Closer to “Home”

image The A-Frame, Souvenirs, and Elk Burgers

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In 1978 a man from Olympia began constructing an A-frame as a home away from home to fish and relax on the Toutle River. On the inevitable day of May 18, 1980, the house just needed a chimney for the wood stove and some finishing touches on fixtures upstairs… 3 days worth of work for completion.

For a reason other than the threatening volcanic bulge, the owner had left the area on May 17th.

By 5:00 PM on the day Mount St. Helens blew, 200 tons of silt, mud, water, and ash filled up the A-frame. A falling tree broke down the front windows and door allowing the mudslide to ooze in and sink the building 4 feet into the ground.

It took 8 and 1/2 hours for the flow, with a consistency of wet cement and a temperature over 100 degrees, to reach this area known as Maple Flats.

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From here the landslide continued into the Cowlitz River and later into the Columbia River.

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The A-frame is now a famous historical spot and a tourist stop for souvenirs, about 15-20 miles east of the RV Park.

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Today the parking area here is about 5 feet higher than it was prior to May 18, 1980.

I am usually not tempted to buy tchotchkes but I just can’t resist this salt and pepper shaker set, a mini replica of Mount St. Helens before

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and after.

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But here’s the best part… the gentleman behind the counter who sold me my souvenir, is none other than the man who built the A-frame!


Saturday Jeff and I go out to eat elk burgers, sweet potato fries, and homemade cobbler. (We leave the dogs behind in an air-conditioned RV.)

Patty’s Place is 11 miles east from where we are staying… A colorful, friendly, quaint, delicious, and popular place to eat.

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The back porch overlooks the North Fork Toulle River, but we opt for eating inside as the day is unseasonably HOT.

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Again, as luck would have it, I hear people around me talking about Harry Truman and pointing to some pictures hanging on the wall. All I can make out is a black and white pick-up truck outside of Spirit Lake Lodge. When I mention my surprise that the former president had ties to this area, our server says, “No, not that Harry Truman, but a man with the same name.” And a remarkable story is shared…

image geol.lsu.edu

In 1926 Harry Randall Truman became the owner and caretaker of the Mount St. Helens Lodge at Spirit Lake.

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Spirit Lake Lodge sat at the foot of Mount St. Helens

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and beside Spirit Lake… the danger zone of the 1980 eruption.

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Harry stubbornly refused to leave his home, despite evacuation orders, and presumedly died in the volcanic blast. No body was ever recovered.

The Columbian, Vancouver, Washington’s daily newspaper, published this article that captured the personality of Harry R. Truman, “The Old Man and the Mountain.”

And the icing on the cake, or the snow on top of the volcano is this… The woman who welcomed us, took our order, served us, and corrected my mistaken identity of Harry Truman… Her grandfather built Spirit Lake Lodge!

Incredible

image The Aftermath of a Volcano

We set out for Johnston Ridge Observatory from Silverlake, 44 miles east on Highway 504.

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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

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to the ever-growing evidence of its impact.

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Notice the mudslides.

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As we get closer I can’t help myself from taking picture after picture.

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I try to zoom in to get a closer view of the cavity left behind in the mountain.

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We stop at a viewpoint pull-off. I take photos of the same views the informational plaques explain.

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“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)

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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.

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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)

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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.

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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.

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