A Quick Stop at Mount St. Helens National Monument

{Dates of Visit: Aug 22-25, 2014}

Mount St. Helens' last catastrophic eruption occurred on May 18, 1980. I was 9 (almost 10!) years old and remember that, even though I lived on the other side of the country, I was terrified of the devastation Mother Nature had just unleashed. This was back in the day when we were all afraid of nuclear bombs and fall out, which meant the end of the world, so when the news spoke about the eruption in terms of atomic bombs I was certain it was the end. Here's how the Institute For Creation Research put it:
As the summit and north slope slid off the volcano that morning, pressure was released inside the volcano - where super hot liquid water immediately flashed to steam. The northward-directed steam explosion released energy equivalent to 20 million tons of TNT, which toppled 150 square miles of forest in six minutes. In Spirit lake, north of the volcano, an enormous water wave, initiated by one-eighth cubic mile of rockslide debris, stripped trees from slopes as high as 850 feet above the pre-eruption water level. The total energy output, on May 18, was equivalent to 400 million tons of TNT - approximately 20,000 Hiroshima-size atomic bombs.
And here's a link to an actual news article from back in the day. The mountain, which once towered at just under 10,000 feet (9,677), now stood at 8,363 feet losing 1,314 feet in a split second. Terrifying, right?

We went to Mount St. Helens on another whim. It seemed a pattern was seriously taking shape. A pattern of unplanning. And it felt good. Actually, we did have a special commitment influencing our plans...I had enrolled in a month long yoga teacher training in Grass Valley, Ca which was to start on October 11. But that was it...we only had to get me there on time. Everything else was up in the air. So why not stop and see St. Helens?

With no time to make reservations on a busy August weekend we managed to find a spot at Silver Cove RV Resort. This is a huge, sprawling resort. Although we aren't fans of this type of camping (we prefer more park like settings and now, boondocking) the sites were huge and most seemed to back up to canals. You could fish and/or kayak from almost anywhere. There was also a good sized laundry facility to accommodate the (I'm guessing) 200 sites. And they let us wash our RV at our site (not something you find everywhere), much to the confusion of our next door neighbors, whom we later befriended. If you want to have some fun as a fulltimer all you have to do is wash your RV and tow vehicle on a busy or holiday weekend at a packed RV resort. People will wonder why on earth someone would waste a day of vacation to wash their RV (or assume you're just really anal about appearances).

Within 8 miles of the blast everything was wiped out. For 19 more miles shock waves leveled centuries old forests. Over 235 square miles was devastated by the blast force alone.
The downside to our campground was it's proximity to the mountain. It was easily an hour drive, one way, but there aren't many other alternatives. The closest RV overnight accommodations are just down the road at Eco Park Resort (somewhere I would love to stay at in the future) but they only offer boondocking (no hookups at all) for $22 per night. Public lands are located on the South Eastern side of the park and were way too far out of our way to consider (plus this was pre-solar so boondocking was, at the time, our last choice). Combined with some bad weather that was visiting the mountain we didn't get a chance to do any hiking. We were, however, amazed at the beauty of this area.

A large herd of elk off in the distance.
Huge canyons being cut into the ash left over from the 1980 blast.
I had no idea Mount St. Helens was this gorgeous.

This place is definitely on the short list for a redo. Hopefully we can return when we're healthy (no gimpy ankle) and the weather is better. And also, when we can stay for a lot longer. The trails look amazing and I really want to climb the dome and check out the other special places that make up Mount St. Helens.

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