The Aftermath of a Volcano
We set out for Johnston Ridge Observatory from Silverlake, 44 miles east on Highway 504.
Those aren’t socks on Jeff’s feet. It’s his tan line!
I’m just going to take you with us as we head to the closest viewing area of Mount St. Helens, from our first glimpse
to the ever-growing evidence of its impact.
Notice the mudslides.
As we get closer I can’t help myself from taking picture after picture.
I try to zoom in to get a closer view of the cavity left behind in the mountain.
We stop at a viewpoint pull-off. I take photos of the same views the informational plaques explain.
“On May 18, 1980, the bulging north face of Mount St. Helens slid into this valley… The landslide triggered a tremendous lateral blast that destroyed 230 square miles of forest. Within minutes, the eruption transformed the land… debris blocked the flow of several tributaries of the North Fork Toutle River. Water pooled behind these natural dams, creating new ponds and lakes. The blockage of Castle Creek formed Castle Lake.” (plaque at viewing site)
The closer we get to the ridge, the more I become aware of the destructive force of the mudslides, re-forming the North Fork Toutle, carving new channels, depositing sediment, toppling the forest, and eroding the valley floor.
These fallen tree trunks are “cemented” into the earth.
On state and private timberlands, fallen trees were salvage-logged. Six hundred truckloads of logs were removed from the mountain every day for more than 2 years. Fast growing Douglas and noble firs were planted in successive years to begin the reforestation process. (brochure from Charles W. Bingham Forest Learning Center at Mount St. Helens)
On US Forest Service lands within the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, however, the forest is returning at nature’s pace. The alder trees below have returned naturally.
Red alders thrive in the nutrient-robbed soil of the landslide deposits. Bacteria on the trees’ roots produce nitrogen to enrich the soil and encourage the return of the forest. (plaque at scenic site)
It’s truly amazing how resilient nature is… that beauty can blossom where destruction once reigned.