Michigan City Sioux Falls Billings EBR-1
We're back in the air again, one last long flying day before we get to western Washington. For the past two days we've been looking at Big Southern Butte from the North. As we fly by its southern face, it's easy to see how it was formed in two distinct stages.
As we pass Gooding and its airport, I notice a new chart symbol. The FAA no longer treats all obstacles equally; there's a new symbol for windmills. They even have an aggregate symbol for a windmill farm. Flying by the airport, the windmill farm is just starting to become apparent in the distance.
As we approach and pass the power plant on the Snake River, the windmills become obvious.
We have some more mountains to cross today. Leaving the Snake River at Weiser, we find Route 26 and follow it over El Dorado Pass to John Day, Oregon. Many features in this part of Oregon are named for the trapper we first learned about, back in Idaho, including the town where we used the Grant County Airport. We flew over a lot of his route.
We knew this airport had
extraordinary amenities, but we arrived on a summer Saturday,
when the sandwich shop is closed. So we brought our own. We had bought box
lunches before we left Arco in the morning. We ate them on picnic tables
that are just barely out of this picture. We didn't eat our apples, because
they were harder than the picnic tables. The rest of our lunch was OK.
I was surprised to find the door open; the office is attended on Saturdays after all. The sandwich ladies weren't there, but the line crew was. This place looks like you could move in and live here for a while.
At Mitchell, we turned north to follow the Day River through the Painted Hills, the last high terrain we would have to negotiate for several days. When the hills didn't look so "painted" any longer, we headed for The Dalles and the Columbia River.
We followed the Columbia past Hood River, Oregon, and over the Cascade Locks. The Indians called this area Bridge of the Gods; Lewis and Clark portaged around it in 1805.
There are three volcanoes in this picture, all in Washington. The one in the middle is Mount Adams. Mount Rainier is to its right, fainter because it's 47 miles farther away. Barely discernible at left is our objective for Sunday's visit, Mount St. Helens ‐ also known as Loowit.
According to a legend of the Puyallup tribes,
Long ago a huge rock slide roared into the Columbia River and formed a natural stone bridge. The bridge came to be called Tamanawas, or Bridge of the Gods. In the center of the arch burned the only fire in the world, so of course the site was sacred to Native Americans. They came from north, south, west, and east to get embers for their own fires from the sacred fire.
A wrinkled old woman, Loowitlatkla ("Lady of Fire,") lived in the center of the arch, tending the fire. Loowit, as she was called, was so faithful in her task, and so kind to the Indians who came for fire, that she was noticed by the great chief Tyee Sahale. He had a gift he had given to very few others – among them his sons Klickitat and WyEast – and he decided to offer this gift to Loowit as well. The gift he bestowed on Loowit was eternal life. But Loowit wept, because she did not want to live forever as an old woman.
Sahale could not take back the gift, but he told Loowit he could grant her one wish. Her wish, to be young and beautiful, was granted, and the fame of her wondrous beauty spread far and wide.
One day WyEast came from the land of the Multnomahs in the south to see Loowit. Just as he arrived at Tamanawas Bridge, his brother Klickitat came thundering down from the north. Both brothers fell in love with Loowit, but she could not choose between them. Klickitat and WyEast had a tremendous fight. They burned villages. Entire forests disappeared in flames.
Sahale watched all of this fury and became very angry. He frowned. He smote Tamanawas Bridge, and it fell where the river still boils in angry protest. He smote the three lovers, too; but, even as he punished them, he loved them. So, where each lover fell, he raised a mighty mountain. Because Loowit was beautiful, her mountain (St. Helens) was a symmetrical cone, dazzling white. WyEast's mountain (Mount Hood) still lifts his head in pride. Klickitat, for all his rough ways, had a tender heart. As Mount Adams, he bends his head in sorrow, weeping to see the beautiful maiden Loowit wrapped in snow.
We became acquainted with the work of
Paul Kane four years ago when we visited
Rocky Mountain House on Alberta's North Saskatchewan River. After he passed
through Alberta, he continued to the Oregon Territory, where he sketched
Mount St. Helens. He later painted an eruption as seen from Spirit
Lake, based on stories he collected rather than actual observation. This is
one of the earliest images of Loowit's might made by a modern artist. It's
noteworthy because Kane put the eruption where it belonged, not on top of the
Now that we've reached western Washington, we'll adopt a much more relaxed pace. Having crossed the continent in five days, we're about to spend the next nine within 150 miles of Seattle. But we didn't go to Seattle on this trip; there just wasn't time for that. Our first stop is Chehalis, a good base for a visit to Mount St Helens. You can't just land at the bottom of the mountain; it's a 60-mile drive from even the closest motel.
