Windy Ridge is 53 miles out of Cougar, Washington on Forest Road 90. You take a left @ the sign for Windy Ridge (can't remember what forest road that is) and it is about 14 miles. You enter the blast zone that was affected when the north face of Mt. St. Helen's was blasted off in the May 18, 1980 eruption. The forest roads are well paved, but very twisty and turny. My excitement built as we neared the turn off to Windy Ridge and you could start seeing the volcano in the distance, and even Mt. Rainier.
It was a clear, beautiful sunny day with incredible bright blue skies, dotted with clouds. First we stopped @ a viewpoint overlooking Meta Lake and the beginning of the blast zone. We could see a small steam and ash emission rising out of the crater of the volcano. This is not a surprise, as the volcano started to have regular, active steam and ash emissions in October 2004 that were so spectacular, they didn't even compare to this measley little steaming!
When we were about 7 miles away from our destination, and well within the blastzone, we came upon this visitor's center, restaraunt and gift shop. Here we ate cheeseburgers and fries, while watching the volcano send it's mini plume into the sky. It was such an amazing moment. I mean, whenever you go to the mountains, whether it's st. helen's, rainier or mt. adams, you never know if you will see the peaks because there is such frequent cloud cover over them, even if the rest of the sky is comletely clear. It's just a crap shoot. We got there just in the nick of time. It was so wonderful and everyone that was there was quite thrilled to watch the "activity" as we call it, as well.
As we approached Windy Ridge the crater seemed so close that we could crawl right into it. And, the clouds started covering the opening to the crater, so we were glad that we had enjoyed it while we could. Windy Ridge is soooo windy, it really lives up to it's name. But we enjoyed looking @ Spirit Lake (where i had fished and camped as a child) and listened to a fabulous talk on "Extreme Geology" by a young U.S. Forest Service employee.
I had heard all the details many times before, but never tire of reliving this thrilling, exciting and scarry time of my life. Also, some of the details were really put into perspective by sitting right there. Where we were at, people had 35 seconds to live after the eruption started @ 8:32 a.m. Basically, they didn't live until 8:33.
She said that the force of the blast was equivalent to 500+ atomic bombs, and that the largest recorded landslide in human history was 130 miles an hour, while the pyroclastic flows that reached toward Spirit Lake were still 600 degrees 2 weeks after the eruption.
I also noticed how the forest was renewing itself, and looked so different than when I was last in the blast zone (the standing dead forest) 16 years ago. She explained that when the Roosevelt Elk herds returned, their dung piles could germinate 11 different species of plants from one pile. They really helped the forest regenerate itself.
As we drove back out of the blast zone, it was over 8 miles to get to Bear Meadow. This was where a gentleman snapped 4 pictures the morning of the eruption and quickly sped away over 22 miles to the town of Randle, Washington. Barely escpaing with his life. We thought about that as we drove back towards Randle on Forest Road 25. At approx. 35-40 miles an hour it took us at least an hour to reach the tiny hamlet of Randle. We imagined how fast he drove, how dangerous that was on the windy road, and how he must have feared for his life.
As we came home down I-5 and neared the town of Castle Rock, Wa., we traveled over a bridge that crossed the Toutle River. I remember that bridge being wiped out by the mudflow that traveled through there on the way to the Cowlitz and eventually, the Columbia River. She was able to look and see how high the water and debris had gotten as we passed over this part of the freeway, even though she had crossed it dozens and dozens of times.
We left Cougar on our trek shortly after 11 a.m., and finally reached home around 6 p.m. It was quite a bit of driving, but such an amazing experience. We came full circle after leaving our home days before. Our trip literally circled comletely around Mt. St. Helen's.
I hope she will remember that part of our campout, especially, for years to come. I hope that it's times like these, that will overshadow the much too numerous times where I am so less-than-functional with my health problems. I hope she will be resiliant, and not bitter with life and with me due to the many things she is robbed of, but will instead marvel at all the times that are special that we are able to have. I pray that she won't hold against me the depression that I deal with even on non-pain days due to my struggle with hopelessness and anger/grief/sadness over my circumstances. This is one of the main reasons I was not going to let anything or anyone stop our special time together. She has commented about it so many times, not so much to me, but at school to her teacher, and in her writings, how these campouts are the highlight of her summer.
I know they are surely one of the highlights of mine. I don't know what we will decide to do next year, and if we will decide to include any other mother/daughter combos to our little fun. Part of us would like to do that, to share this specialness with another mother/daughter/s combo, while part of us desires to just savor the specialness of the two of us. I am really trying to let her determine the course it, as it is such a meaningful experience in her life.
In fact, both of my parents wanted to come along this year, and Meyers D was willing to have my Dad come along. But I explained to her that now that he is retired, my parents can go camping with us anytime, and they don't. This is our only time for girl time, so I said what would you think if just Grammy came. And she agreed that it would be a good idea to keep it just womenfolk. So we invited my Mom, but I think she already had her heart set on camping with my Father. Maybe there were other reasons for her not coming, I don't know. I think it's too bad, she really missed out. But at the same time I am sooooo glad it was just her and I this summer, as my ability to take the kids and do things without the assistance (drug free driving skills) of my husband has been limited much more than previous summers.
For more pics go to www.flickr.com/photos/cameradawktor