Having snagged another day off together, Tanner and I drove to Mt. St. Helens for the afternoon. We wandered the visitor's center (which I recommend, by the way. I learned quite a lot, and the photos/ video from the 1980 event are astounding) and then drove to the mountain itself, entered the "blast zone", and got a good taste of what a massive volcano can do to a countryside.
Now, more than 30 years later, the blast zone around Mt. St. Helens still looks like a different planet. We could have been walking on the moon; everything was barren and covered in deep ash and magma-created trenches. The trees all around us were still blown down; it was amazing to see an entire mountainside covered in flattened and broken trees, all of them pointed in the same direction, as if still trying to escape the mountain. It was a time capsule that nature hadn't regrown yet; creation was still struggling out of the chaos, and the devastation of Mt. St. Helens was still evident in every corner.
The mountain itself must have been so grand, once; the photos from the visitor's center showed it looking remarkably like Mt. Hood, with a proud, pointed cap covered in snow. Now, the entire north side of the mountain has disappeared, turned into a giant avalanche which destroyed Spirit Lake below, created new lakes in its wake, and erupted with a force that sent its smoky plume more than 15 miles into the air.
Now, lying dormant, it tempts us with its docile face, drawing tourists close to slowly tread its ashy footprint. But to treat it as nothing more than a beckoning mountain top would be a deadly mistake, as the world learned on May 18, 1980, and will surely learn again.