In the morning, we were greeted by a rocking bear at
Patty's Place, a recommended roadside stop on the way up to Mount
St. Helens. We ate on the back porch, with its fine view of the
The State of Washington operates an interpretive center at Silver Lake. One exhibit there is a diorama that helps the visitor get oriented to the mountain and its surroundings. A short staircase leads beneath this display, where there is a model of the magma chamber.
Another display shows several famous volcanoes, indicating how much
stuff they spewed.
Mount Mazama is in the middle, with the 36 cubic miles of material it ejected
about 7000 years ago to leave Crater Lake (Oregon) behind. St. Helens is
the tiny one front and center, having produced almost nothing by comparison.
The other two models in the front row are Krakatoa (1883) and Mount Katmai,
Alaska (1912). Don't underestimate this mountain. It has been the most active
volcano in the Cascades for the past 4500 years.
The 1980 eruption obliterated the old highway to St. Helens. When the road was rebuilt, it was relocated as much as possible to high ground. There is a marker on the new highway that tells the story.
Spirit Lake Memorial Highway (State Route 504)
Gateway to Mount St. Helens
On the morning of May 18, 1980, Mount St. Helens erupted catastrophically and destroyed more than 30 miles of state highway. Landslides and volcanic debris from 60 to 600 ft. thick filled the valley bottom of the north fork of the Toutle River. The eruption blew down more than 220 square miles of forest and affected engineering works and navigation as far downstream as the Columbia River.
In 1982, the U.S. Congress established the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument to enhance public understanding, use and enjoyment of the area. The Washington State Legislature designated State Route 504 as "The Spirit Lake Memorial Highway" and dedicated it to the memory of the 57 people who lost their lives in the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens.
The new highway is located out of the valley bottom to avoid future debris flows, minimize disturbance of natural remnants of the eruption and avoid the sediment retention basin. Steep slopes, with highly variable soil deposits, and bedrock challenged the geologists and engineers involved in the exploration, design and construction of the highway. Variable foundation materials required phased geotechnical investigations, flexible designs and construction specifications based on actual field conditions. Special design challenges required adjustment of the road alignment to avoid debris flow, hazards and to stabilize several large landslides, numerous rock slopes and materials that would behave like a fluid and fail during earthquakes.
The sensitive ecosystem and unique landscape were protected and enhanced. Road cuts and fills were minimized and more than 4000 feet of retaining walls were constructed to protect the landscape. Construction wastes were hauled from the monument. Utilities were placed underground. Wetlands were bypassed or replaced and natural streams were bridged to enhance the environment. To preserve the ecosystem, eagles were fed. An elk calving area was shielded from the highway and native plants were used for landscaping.
This outstanding environmental and engineering geologic project was constructed between 1987 and 1994 through the joint effort of the Washington Department of Transportation, the Federal Highway Administration, and the U.S. Forest Service.
Dedicated October 1, 1998
We got our first view of Mount St. Helens from Hoffstadt Bluffs. You can get a close look at the mountain from a helicopter tour that is based here. The old Spirit Lake highway is fifty feet below today's river bed.
When the highway was rebuilt, bridges had to accommodate its new elevation,
too. The Hoffstadt Creek Bridge is 2340 feet long and 370 feet high. The
terrain provided unique challenges in its construction. The usual temporary
support towers could not be used, so the bridge sections were cantilevered
from each side until they finally met in the middle.
The Forest Learning Center is affiliated with the Rocky Mountain Elk
Foundation, among others. There are telescopes there to give visitors a
better view of the elk sunning themselves on the gravel bars in the Toutle
River below. The elk apparently like that location because there are no
bushes there. Bugs live in the greenery, but they don't bother the animals
out in the open.
David Johnston joined the U.S. Geological Service in 1978 after earning a doctorate for research in volcano geology. His special interest was to predict eruptions from fumarolic emissions – analyzing the content of gases emitted near volcanoes. The method was relatively new, but experts agreed that gas pressure and content were related to volcanic activity. Working with fellow geologist Don Swanson, Johnston helped to set survey reflectors on a bulge that was growing on the north face of Mount St. Helens in early 1980. They set up two observation posts on a ridge about six miles north of the mountain, called Coldwater I and II after a nearby stream. From there, they used laser ranging to monitor the bulge, which was growing five to eight feet per day just before the eruption.
Johnston was a key figure in establishing the boundaries of danger zones around Mount St. Helens. Residents were evacuated and logging operations suspended. Although the people whose lives were interrupted resented several weeks of government intrusion, this action saved thousands of lives.
Harry Glicken was a graduate student working for the U.S. Geological Survey
He manned the
Coldwater II observation post for two and a half weeks before
the eruption. Because of a job interview, he needed to be relieved just
before that fateful Sunday morning. It was David Johnston who relieved him,
and Glicken never quite got over the coincidence.
Glicken took this picture of his colleague
just before leaving Coldwater II. Fourteen hours later,
Dave Johnston was buried alive while reporting the eruption.
