Thursday, September 30, 2010

An old eruption still visible

"Volcanoes are one way Earth gives birth to itself." -- Robert Gross

With all the forests, lakes and vistas I've explored, it's become a challenge to find something new to see on a hike. Climbing Mount Margaret to gaze out on the devastation from the 1980 eruption of Mt. St. Helen was an ideal change.

It started out on the Northern Boundary Trail, took me over a ridge at Norway Pass and deposited directly into the valley that today still shows the devastated land. The hillsides are littered with flattened trees, about half of the standing trees are blackened and dying and many lie at the bottom of nearby Spirit Lake.

Huckleberries were growing wild along the trails and the view was wide open, revealing the gaping maw where the volcano
spewed three decades ago. The hike was supposed to end after 11 miles but my "honorable mention" friend and I decided it made no sense to end the trail without closure (the trail stopped mid-turn with only a sign to indicate that was it) so we continued on until we were dumped out on the highway. It was then that the clouds slightly parted and we got out first real distant view of the volcano.

It erupted the morning of May 18, 1980, after 5.1 quake rattled the region.
Rocks, ash, volcanic gas and steam blasted north at more than 300 mph. It extended more than 17 miles and the landslide - recorded as the largest on Earth - slid 14 miles west down a nearby river. Lava spread five miles out and strong winds blew 520 million tons of ash eastward.

These are all details I wish I'd known before the hike so I could have truly grasped what happened there. But alas, I did not and my attention returned to my surroundings. We took a detour on the way back to determine whether Ghost Lake truly existed or whether it was a cruel joke nature lovers play on those who are pounding that particular path. Needless to say, I was right.

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