Mt. St. Helens

5 years ago I spent 3 days looking towards a mountain in clouds hoping beyond hope that it would clear and I could get a good picture of it. Little else seemed to matter and while there were hikes down the valley towards it and back little else seemed to matter other than at some point the hope of it clearing. That mountain was Mt Everest and I count those three days as a magical point in my life. On the third day all of the clouds did finally clear and I was able to see the mountain in all of it’s glory. Three days of doing nothing well spent.

I found myself doing the very same thing today at another special mountain. For the last 10 years as a Geography teacher I have taught about the eruption of Mt. St. Helens. I have taught about how it erupted and quite literally destroyed itself in the process. But it is more than that, I have also told my students about the personal link I have to the mountain and have usually produced a vial of ash that my father gave to me when I started teaching. I usually explain that only odd people like my father would keep ash in their basement and have equally odd friends that would send it to him in the first place. My first Christmas was spent in the area of Mt. St. Helens prior to the eruption and it is on that house that the ash fell that I know show my students.

Traveling south from Seattle to Portland you eventually get to highway 504 which runs east from the interstate. The road is about 80 miles long and it ends at the Johnson Observatory. As you climb up to approximately 4000 feet above sea level there are periodic glimpses of the mountain and as I approached it clouds surrounded most of it. I made it to the observatory around 2:30 pm and after paying the $8 just wandered around a bit. There are periodic ranger talks held out on the deck as well as movies that either document the regrowth of vegetation in the area or discuss the eruption. All of these were truly just a distraction as I waited for more of the mountain to appear. At random times you would take another picture as maybe this will be the best it will ever get for you, so I have more panoramic pictures of the area than anywhere else on my trip.

With a 6 pm closing time and the need to find where I was going to stay I had to make my way down the pass before I saw the entire mountain. Certain mountains will always have an allure for me and it just means I will have to go back.



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