Today we did an 11.5 mile hike up to the high country to the north of Mt. St. Helens. This hike, following Boundary Trail #1 from Norway Pass to the summit of Mt. Margaret, provides the best views of the volcano of any hike, at least according to the two books on hiking in Washington that I used, 100 Classic Hikes in Washington and Washington Hiking. Based on our experience today I would have to agree.
The view of Mt. St. Helens and Spirit Lake from Norway Pass
The Boundary Trail runs through country directly hit by the 1980 eruption. Not surprisingly, there is much evidence of the devastation caused by the blast wave.
However, these high mountains have recovered far better than the plains at the base of the volcano. Many slopes looked like any typical Alpine forest, with many young evergreens and the ground covered with thick brush, grass, and flowers.
One final thought about the scientific research that I described at Mt. St. Helens yesterday. The one thing I forgot to note is how much the 1980 eruption changed volcano research in the United States. When it occurred, the only active volcano observatory in the United States was in Hawaii. Now there is a whole network of additional observatories in the Northwest, Alaska, the Sierra Nevada and Yellowstone.
When the next mainland volcano finally decides to erupt — as did Mt. St. Helens — the geologists who study these things will therefore be far more prepared to tackle the event than they were in 1980. And because of this readiness the next explosion should be a far more amazing event for ordinary citizens to watch as well.
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