Thursday, July 12, 2007

Take a Motorcycle Ride Up To Mt. St. Helens, WA.

Near Coldwater Ridge Visitors Center
Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
July 9, 2007. 7:34pm

A group of Gold Wings appeared out of nowhere, taking up residence on my motorcycle's mirrors. They were more eager than I to get down off the mountain. I pulled my Sportster off the road to let them pass and to take a last look at the panoramic scene behind me. The Gold Wings went by. The riders were concentrated on the road, oblivious to the wonder that was all around. Not me, I wanted to linger. Peering into the very breach of hell from where I was near Coldwater Ridge was a scene both terrible and beautiful all at the same time. I wondered what it must have been like on the mountain 27 years ago when everything changed.

Spirit Lake Lodge near Mount St. Helens
May 18, 1980. 8:31am

The stubborn old man oddly named Harry S. Truman may have been sitting in his comfortable deck chair. A few of his many cats might have been lounging nearby. Harry could have been taking in the beauty of the mountain's peak in the early morning sunlight. It was an ordinary start of a day on the mountain. Nothing lasts forever.

The ground shook violently, a deafening roar filled the air that could be heard from 225 miles away broke the quiet solitude of Harry's last morning on earth. A tremendous explosion 500-times greater than the bomb that leveled Hiroshima ripped the top of the mountain off. A wall of ash, debris, and super heated gas raced toward Harry at hundreds of miles per hour. He was vaporized in an instant.

Somewhere between 57 and 60 people died on and around the mountain on that day. The blast destroyed 200 square miles of forests, leaving behind an unfathomable amount of downed trees. 27 years have gone by and new life is emerging out of the utter destruction of the area. The government made it into a National Volcanic Monument. They have re-built many of the roads and made lots of scenic places to stop and contemplate the enormity of it all.

If you haven't been there, then you must go, and what better way than on a bike! There are good paved roads that make a loop all the way around the mountain with a variety of different vantage points and panoramic vistas. Stop at the Johnston Ridge Observatory just 5 miles from the volcano and gaze into the enormous gaping crater that once was the top of the mountain. You will feel small and as insignificant as a flea as you begin to comprehend the magnitude and violence Mother Nature is capable of.

Mount St. Helens is still a very active volcano but is deemed safe at the moment. No more cataclysmic eruptions are expected any time soon. If you plan on visiting take at least a day, 2 or more would even be better. The place is a motorcyclists dream. There are plenty of twisties to negotiate and unforgettable awe inspiring scenery. Only about an hour's ride from Portland, Oregon, Mount St. Helens is very accessible except during the winter months. There are campgrounds to stay at within the shadow of the volcano. It's a ride you won't forget, I know I wont.

©2007 N.(Kano)Miles, Kano's eCoffee House

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