Friday, August 16, 2013

The sound of a volcano exploding

Silence. At least in the vicinity of the explosion. Those on the mountain or nearby on May of 1980 heard nothing when the top quarter of Mt. St. Helens blew off. Suddenly the sky was dark with ash and trees could be heard breaking but nothing sounding like an explosion could be heard except for miles away. The sound waves themselves were blown far away. This is what I found most fascinating when we visited Mt. St. Helens a week ago. Previous to the explosion, it was the most symmetrical (Mt. Fuji-like) of the Pacific Northwest volcanos but now it contains a more than a mile wide pit in it. It is considered still active though not much has been happening in the past 9 years. In one of the gift shops, a salt and pepper shaker model of Mt. St. Helens was sold. Together they formed the pre1980 mountain. The top quarter was for pepper; the bigger bottom piece the salt. An entire 200 foot deep lake (Spirit Lake) disappeared. Previous to this, the lake was rimmed with camps and lodges. One man who owned one of the lodges refused to evacuate when a bulge was detected in the mountain. That was the last he was heard of. In all 57 people died, some from floods caused by log jams of the rivers.

We were on a mission to see these volcano mountains. Wednesday: Mt. Hood. Friday: Mt St. Helens with glimpses of Mt. Rainier and Mt Addams. Monday: a futile mission to find Mt. Baker. Although it was sunny, the mountain disappeared in the haze or maybe we just didn't know where to look. We were quite close to it. We considered a day trip to Mt. Rainer. All in our party have seen it before but when Steve and I went there back in 1986, Paradise Valley was covered with snow despite it being July ( I have a photo of 4 year Josh crying because he is stuck up to his hips in snow) but rumor has it that now the snow is gone and wildflowers are all over the place. Since I seem to be the only one thrilled by this, we chose another destination. On the map, there are roads closed for winter with a warning that winter may last much longer than you think. Some areas have received up to 84 feet of snow some years. That's feet; not inches. If any town in the East gets 84 inches in a year, that is considered a very heavy snow season. Glaciers already have reformed on the top of Mt. St. Helens.

I started my day very early back in Astoria running along the Columbia River trail. As it was not raining this time, I brought my camera. So pretty! What I like about B&Bs are their breakfasts. Usually places try to have something special though this day, the main dish was some sort of basted egg (not an egg fan). What Steve does not like about B&Bs is having to interact with total strangers. I don't mind as I usually can learn something from them. On this morning, we ate with an ESL teacher from Portland. Her main students are Spanish, Vietnamese, and Russian speakers which the first two groups are not surprising as we drove very slowly through their neighborhood during rush hour a few days before. She said recently they have people from The Congo speaking very rare languages (lots of different tribal groups make up the area all fighting with each other, a hell hole of a place right now) so no translators can be found for them.

Off to Portlandia to meet with a TNBC friend who is about 6 months ahead of me in being diagnosed and treated. We ate in a really cute restaurant with beautiful gardens in an interesting section of Portland (as opposed to the dreadful part we were stuck in traffic previously). My friend brought be a gift: a Put a Bird on it T-shirt (one of the running bits from the show). I was tempted to ask the name of the animals they were serving up that day (another skit featured a waitress saying they would be serving up Fred, the free range chicken today giving details of its range, favorite foods but could not provide the names of Fred's best friends so the diners went to the farm themselves to investigate) but I opted for gnocchi comprised of minicream puffs and covered with Oregonzola cheese. Were the cows that the cheese was made from happy? Forgot to ask. But it was comparing notes about what lingers after all these years.

Then off to The Volcano stopping in Castle Rock looking for coffee and gas. I didn't want to go up the mountain on fumes though Steve was happy with that.. This little town must devote most of its budget towards flower baskets and plantings all over. The drive-in coffee girl asked I  wanted coffee beans with my coffee. Why would I want them? Oh you will want them, trust me! They were chocolate covered.

A large lumber company owns most of the land or at least leases it around the mountain. Fortunately for the workers, the explosion happened on a Sunday or there would have been even more deaths. Some of the visitor centers were operated by the lumber company themselves though they seemed to do a nice job with their displays. We were too cheap to pay the $16 total ($32 if we went to both centers) to go to the centers that the Park Service operated. The drive was pretty though we had to go back the same way. We stopped to enjoy the views quite a few times. The trees have been all planted since the explosion and seem to be of the same species planted symmetrically giving strange patterns. If this particular variety ever develops some kind of disease, the lumber company will be in trouble.

Back to Seattle which we cleared with no problem except for scary stop and go traffic in Tacoma that we thought would just get worse but didn't. We ate tasty thali near Steve's sister's place. Finally around 9, we all got together. A fun day.

Steve and Mt. Hood

My friend. We just happened to dress alike. Is this a side effect of TNBC?

Named after Lewis and Clark as many things are around there

Mt St. Helens


Supposedly there are elk all over the place in these fields though we couldn't see them

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