September 19-22, 2013 – Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, Silver Lake Area
Thursday morning was again overcast but it was not raining as we left Seaview. We drove west along the Columbia River to Longview and then turned north on I-5 to Silver Lake. We are staying at Silver Cove RV Resort, a very nice resort on Silver Lake. The sites here are large and are all gravel but there is a lot of grass behind all the sites. The loops in this resort are laid out along small canals. We are backed into a site that has a very large grassy area with trees between us and a canal. It is a lot better view than the back of another 5th wheel a few feet away like we had at the last resort. It was nice a sunny and warm when we arrived but the ladies in the office told us to enjoy the sun as it is suppose to rain for the next several days.
After we got set up and ate a late lunch we drove to the Mount St. Helens Visitor Center operated by the Washington State Parks. We watched a short film and walked through the displays about volcanoes and the Mount St. Helens eruption in 1980. The huge landslide at the beginning of the eruption caused a massive mudflow down the North Fork of the Toutle River. This mudflow buried the valley above where we are staying.
Friday morning we decided to get an early start and head to Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument while the weather was still good. We stopped at an overlook along the way and got our first really good look at the mountain. We stopped at a couple of displays telling about how the forest is regenerating about being destroyed. Once we got inside the national monument, on one side of the road is a tree farm run by Weyerhaeuser and has been replanted and the opposite side is in the monument and is being left to regenerate naturally. The replanted side was a lot more heavily wooded than the natural side but we were still amazed at how much the forest has regenerated in the 33 years since the eruption.
We drove to the end of the highway that had to be totally rebuilt after the mudflow completely covered the original road to the Johnston Ridge Observatory. This observatory is now the official visitor center for the west side of the monument. We watched two very good short films – one on the geology of the eruption and the other one on the regeneration of the forest. At the end of each film the screen rolled up into the ceiling and the curtains opened giving us a wonderful view of the crater and lava dome through a wall of windows. We could even see steam coming out of the crater - it was great!
The displays in this visitor center were very good because they not only told the story of the eruption they also told personal stories. There was one wall dedicated to stories about people who survived the eruption and some that did not. It was amazing to read what some of these people endured to survive and get out of the blast area alive. The center also has a seismograph connected to a mat on the floor. You jump on the floor and can watch the seismograph record your impacts – we couldn’t get a very large reading on the graph which is probably a good thing! Another display let you place your hands on the surface and feel the vibrations a seismograph on Mount St. Helens feels. You could feel the vibrations of an elk walking by, an earthquake on the other side of the world and many other things that the seismograph can record.
We hiked the Eruption Trail which gave us great views of the crater and the valley below. You could see where the landslide and mudflow ran and the huge deposits they left in the valley. We only hiked this trail for a little more than a half mile as the wind was blowing hard.
When we finished at the visitor center we drove to the Coldwater Lake Recreation Area where we had lunch in the picnic area and then hiked along the Birth of a Lake Trail. Many new lakes were formed when debris from the landslide and mudflow blocked creeks and rivers. Coldwater Lake was formed when waters backed up behind a natural dam in Coldwater Creek. This short trail along this beautiful lake had interpretative signs telling how the lake was created and life returning to the area after the eruption. When we finished this short trail we hiked for a while on the Lakes Trail which follows the north shore of Coldwater Lake for about 5 miles and then goes to a number of smaller lakes about 4 to 5 miles to the northeast. We followed the trail along the shore for a couple of miles and then turned back. We were amazed at how clear this lake is because the signs said it was so foul when it was formed that it stank. The lake cleared up very quickly by natural processes.
We really enjoyed visiting the northwest side of the monument and are glad we made the trip today as the clouds are starting to build and the forecast is for rain for the next few days.
It rained lightly off and on all day Saturday so we decided it was a good day to go grocery shopping and do some reading.
Sunday it rained hard all day – another good day to stay inside. We got the laundry done and more reading and playing computer games. Now we are really glad we went to Mount St. Helens National Monument on Friday.