Mount St. Helens-

Mount St. Helens National Monument Travel Blog

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Johnston Observatory at Mount St. Helens

We left Seaquest State Park this morning and headed directly to Mount St. Helens volcano!  It was about 40 miles of curvy, mostly uphill, 2-lane roads.  We bypassed some of the Visitor's Centers along the way to get to the main one at Johnston Observatory, just a few miles from the crater.  It was a clear, beautiful day (77 degrees) and we enjoyed the exhibits, Ranger talk on the observation deck, and exciting movie tremendously!

I got on video when the Ranger told us that the volcano "has been very active lately and could go at any minute."  Yikes!  We could see climbers on the edge of the crater through a telescope in the center, so an eruption must not have been too imminent.

The entire Visitor’s Center was extremely interesting.

Mount St. Helens from Johnston Observatory
  We were entranced by the human stories of both those who lived and those who didn't.  57 people perished in the March 1980 eruption.  The center is named for David Johnston, a geologist who used short-wave radio to send the message in the title before he was killed by the explosion.  The movie includes the spine-tingling and dramatic transmission.

One fascinating example of Darwinism happened in 2004 when the crater appeared to be ready to erupt - hordes of people ran TO the volcano.  Hello?!  I'll suggest we run *away* from an eruption!

The Johnston Visitor's Center was extremely interesting and we could have spent much longer than we did, but after several hours we pulled ourselves on down the mountain to a few other visitor’s centers.

We did learn that the Windy Ridge (eastern) entrance was normally opened around July 4th, but after a late snow they got the road crews up there on July 10th to open it, only to find that 3/4ths of the road was missing in one section.

Mount St. Helens from Johnston Observatory
  We got a picture (of their picture) of the gaping hole- that ought to enliven my nightmares of driving!

Also, the first visitor's center at Mile Marker 5 was closed recently due to Federal downsizing of funds, but the WA State picked it up and they now specialize in cultural aspects of the area.  We wanted to learn more of the survival stories, but lack of time and additional entrance fees meant we settled for our postcard purchase and headed onward.

The Coldwater Visitor's Center was also recently closed due to lack of Federal funding.  The Hallstadt (?) Visitor's Center is really a sales office for services and souvenirs and they were going to be closing this month, I believe, for renovation and contract dispute. 

But we did get to stop at the Weyerhaeuser’s Timber Learning Center, which was fascinating.

Johnston Observatory
  In just 3.5 years after the 800 mph explosive blast of some 300 degrees wiped out 230 square miles of timber, the land was reforested BY HAND.  That's right, they dug down through the ash to the topsoil to plant 18 million seedlings.  Signs along the road tell the date of planting or fertilizing or natural reforestation.  They have wonderful exhibits and we got to see some live elk from their observation area. 

While there, we met two brothers (in their 60's) from Longview who came to the area throughout their lifetime.  They even rented boats when they were young from Harry Truman, who owned the Mount St. Helens Lodge and refused to leave, becoming an area icon after he lost his life in the eruption.

So our "quick trip" to the National Monument took all day, but we thoroughly enjoyed learning all about it.

Timber Learning Center at Mt St. Helens
  AND getting out of there before the next eruption! 

More on today in the next post (that will keep the map straight)...



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Johnston Observatory
Johnston Observatory
Timber Learning Center at Mt St. H…
Timber Learning Center at Mt St. …
Mount St. Helens National Monument
photo by: ariel444