Friday, August 10, 2012

Mt. St. Helens

We stopped in Castle Rock, WA to visit Mount St. Helens.

It's an 8,000 foot peak today, but before the eruption in May 1980 it was over 14,000 feet.  It was the biggest landslide in recorded history.  They built the observatory and visitor center on Johnston Ridge, near where Johnston was standing and radioed "Vancouver, Vancouver, this is it" just before the blast killed him.

In the park, they are letting nature take its course, and much of it looks about the way it did right afterward,
or with small bushes and young trees.  Lots of new wetlands were created, including a whole new lake.
Many species of animals survived even in the blast zone, ones that lived underground or were hibernating, and others migrated in from nearby.  The Toutle River valley was covered in mud up to 600 feet in some places, and the river has carved out a new canyon.

 Outside the park, lots of land is owned by Weyerhauser, who lost lots of trees, but replanted and now that
land is covered with 30-year old fir trees of various species. 

30 miles or so downstream, there is an A-frame house that was at grade level, and it's now 6 feet under.

We hiked a 2-mile loop trail in the hummocks, some mounds that were formed by the landslide.

The trees there were covered in tent caterpillars, which had completely denuded many of them and were dripping from the bare branches.

 Some of them dripped on us as we walked by, and you could hear them munching the leaves.  The trees will survive, though, and will develop ways of repelling the caterpillars, and doing better in future plagues.

Study of the aftereffects of the eruption have hepled solve several mysteries around the world, scientists having concluded that previously unexplained phenomena were caused by similar sideways eruptions or landslides in ancient times.  There are hummocks, for instance, in other parts of the world, and there had been great speculation about how they were formed.  Now we know.

And we ate dinner with a hummingbird,
and saw Bigfoot

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