I woke up this morning all excited because we were going to be able to go see Mt. St. Helens today. (This was a very moving thing for me to see when Charlie and I were out here in the summer of 1998). The weather was supposed to be more clear, according to what we heard a couple days ago, but when I stuck my head outside, all I saw were clouds. We drove across the street to the Visitors’ Center to see the live picture of Mt. St. Helens on the computer monitor. It could hardly be seen at all due to the fog, but we knew today was our last day to give it a try, so we headed up there. By the time we reached the Johnston Visitors’ Center at the overlook to Mt. St. Helens the clouds had still not cleared. We were able to see a nice view of Windy Ridge and Spirit `in the distance. (Spirit Lake was devastated by the volcanic eruption. It was filled with ash, the water level was raised a lot, and it is now ½ as deep and much wider than it was. In 1998, it was filled with fallen trees.) We had a nice time at the Visitors’ Center and were able to see good pictures of how Mt. St. Helen used to look and how it has changed to look now with the northern flank of the mountain missing because most of it slid down the mountain and into the rivers and valleys below. After we finally reached the Johnston overlook, I realized that we weren’t seeing the degree of devastation that Charlie and I had seen in 1998 and that was because today we had approached the volcano from the western side. The fallen tree forests and devastating views of Spirit Lake were more evident from the eastern approach that must have been what we took in 1998 (a friend was driving on that trip, so we paid no attention to the maps and such facts as which way we came to the volcano). I also realized that we missed the opportunity to see the lava tube caves that were a result of previous explosions and could be reached from the southern entrance. Those other entrances would have taken a 4 hour drive or a 2 hour drive from where we were, so we missed them entirely. I was so disappointed that we weren’t seeing some of the things that would have been amazing to see, but as Charlie says, it all gives us a reason to come back.
We also stopped at a Visitors’ Center that was built by Weyerhauser. Weyerhauser is a forestry company that has a lot of forests growing in the area and that had a very informative visitor center with a lot of hands-on exhibits for the kids. We were finally able to touch some pumice and see how light it was and be able to see other volcanic rocks like obsidian and basalt. Unfortunately, most everywhere we were happened to be inside of protected areas where we weren’t able to get down to the rivers and see some of the volcanic rocks and such. They had some amazing pine cones on display there that we were able to pick up and hold also, one of them included the Coulter Pine. I asked the gentleman there supervising the learning center where we could find Coulter Pines to see them in the wild. He said that they weren’t very common but could be seen in the Sierra Nevadas. Robert III, I believe that it is now up to you to go take pictures and collect Coulter Pine cones for everyone back in South Carolina. Otherwise, I guess we will have to make another trip!
We went back to the campsite early so that we could get to bed at a decent time as well as to get some laundry and cleaning done. We are doing laundry about twice a week – not really going through all the clothes we brought, just because we need more cool weather clothes (not having brought enough of those) or because we have the opportunity to do it and aren’t sure when the next opportunity will be. While I did the laundry, the kids cleaned the camper, packed things away for pulling out the next morning, ate s’mores by the campfire, and watched a rare movie in the camper. We all got to bed at a decent time for once. Not being rushed through our day was such a blessing!
By the way, we haven’t been revealing our destinations in advance, usually, for online safety reasons, but that has also kept us from being able to take advantage of some of the destinations that some people have recommended to us in the comments (of course, it doesn’t help that I have been getting these out a couple days late at times). However, we have decided that we can reveal some future destinations as long as we aren’t giving away too much info. So, if you have any recommendations for things to do around Glacier National Park, Yellowstone National Park, Mt. Rushmore, or anything in between (especially great Catholic sites to see) please let us know. Hopefully we will be able to take advantage of others’ experiences. You are all such blessings to us!