After Ape Caves and Trail of Two Forests, we were in for a long car ride. Going through the southern section and up the eastern side of Mt. St. Helens would provide some spectacular views, but also took a very long time – at least if you’re a kid. Both Ciaran and Déla fell asleep in the car.
August did really well. He was impatient to see more of Mt. St. Helens, and even tried to wake up his sister when it came back into view. He tried to be quiet, however, and even managed to contain his enthusiasm. When you’re 6 years old, being cooped up in a car for hours certainly can be a major test, and then to be excited on top of that, well, I just have to commend him on his restraint.
The drive provided some spectacular views of the devastation the eruption had. Still laying down by the side of the road were acres upon acres of dead forests. One could see some new growth, but the predominant feature was the near graveyard like quality the area had with dead trees acting as gravestones.
It was hard to imagine that just a couple of miles away the forest was lush and green, seemingly untouched by the effects of the 1980 eruption. It was like driving though two completely different countries, like traveling through France and Russia in the same day. And having been through both countries, one vibrant, full of life and color, the other dreary and gray, I think that’s an apt comparison.
We ultimately wound our way to Windy Ridge Viewpoint, which is as close as a car can get to the crater – at least a tourist’s car at any rate. One could clearly see the lava dome inside the crater as well as get a view of the destruction. This area was much more scenic than where we had previously visited.
Part of what made this viewpoint so spectacular was the climb. 361 steps hammered out of the hill gave access to a hilltop view of the surrounding area, which includes Spirit Lake. One can see a large deposit of dead trees that are still in the lake as a result of the 1980 eruption. The volcano is large and very present from this viewpoint, and it is simply spectacular. Most people probably go to the west side, which is more accessible, and is a nice day trip, but this easterly viewpoint is something not to be missed.
From there it was another long (relatively) car ride back home. We could have broken this trip up into three days, but two seemed to be testing the limits as it was. We all made it home and feel all the better for it. Ciaran yells “Mountain!” whenever he sees a picture of Mt. St. Helens.