We left Bainbridge Island on June 29th which was the first year anniversary of our new life living on the road in our RV. From the beauty of Picture Rocks and Sleepy Bear Dunes in Michigan, to walking among the Gila Cliff Dwellers in New Mexico, to camping among the giant saguaros in Arizona, seeing the breathtaking Pacific coastline, standing where Lewis and Clark looked out over the Pacific, walking and driving among the ancient redwoods, hiking the rain forests in Oregon, and seeing the power of Mount St Helens and majesty of Mount Rainier, what a truly magnificent year it has been!! We can’t wait to see what delights our second year brings.
We spent one night on the road at a private campground in Olympia, the capital of Washington. We got a peak at the capitol building as we passed by on the freeway.
Much of this drive was on Interstate 5, and it had been awhile since we had driven on a freeway. We hadn’t missed the freeway traffic over the past several weeks and it was not a welcome reunion.
We arrived at Seaquest State Park and to our surprise there was only one other RV parked in the full hookup section of the park. Since this is summer and the week of July 4th, we expected the park to be crowded. It remained empty during our entire stay, and when we drove through other parts of the campground they were also fairly empty. It was nice having that section of the park to ourselves, making for a nice quiet stay, very unusual for a state park in the summer. Our stay there was made even more relaxing by a lack of cell phone and internet reception in the park. Bill was able to get satellite tv.
The next day we drove 54 miles to MT ST Helens National Volcanic Monument on the Spirit Mountain Highway. We crossed the 2,340-foot-long Hoffstadt Creek Bridge, built to replace the original bridge after it was destroyed by a torrent of volcanic mud and rock traveling at speeds of more than 100 mph after the 1980 eruption. As we drove up the highway we could see the devastating effects of the 1980 eruption on the landscape and forests and the recovery efforts taking place with lots of tree plantings. After driving to an elevation of 4,200 feet we arrived at the Johnson Ridge Observatory, named for the volcanologist killed at this site. It was a very windy day, one of those days when you can’t keep a hat on and my visor blew across the walkway and was almost gone forever. Even though the wind was a bit of a nuisance, it blows all the clouds away that blocks visibility needed when viewing mountainous areas.
At the Johnson Ridge Observatory we saw live seismographs, geologic exhibits, and viewed an excellent movie on the eruption of MT ST Helens on May 18, 1980. The eruption was an incredible explosion with such force that it blew 1,313 feet off the north face of the volcano and blew smoke and ash 80,000 feet into the air. It released a mile wide avalanche that raised Spirit Lake by more than 200 feet and shattered forests like matchsticks. Morning became night in minutes, halting traffic for a hundred miles and covering parts of three states with a fine gray powder. Today MT ST Helens stands at 8,365 feet.
We attended two Ranger talks at the Observatory. During one talk the Ranger explained the difference between lava flows at MT ST Helens and those in Hawaii. The lava from ST Helens is a thicker, silt based gray lava whereas the ones in Hawaii are more fluid based and red. He talked about the 1980 eruption and gave demonstrations on how eruptions occur, to the delight of some school children present.
The second Ranger talk focused on how scientists watch for and monitor volcanic activity and predict future eruptions. Two months before the 1980 eruption, scientist noticed puffs of steam and ash, increased seismic activity, as well as a growing bulge on the north side that grew five feet a day. They knew it was a matter of WHEN, not IF, the volcano would erupt and took precautions, however fifty-seven people died during the eruption. Until then, the mountain had been asleep for 123 years.
MT ST Helens last erupted from 2004 to early 2008, leaving a 1,320 foot tall lava dome which is formed from the cooling of lava on the crater floor. The lava during this three and a half year eruption was enough to fill 36,800 Olympic swimming pools and replaced about 7% of the volume lost during the 1980 blast. While the mountain appears quiet, the watching and waiting continues.
While in the area we drove 45 minutes south to Vancouver, Washington to meet Bill’s friend Robert and his wife Sandy for dinner. Bill and Robert worked together in Florida about 15 years ago. It was nice for Bill to visit with old friends, and nice for me to meet new friends!