Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Awesome power, destruction, rebirth

On Monday we passed from Washington to Oregon.  The exit from Seattle was smooth and the route through Portland avoided most of the rush hour traffic.  There were two great moments of the trip:  one in the middle and one at the end.
As we drove south on Interstate 5 we detoured to the Johnston Ridge Observatory overlooking Mt. St. Helens.  The ridge looks out at the gash in the volcano where a large part of the mountain exploded away on May 18, 1980.  When we arrived the mountain was shrouded in clouds.  We watched the amazing video explaining just what happened with film that seemed un obtainable by a living person. After the video the curtains parted to reveal a window the size of the whole wall, facing the mountain.
 The clouds still covered the view, but as we walked outside they moved slowly away to reveal the shattered crater.  Snow and small glaciers gleamed in the sunlight as we watched.  

All around the devastation of the lava had scalped the hills of vegetation,

but wild flowers have begun to take root on the fragile hills, and occasional trees are beginning to grow.  We had a good view of Mt. Adams to the left, and its beautiful shape contrasted sharply with the ruin of Mt. St.Helens.
 It is good to know however, that much has been learned about predicting volcanic eruptions by the scientists who have been studying the data from here for the last 34 years.
The second high moment of the day was the meeting with my cousin Bob Fleming, whom I had not seen since I was nine or ten years old. We went to an Indian restaurant and told stories to each other until the restaurant closed.  It was a magical meeting and every bit as wonderful as I had anticipated.  Bob has spent much of his life in Nepal and the evening only heightened my longing to take that long awaited trip.

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