As the car headed north across the I-205 bridge to Washington, I was practically giddy with excitement. I realized a long-lost sense of freedom. It felt really, really good to be heading out for a week to explore new places.
Day One of our road trip was a gorgeous sunny day for a drive in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. The air smelled so warm and fragrant. After a couple of hours and a picnic lunch we came to our first stop in the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, near Cougar, Washington.
If you’re going to this area you might want to visit Ape Cave. (It was closed when we were there due to Covid-19.) More than 2 miles long, it is one of the longest continuous lava tubes in the world.
We continued around to the east side of Mount St. Helens and traveled north to Forest Road 99 – a rough road – which is generally free of snow late from late June through October and offers the only drive-up viewpoint of Spirit Lake.
The land within the Mount St. Helens Volcanic National Monument was left to recover naturally with minimal human intervention. It’s been 40 years since the 1980 eruption. We drove through miles of healthy forest, but as we traveled closer to the mountain we could see the impact of the blast: incinerated forest, lay-down forest and blast zones.
The May 18, 1980 eruption sadly claimed the lives of 57 people, many of them camping miles away from the mountain where it was considered to be safe from harm.
On May 18, 1980, the world’s largest landslide in recorded history slammed into Spirit Lake causing a 850-foot high wave to hit the northern mountainside. With the lake water temporarily displaced, 200 feet of new debris was deposited in the lake bed. With the water’s return, the lake was 200 feet higher in elevation and the surface area increased from 1300 acres to 2200 acres.
From these parks on County Road 99 there are several different trails to hike ranging from an “easy” half-mile hike to several “most difficult” hikes including a 2-mile trail that descends steeply to Spirit Lake’s shoreline.
We continued our drive north to go east on Highway 12 over the scenic White River Pass to Yakima where we had a hotel reservation.
Covid Safety Precautions: Facial masks were always worn inside public spaces such as hotels and restaurants. Many hotel desks and places such as Starbucks had installed clear plexiglas screens around their counters to provide additional protection. The Yakima Best Western Plus Hotel had an indoor pool and hot tub which guests could reserve a time for personal use.
My post Where Were You When the Mountain Blew? includes photos from Johnston Ridge Observatory which is accessible from the west side of Mt. St. Helens here.