It happened May 18th 1980 taking 57 lives. The eruption wiped out everything within a 8 mile radius. It’s taken nearly 40 years for plant life to come back around the mountain.
I remember coming here once as a kid, the landscape I saw has inspired many scenes in my novels. Back then, the trees weren’t much bigger than myself where Weyerhaeuser was allowed to replant trees and the places they weren’t allowed… not even a tuft of green grass. It looked like the apocalypse, and that was 14 years after the eruption. My, my… how nature has returned. It’s absolutely beautiful along the base of Mount Saint Helens.
We hiked along the trail for about a mile and a half before turning around. The observatory was packed with visitors and we paid the 8$ per person fee and hit the walking path. The national park is huge with many trails and viewpoints along the roads, but we wanted the up close and personal path. Aside from the actual hike on the mountain, this was very close to it. When you look just right, you can see the steam from the hot spots in the sides of this still active volcano.
If you’re planning on traveling to this park, I do have a couple suggestions.
Leave before dawn; we left early but it didn’t feel like we had enough time to go on our hike and check out the different trails around. The drive alone took a couple hours from Tacoma, so plan for a long trip.
Bring snacks and even a lunch. There was a food truck at the observatory but having a healthy selection of food before a hike is best.
Bring lots of water. It was hot that day and we brought two gallons of water but it still wasn’t enough, the hike wasn’t that difficult, the lack of shade however, little harder.
Bugs. The plants have returned, which means so have the bugs. Every time we stopped walking, we were swarmed by creepy crawlers. Bug spray or a bug repellent bracelet is probably a good idea.
Definitely stop at the gift shop and Weyerhaeuser’ forestry learning center. It was very educational and the gifts were awesome too.
This trip was beautiful and educational and the perfect adventure for a day. I forgot just how interesting and intense it is when you see the effects of a volcano after it’s let loose the fire within. It was a disaster but nature has found a way back and the return is beautiful.
Until next time, keep those boots on and ready to wander.