Mount St Helens and Mount Rainier, WA

And then there was one…

Everyone left for home and I drove 190 miles to Randle, Washington.  Randle served as my base for exploring Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument and Mt. Rainier National Park. I stayed at a small park, Shady Firs, recommended by Deb and Mick.  There was no AT&T cell signal at the park so I was forced to disconnect from my phone. Due to hurricane Irma bearing down on most of my family, this was a bad time to lose communication.  I drove 40 miles (round trip) each day to check on the weather and my family.  Everyone was fine and they didn’t even loose power.  That’s the worst thing…losing power in hot, humid Florida. Honestly, I’m beginning to wonder why anyone chooses to live in that state.

Summer is over and the campgrounds are returning to “normal”.  There are only a few campers at Shady Firs this week.  It’s quiet and I love it!  And, I was finally out of the smoke zone and the weather was good.

Mount St Helens National Volcanic Monument

This year is the 35th anniversary of the establishment of Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, 110,000 acres in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.  The monument has become a world-renowned laboratory for the study of volcanic processes and ecosystem development following large-scale disturbance.

Mount St. Helens is most notorious for its major 1980 eruption, the deadliest and most economically destructive volcanic event in the history of the United States. Fifty-seven people were killed; 250 homes, 47 bridges, 15 miles of railways, and 185 miles of highway were destroyed. A massive debris avalanche triggered by an earthquake measuring 5.1 on the Richter scale caused an eruption that reduced the elevation of the mountain’s summit from 9,677 feet to 8,363 feet , leaving a total of 3,900,000 cubic yards of material that was transported 17 miles south into the Columbia River by the mudflows.

For more than nine hours, a vigorous plume of ash erupted, eventually reaching 12 to 16 miles above sea level. The plume moved eastward at an average speed of 60 miles per hour with ash reaching Idaho by noon. Ashes from the eruption were found collecting on top of cars and roofs the next morning, as far as the city of Edmonton in Alberta, Canada. Learn more here.

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A photographer was lucky enough to not be in the path of the eruption and captured photos as it was happening. 
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The force of the eruption leveled the forest into a river of trees, still present today.

Looking up at the volcano you can see the entire top side missing.  It erupted out of the side and  top of the mountain.  Therefore, part of the forest was untouched.  The force of the eruption leveled an entire forest of trees and completely changed the configuration of Spirit Lake.  It was hard to image the force of the eruption, even with the evidence right in front of me.

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View from the top of a hike. Mount St Helen’s eruption out the top and side of the mountain
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Look closely and you will see the white dotted line where the mountain was before the eruption

I took a short hike to a small lake and photographed some of the beauty.

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Fall is beginning
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Damage from the beavers
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Don’t know what this is…it was a beautiful color
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Ditto on this

I’ve come to realize that many of the places I’m visiting are there because of earthquakes and volcanoes.  The reality is that we are living on a humungous ball of magna, ready to explode at any time!  Learning about Yellowstone and  Mount St Helens drove that point home big time!

Mount Rainier National  Park

“Of all the fire mountains which like beacons, once blazed along the Pacific Coast, Mount Rainier is the noblest.”  John Muir

Mount Rainier had not been on my radar screen until Ralph mentioned it to me.  I did know it was in Washington but not exactly where.  Checking it out on the map, I found it was on my way to the Olympic Peninsula, which was my destination.  I’m really happy I visited the park.  It was spectacular!

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Awesome when you fist spot Mt. Rainier

I waited for a clear, warm day to drive the 40 miles to the park.  It turned out to be a perfect clear, 76 degree day and there were very few visitors in the park, which made  it even nicer.  I was surprised by the beauty of this park.

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The hike to the falls
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Myrtle Falls
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Reflection Lake with a reflection of Mount Rainier

At 14,410 feet, Rainer is the tallest volcano in the Cascade Mountain Range and he most glaciated peak in the continental United States.   Glaciers, massive rivers of ice up to 750 feet deep, flow down the rocky slopes. Yet, on the summit, steam escapes from deep within the mountain’s core, reminding you that it is still an active volcano.  The park is a step back in time because the roads, buildings, and other structures are nearly one hundred year old. You can hike up the mountain and actually walk on the glacier.  I was there too late in the day to take that hike.  Maybe next time…

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I’m discovering that nature is my religion.  When I see the beauty and connectedness of all things in nature I literally become overwhelmed and teary.  The more I learn, the more I realize how every thing, from the lichen to the volcano, are interdependent for survival.  Often, I cannot believe the beauty I’m seeing with my own eyes.  I try to capture it with my camera. The images never are as good as my eyes.  I stare for a while, trying to record the site in my brain.  I am overcome with gratitude; for being able to travel like I am, for those that came before me and realized they must save these unique areas of our country from the hands of greedy corporations, and for the awesome beauty that unfolds around every curve in the road.

After four days in Randle, it was time to move on to the Puget Sound to visit Olympia, Tacoma and Seattle and my friends Susan Kelly and Anne and Jay Jackson.

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