Mount St. Helens, and the Oregon Coast
To start: a confession. We were both 19 when the volcano that was/is Mount St Helens erupted, and neither of us remember anything about it whatsoever. Now, obviously it was happening a long way away, and we were both students hell-bent on more immediate issues, but it does seem strange that a belting great volcanic eruption could completely pass us by. How about you out there? What do you recall about it?
To summarise the story we missed, experts correctly spot the build-up to an eruption, get all (and we mean all) the equipment in place, then get caught out by the force of it. A couple end up squished, and the science of vulcanology (or whatever) takes a giant leap forward. Reading the exhibits, one has the distinct impression that no-one had a clue about these things until they saw this one go. I could go on and teach you all that I've learned about pyroclastic flows, but I do want to increase the readership of this site.
The exhibit and related films are quite excellent, doing a pretty good job at the practically impossible job of explaining what it might all be like. Before and after shots of the mountain are startling - the top 1,200 feet shot out sideways and slid down the hill. The effects linger all around, from huge swathes of bare rock in the otherwise dense green old growth forest, through the blasted stumps of decimated trees. A huge cloud of dust and rock shoots past at 200 miles an hour, and everything in its path ended up a long way away.
Evening we stopped at the 'Mount St. Helens Motel', and very nice it
was too. Then the next day we moved on through Portland, taking in a small
visit at REI.
The next day's journey down the coast was beautiful. Sandy beaches,
few people, rugged coastlines of fir forest, and rocky outcrops. We eventually
rolled into the Oregon Dunes National Park, where we camped for the night.
We decide to attempt the 1.7 mile stroll across the dunes to the coast,
which turned out to involve several hundred yards of ankle-deep wetland.
Undeterred, your intrepid reporters went barefoot, flinching at the touch
of the thick mud, but pressing on to the inviting sandy beach and blue
skies. Thrown in at no extra cost was the authentic just-crossed-the-Pacific-Ocean
wind, which was moving at a fair clip. So, a quick photo later, it was
back across the dunes to the campsite and a splendid pasta dinner.
It took several days to remove the rust coloured mud from our feet though.
(click thumbnails for a larger picture) |