Okay, maybe this isn’t exactly hidden to those who live in the area. After all, it’s tough to keep an enormous, active volcano under wraps. But on a recent trip to the Pacific Northwest, I discovered some of the most beautiful scenery this country has to offer, and an amazing natural wonder I might’ve passed right on by.
First, for anyone who is not aware, we’ve got an active volcano in this country. Yup. I confess, I didn’t know this before my trip. Mount St. Helens. Rising some 8,365 above sea line, this bad-ass mountain located in the state of Washington was responsible for the single deadliest volcanic event in the history of the United States. Fifty-seven people were killed when it erupted on May 18, 1980. It also wiped out a staggering amount of trees and wildlife, including 12 million salmon fingerlings, and an estimated 40,000 young salmon that were forced to swim away from the heated waters, right into the turbine blades of hydroelectric generators of the Lewis River. (Not sure why this makes me sadder than the fifty-seven people who were killed.)
On top of the death toll, it was also the most economically destructive volcanic event in U.S. history, causing some estimated $2 to $3 billion dollars in damage. (And here we thought the volcano that ruined Marcia’s dress from Peter and Bobby’s science experiment on The Brady Bunch held this title.)
After a little research, it’s easy to see why one volcano could cause such enormous destruction: it’s enormous.
Did I mention enormous?
Taking Highway 5 from Portland to Seattle, there are plenty of signs announcing Mount St. Helens visitor center. Located in Castle Rock, Washington, the visitor center was constructed as a reminder of the sheer power of nature. (At least that’s what I presume. I actually arrived one minute before it closed, and was left to explore the area without an official guide.)
The volcano itself stands out against a backdrop of seemingly endless mountain ranges. Now filled with trails, wildlife, hikers, and the occasional giant eagle, the entire area bears the mark of the eruption. There are complete sections of earth that are completely leveled, and void of any vegetation, in complete contrast to the region’s many natural forests. A majestic reminder that we should do our best to not piss off the planet.
Think recycling isn’t for you? Take a little detour to Mount St. Helens, and you’ll see just how angry Mother Earth can get.
For more info, visit http://mountsthelens.com/
Worried about flying into an active volcano? Don’t be. Click here for How to Avoid Flight Delays Caused by Volcanic Ash.
Jeff Michaels is a touring musician and author of the air travel guide, Please Hug Me – I’ve Been Delayed: The Only Guide You’ll Ever Need to Survive the Not-so-Friendly Skies. For more travel tips, (especially about air travel) visit http://www.beendelayed.com.