Yesterday I took a trip up to the Mt. St. Helens area in Gifford Pichot National Forest, where I haven’t been for over 13 years. Back then, it was still a wreck ecologically, as though I was walking on the moon. Now, a lot of scrub brush and fauna have moved back in, but no sign of any Douglas Firs that once dominated this landscape. Indeed, the biggest change to see is the Johnston Observatory, which is perched directly across from the open crater formed on May 18, 1980 when St. Helens let loose the largest historic volcanic eruption in the 48 contiguous United States.
The Observatory, named for the vulcanologist who was monitoring the mountain from this very spot that day (famous last words, “Vancouver! Vancouver! This is it!”), is educational and fun, with a theater showing a 20 minute narrative of what happened. After the film ends, the screen and curtain rise to reveal the volcano directly behind an enormous wall of windows. Exciting.