May 18, 2008

Hood & St. Helens - Magnificant!

No trip to Oregon could be complete without a drive up to Mt. Hood, well, as least as far up as snow permits! Our first great view came from the valley below where apple trees drenched in warm sunlight make us wonder if the photo, with snow-capped Hood in the background, is a fake?

By the way the little lane that this orchard was on had a very artistic streetsign. We love it! So much so, we're considering changing our official mail forwarding address to do you think you could remember the street name? (oh, and I guess there's a logical reason for the name...I wonder if that's why we needed 4WD?)

A few more miles of winding, turning & climbing brings us about as high as open roads allow, so it's time for playing in the snow with the giant still far off in the distance.

As we start down, the water is already well ahead of us...record snows have caused quiet streams to swell beyond their banks and become raging torrents.

I guess the most interesting aspect of the day's journey is that we were comfortable in shorts & teeshirts, even with all the winter sports still in full swing!

Thanks to a suggestion from our good friend Ronnie White, we spent an extra day while moving further north diverting to see Mt. St Helens, arriving there for the 28 year anniversary of it's eruption on May 18th, 1980. We spent a couple of hours at the educational Visitor's Center, which has excellent photos & videos of the catastrophic event.
The 58 mile road to Johnson's Ridge, the best vantage point for viewing the crater was open, as of only a couple of days ago. About midway up, you get the first nice view of the Mt with the huge valley below that was inundated with the giant lahar pushed from the base of the crater.

We arrived at Johnson's to find that massive amounts of snow were still present, the truck being dwarfed by the icey stuff, not to mention how small the walk up to the Ridge made us feel.

The view from the Ridge was dramatic, giving us a feel for how huge the mountain is, and the enormous chunk of it that was blown out of this side, producing the tremendous flow of debis down this side and into the upper Toutle River Valley.

Looking closer into the crater area, you can easily see the bulge of new growth that has formed over the years. The volcano threatened again in 2004, but has remained dormant since. The seismic equipment located deep within the crater was actually showing some activity while we were there, but no one can predict when a major eruption will take place again.

Another interesting aspect of the eruptionis how far the "blast zone" traveled. The pyroclastic flow of molten rock, superheated gases & steam reached out as far as 17 miles. After 28 years, we could still see evidence of it's destruction at the perimeter!

On the way down, we decided to take a look at Coldwater Lake, the gates having just been opened. It's situated several miles northwest of the Mt, and is somewhat shielded by a ridgeline (on the right) from direct path to St Helens.

It was just so stunningly slick & beautiful, I just had to go out for a paddle. Since Kim opted out, I took the big SEDA Impulse with plenty of hull speed to circum-paddle the Lake before dark.

As I paddled along it's banks, numerous waterfalls were formed by the melting snow and runoff, delightful to both the eyes & ears!

Evidence of the massive blowdown from Helen's blast was abundant, from one end of the Lake to the other. The colors of some of the old waterlogged trunks reminded me of the deep red cypress we sometimes found in Louisiana.

This image of the rear mountains shows that the entire face was subjected to the brutal blast, the huge trees still lay strewn across it's surface like matchsticks dropped on the floor.
Although I found the water quite cold, Kim managed to find at least one "cold blooded" creature out for a leisurely swim!