The ridge was renamed Johnston Ridge, and two years later the USGS dedicated the David A. Johnston Cascades Volcano Observatory on the site of Coldwater II. This building is at the end of the Spirit Lake Memorial Highway. Most visitors are not aware of the scientific work done there by about 100 technical staff because of the size of the interpretive displays, gift shop, and auditorium inside.
While we were at Johnston Ridge, we listened to a ranger talk about the eruption, its geology, the preparation before it and the massive recovery that followed. Then we went into the auditorium for an excellent film about the subject.
Of course, we could simply walk back outside, where Loowit watches
serenely over Coldwater II.
This is a wide photo. If you'd rather see a smaller version, it's here.
Here is the same view of the mountain, from the same spot, one day before the 1980 eruption. This photo was also taken by Harry Glicken. Ironically, Glicken was killed by a volcano eleven years after he escaped death here, when he couldn't get away from pyroclastic flow beneath Japan's Mount Unzen.
This sign explains a curious phenomenon. Observers on Mt. Adams, 33 miles away, saw St. Helens's eruption but heard nothing. Others, out of sight and hundreds of miles away, heard the violence clearly. The pressure patterns associated with the eruption acted as an acoustic lens, directing the sound upward. When the acoustic energy reached the stratosphere, a permanent temperature inversion reflected it back to earth. This effect produced alternating rings of loudness and quiet. There was a silent zone of about 60-mile radius; sound was loudest between 150 and 200 miles distant. The farthest location where the eruption was heard, was a Canadian town 690 miles away.
There is a path through the woods on new earth that was deposited in the avalanche that came with the eruption. The photographer is standing on earth that got here from the mountainside six miles away, in about two minutes. The hummocks along this trail are made of the same material as found in St. Helens's crater in the distance.
This happened in three stages. First, a large block broke off the left side of the mountain and slid over here. A few seconds later, another block broke off behind it, pushing the first one across the valley. The third block to break away tumbled down behind the first two. The soil on the present mountain came from the eruption.
Spirit Lake sat on the north face of the mountain. Since 1926, Harry Truman had been the caretaker of the Mount St. Helens Lodge on the lake. When the area was evacuated, Truman refused to leave his home and his sixteen cats. 84 years old and stubborn as his namesake, he was the only "non-essential" person given permission to remain within the blast zone.
The eruption buried Spirit Lake. Like David Johnston, Harry Truman vanished without a trace.
The same debris that buried Spirit Lake dammed the river and reformed the lake, 210 feet above its former level. With no outlet from the lake, there was now a danger of flooding, so a pump station and pipeline were built. Now Spirit Lake is once again the source of the North Fork of the Toutle River. Some of its water also feeds Coldwater Creek.
Coldwater Lake didn't exist before the eruption. Ash settled here and formed a delta. When the tunnel from Spirit Lake was opened here, the new flow opened a wider channel, carrying a lot of sediment away.
Not far away, Castle Lake was also formed after the 1980 eruption.
The Tree Planter
The Forest Learning Center, where we watched elk basking, is managed by Weyerhaeuser Corporation. The avalanches dealt them a heavy economic blow, but they started to work right away. First, they recovered as much timber as they could, then they began replanting.
This display compares the size of managed trees with natural growth, which is more crowded.
These trees were planted at Hoffstadt Bluffs in remembrance of the 57 people whose lives ended when Mount St. Helens exploded in 1980. A plaque by the walkway reads,
This memorial grove is
To those who lost their
Lives in the May 18, 1980
Eruption of Mount St. Helens
|Robert Landsburg||Christy Killian|
|James Fitzgerald||John Killian|
|Arlene Edwards||Don Selby|
|Jolene Edwards||Klaus Zimmerman|
|Barbara Seibold||Harold Kirkpatrick|
|Ronald Seibold||Joyce Kirkpatrick|
|Michelle (Seibold) Morris||Joel Colten|
|Kevin (Seibold) Morris||Paul F. Schmidt|
|Margery Rollins||Wally Bowers|
|Fred Rollins||Ellen Dill|
|Bill Parker||Robert Dill|
|Jean Parker||Bruce Faddis|
|Clyde Croft||Tom Gadwa|
|Terry Crall||Paul Hiatt|
|Karen Varner||David Johnston|
|Reid Blackburn||Bob Kaseweter|
|Allen Handy||Robert Lynds|
|Don Parker||Gerry Martin|
|Natalie Parker||Keith Moore|
|Rick Parker||Eleanor Murphy|
|Day Karr||Ed Murphy|
|Michael Karr||Kathleen Pluard|
|Andy Karr||Merlin "Jim" Pluard|
|Ron Conner||Doug Thayer|
|Gerald Moore||Harry Truman|
|Shirley Moore||James S. Tute|
|Evlanti Sharipoff||Velvet Tute|
|Jose Dias||Beverly Wetherald|
Dedicated May 18, 2000
on to Toledo