I fell into a burning ring of fire,
I went down, down, down,
and the flames went higher,
and it burns, burns, burn,
The ring of fire.
~Johnny Cash “Ring of Fire”
Someone asked me how can I be so calm when living in a region with three volcanoes, and earthquakes? Living within the Pacific Rim means living on the edge of the Ring of Fire on a daily base. Just like those who live in regions where tornadoes are common, I am aware of it, and I go on living knowing natures most destructive forces are in my backyard. These volcanoes and the two mountain ranges in Washington state are the reason why there are places to hike worth exploring even when danger can be one step away.
On Sunday morning May 18, 1980, Mt. St. Helen’s erupted with such destructive force, that it turned the landscape around the volcano into an apocalyptic wasteland. The carnage left behind could be described as a ton of nuclear bombs had been dropped simultaneously for thirty minutes. But this apocalyptic nightmare of 1980 has turned into giant scientific laboratory showing the world there is life after destruction, and nature does have a way of renewing itself.
Start of the adventure…
Day 1: Castle Rock
Sunday afternoon I headed off towards Castle Rock with a van full of other students from Northwest University. With the van packed full of sleeping bags, tents, and food for the next five days, we set out for an adventure together to see how Mt St Helen’s rebirth has changed the landscape.
By late afternoon early evening, we had reached SeaQuest State Park campground on the west side of the mountain. For a Sunday night, the campground was still packed with people, and most would still be there by the time we left Tuesday morning. After setting up camp, there were campfire spaghetti with salad and peas for dinner. After dinner, we all headed down to Silver Lake for an evening nature walk along the lake. At one point a beaver scared the crap out of me when it slapped it’s tail on the water surface as a warning to me not to get any closer. Just imagine a beaver coming at you! Not fun! Just walking along the boardwalk viewing the huge water lilies, and bird watching, made for a very peaceful relaxing evening walk. This peacefulness would be short-lived by night.
Tent camping is an adventure in itself, and with three girls all crammed into a tent for the night will our bags, one of us was bound to be beat up by morning. I was the one who could not sleep a wink that night from the thunderstorm that had rolled in later that night and having a tent mate roll all over you during the night. Normally hearing raindrops on the tent would be a relaxing sound to fall asleep to, but for some reason, the sound was not soothing enough to lull me to sleep for long. By morning I was tired, needed coffee really bad, and at one point fell asleep for fifteen minutes before breakfast in a camp chair.
With a breakfast of Life cereal and coffee, the day started off at the Mt. St. Helen’s Visitor Center at Silver Lake looking at the exhibits discussing the geological aspects of the eruption. While in the parking lot of the visitor center, a Seahawk decided to make an appearance to show off their Seattle Seahawk pride as a “twelfth bird.” The Seahawk in question is a female taking care of her young in a nest of a few Douglas fir trees down from the visitors center. Looking through the scouting scope, the Seattle Seahawk football hawk logo resembles the real seahawk’s head pattern.
After confirmation that the road to Windy Ridge was not open, we head up the road to towards Johnson Ridge Visitor Center for the day.