Mount St. Helens National Monument


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A View of the Crater on Mount Saint Helens

We visited Mount Saint Helens National Monument on August 18, 2015.  There was smoke obscuring the scenery from wildfires in the surrounding areas.  The whole west coast and Canada are on fire this summer.  It seemed a befitting way to view this volcano.  Its eruption on May 18, 1980 is something most of us remember; at least those of us born after 1975.  I can’t do the history justice but I urge anyone interested to go on Youtube and view some of the documentaries.  The most entertaining one I found was on The History Channel’s website.  It shows the eruption in 4 minutes to the song of Should I Stay or Should I Go Now.

Going up Hwy 504 towards The Johnston Ridge Observatory we stopped at the site overlooking what once was Spirit Lake.  Hoffstadt Bluffs.

For a tourist attraction type place this is really very nice.

This photo from a book I purchased shows Spirit Lake before the eruption and also how much taller the mountain was.  Before eruption t was 9677 ft, and present 8364 ft.

Photo from Mount St. Helens, The Story Behind the Scenery by Thom Corcoran; KC Publications

This is the area now that was once the beautiful lake shown above.  Once the home of a YMCA Camp there are testimonials at Hoffstadt Bluffs of people remembering their camping and hiking experiences at this beautiful site.  Nature is ever changing though and Spirit Lake itself is believed by geologists to have been formed many eons ago by another eruption that caused a natural dam from mud flows. It remains as a much smaller lake in another area but is only open to the public on the weekends and we couldn’t view.

The Valley where Spirit Lake once was.

The next place of interest we stopped at was an overgrown site overlooking the rebuilt Hoffstadt Bridge.  I’m sure at the time the signs describing the work efforts were put up the trees were much lower than now.

Signs describing the new bridge
It is a beautiful bridge


Crossing bridge

We also stopped at the Forest Learning Center but it was closed.  The gardens were nice though and I enjoyed this beautiful bronze statue of a Rocky Mountain Bull Elk.


Oregon Grape

These are photos we took the mountain itself.


View of the valley
Shot of the side of the mountain that was blown off and the subsequent lava flow.
Close up of the lava flow as it exited the mouth of the volcano


Its obvious that a new river is being formed in this lava flow
35 years after
Some trees still remain on the hills. Most have been carried away with snow melt
Logs from the devastation









In the Johnston Ridge Observatory there are many stories of people who did or didn’t survive the eruption.  One couple, Roald Reitan and Venus Dergan had been fishing at the time of the blast.  They attempted to escape in Roald’s car but had to jump out and found themselves in a muddy torrent of trees and debris moving faster than a freight train down the mountain.  Venus went under but Roald managed to pull her out and they clung to a log and traveled down until they were able to get out of the river of mud.  Venus’ arm was badly injured but it was a miracle they survived.

High School Sweethearts

Later Roald’s family found his mangled car.

How terrifying to be riding a log in the rush of mud that carried these trees downhill

This man, Ty Kearney managed to take these photos of the mountain which show the initial succession of the eruption.


Ty’s 1st Photo
Ty’s second photo
Ty’s 3rd photo

Patty’s Place is The Place to eat in the area.  The fried clams and calamari are amazing. Her cobblers are legendary, the topping is a type of cookie and it was from fresh local mountain berries.

Patty’s Place
Grandpa Bear & Baby Bear welcome you at Patty’s Place

Patty has a photo of Harry Truman (not the president) on her wall.  He was a crusty old 82 year-old who refused to leave the mountain and died in the eruption with his 16 cats. He is a folk hero to the people who live here.

Photo of Harry Truman feeding raccoons. I love the Cons

Harry died in the place he loved.