St Helens and Rainier

June 2018

In June 2018, I visited Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Rainier with colleagues and friends.

First Meet in Olympia

Heading south from Seattle to St. Helens, Washington’s capitol, Olympia is where the Puget Sound region ends, and a good place to stop for lunch and meet friends on the road before you head either west to the Pacific coast or southeast into the mountains. We stopped to look at the capital buildings before joining the rest of our group at Old School Pizza for lunch.

St. Helens

A major eruption May 18, 1980 destroyed the top of this cascade volcano, blew down trees trees (and everythign else) in a blast zone around the mountain, and sent steaming lahars down its slopes. The Atlantic has a great photo essay with photos from the the eruption. Now at the visitor center, vistas and trails at Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument you can still see the destruction and witness the gradual progress of life creeping back into the desolate landscape.

My family was living in Ellensburg Washington in 1980. I was seven years old. The morning of the eruption the sky, literally, turned black as clouds of ash spread out across the eastern half of the state, leaving everything coated in a thick crust of gray dust. Though over 100 miles from the volcano, nobody really knew how dangerous the ash was. We evacuated to Seattle for a while. When we returned and school reopened all the kids wore dust masks for weeks when we went outside.

Rainbow on St. Helens' Shoulder

Mt. St. Helens Volcanic Monument, Washington

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Rainbow over the blast zone.

Mt. St. Helens Volcanic Monument, Washington

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Unlike its sister St. Helens, Rainier hasn’t erupted in living memory, but it’s still considered on of the most potentially dangrous volcanos in the US. As it turns out about 9 years after St. Helens errupted, my familly moved to Puyallup, Washington–a town likely to be wiped out by lahars when Rainier eventually does produce a major volcanic event. At least where I live now, Ballard, will be out of the way of the mud flows.

Mt. Rainier National Park