Lush greenery, fir and pine floated on the breeze. The paved road, needles speckling the edge, snaked through the forest. Sunlight filtered through the canopy between openings, bright glimpses of the mountain range. Signposts reminded drivers of the CB channel where the truck operators called out their position by mile post marker. A truck rumbled around the corner carrying a load of gray logs.
The forest suddenly gave way to desolation leaving behind a wall of trees. The ridges and valleys were gray, a lifeless land of fallen trees ripped free of bark. The gray sticks slept in lines fanned out away from the crater beyond the hillside. The fresh asphalt was a ribbon of gleaming black hanging onto the side of the ridge.
At the road block, visitors parked in a gravel lot. A wreck of a car, smashed and burnt, attracted attention. “A miner’s car,” the ranger said. He told the tale of the car landing in the spot, thrown from a mine a few miles away. The volcano hid behind a ridge, but the fallen timber gave her position away. Each log, even the ones on the backside of the ridge, pointed the direction to the crater. The road continued, a dusty hike winding over Independence Ridge where a trailer served cool drinks to hikers taking in the view.
Rising dust clouds marked log trucks following the dirt road beneath the volcano. After resting feet, the hikers trudged on up the hill pausing for rumbling trucks. A trail led to a ridge, a view into the crater and the surrounding destruction.
Onlookers peered around in silence while they imagined the blast, the searing heat rolling over the ridges followed by a rain of ash. When they spoke, the visitors kept their voices quiet in respect for the mountain. And others. The wind carried voices far. Gazing at the devastation made the little volcano models in the science fairs seem inadequate.
Life returned to the mountain. Trees and bushes emerged along the creeks, and flowers appeared across the meadows. Elk bounded in and out of the forest. Even after a quarter century, much of the blast zone remained nearly barren. Plants peeked out growing bolder. Hikers, climbers, and mountain bikers took in the scenery and imagined the destruction. Many remembered the landscape before the blast while enjoying the new face of Mount St. Helens.
The pictures above were taken in 1983 by my father, Jerry Shrock. Below is a picture I took in 2004 on the Plains of Abraham.
Learn more by visiting the US Forest Service Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument website.