary plays twice an hour)--after the film we proceeded to look at some of the exhibits, but chose to quickly exit the center so that we could go on a hike to take a closer look at the lady herself. The magnitude of her 1980 eruption puts to shame all the other explosive wannabes. During our visit she (the eponymous Helen) seemed to be venting a little wisp of steam on her western lip, but for the rest of our visit the volcano and adjoining lowlands were all swirling clouds of dust and ash that whipsawed down the devastated valley, pirouettes of alkaline powders.

We hiked out to a viewpoint where we could see Spirit Lake (home to the legendary curmudgeon Harry R. Truman, who was killed in the immediate aftermath of the May 18th, 1980 eruption). Past the lake sits Mt. Adams, another volcano that bides its time on our shifting and tremulous North American tectonic plate...

The facts of the case are commonly known: beginning in March of 1980 Mt. St. Helens began to awaken rather ominously. Her north face bulged, earthquakes occurred with regularity, steam and volcanic matter spouted skyward. As time passed and the novelty of the events began to fade, many people crept in for a closer look, ignoring barriers put there by state and federal officials. On May 18, 1980, at 8:32 am PDT, Mt. St. Helens erupted with the deadliest and most economically destructive volcanic event in the history of the United States."

Twenty-nine years later and the valley below its north side is mostly dust, with some greenery poking through. We saw a herd of elk in the far off distance, and could follow the winding feeder stream that is the headwaters of the Toutle River. Knowing that the power of her eruption killed many humans and animals, and blasted trees down like pick-up sticks, we looked in respectful awe at the living mountain. She let us go this time, and we were much obliged...


Still images by mjs...


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