Mt. St. Helens Revisited

Mt. St. Helens was the gem of Washington’s Cascade Mountain Range. She stood as perfect and proud as Japan’s Mt. Fuji. I always anticipated seeing her on my occasional trips to Seattle.
Harry Truman (not the Harry that first comes to mind) owned a ski and recreation lodge overlooking Spirit Lake. No one could remember when Harry wasn’t there. When there was suspicion that Mt. St. Helens might erupt a reporter traveled there to chat with Harry about his plans. I don’t recall his exact words, but I remember he pointed to the place where his wife lay buried and said he would join her.
People installed devices, probably GPS receivers, in order to detect any physical changes. She began bulging on one side and they warned that activity was occurring. But no one took heed. Campers, hikers, fishermen, photographers, and the like headed for the mountain in droves. And then her side blew out.
I was enjoying a company picnic when a bulletin announced that Mt. St. Helens had erupted. I rode a motorcycle within 50 miles, close enough to see tons of ash billowing. I remember wondering when it stopped, if it ever did, what kind of gaping hole would occupy the place where our proud mountain had stood.
Those who had ignored the warnings fled for their lives. One man reported giant mud balls zipping past his car as he drove like his life depended on it. A toasted photographer was found in a tree. I’ve forgotten most of the accounts, but the number 17 seems significant for those who were recovered. That may not include others who will forever remain buried, along with Harry Truman.
The Army Corp of Engineers brought large equipment to the Toutle River where it passes beneath Interstate 5 and spent weeks clearing the channel of ash. When they were finished the equipment was moved to the side. A decade later it was still there.
Off Topic:
My first summer after high school I worked on a ranch east of Bend, Oregon. The bunkhouse had a large window facing west. Using powerful field glasses, I often studied the seven mountains occupying the Cascade Range, especially the one known as Mt. Broken Top. During the early morning, when the mountains were still pink in the morning sun Broken Top appeared “gouged out” on the east side. Mt. St. Helens now looks the same way.

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