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Dave and Jan's travels, day 67:
Mount St. Helens, and the Oregon Coast

25th July
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.

Onto the coast, and into Cannon Beach. This is the Nantucket of the west coast, all cute little fake olde worlde nonsense, expensive sold-out guest houses, and freshly pressed polo shirts.  Definitely where the affluent from Portland go on holiday.  Beautiful stretch of coastal scenery, though. The sold-out-ness that I mentioned eventually drove us along to Seaside, which is a considerably less exclusive resort (didn't see any 'kiss me quick' hats but they wouldn't have looked out of place). Two slices of pizza and a spell of people watching later, we retired to a motel to contemplate the onward journey.

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.

A word about REI 
It's a giant camping shop and co-operative, we've joined so now we get a cut of the profits in proportion to the amount that we spend. This looks like being not insignificant, given our tendency to wander in and suddenly develop the conviction that gadget x is clearly indispensable for our future camping needs. Not to mention the old dehydrated food. Still, they are fun shops, and the co-operative thing does seem to make it a little different. They are even staffed by people that understand the products that they sell. 


   (click thumbnails for a larger picture)

The volcano

Blasted trees