A short drive to the east later, Mark and I came to our next stop of the day: Stratigraphy Viewpoint.
It had a pretty sweet view of Mount St. Helens. :)
We got out of the car and walked around for a few minutes to get a better view, then made our way back. We wanted to make one more stop before heading back out to Route 5 to head north again.
Next stop: Lahar Viewpoint! After the eruption in 1980, this entire area was covered in a lahar (mudlow). It's cool to see how quickly it's bouncing back...some of those trees are easily 20 feet tall now.
You could still see some of the old tree stumps that were left over from the eruption. We hung out here for a little while and had some snacks before backtracking out to Route 5 to drive further north. We made a quick stop in the town of Cougar before getting back on the highway and discovered the best thing ever: roadside coffee sheds! Picture a garden shed that you can pull up to that sells amazing coffee for cheap. You don't even have to get out of your car. And they're everywhere. Just saying, I'd be perfectly fine with moving to the Northwest.
One delicious coffee and a couple hours or driving later, we got to the north side of Mount St. Helens.
We made a quick stop at Elk Rock Viewpoint to stretch our legs and check out the view. It had a pretty cool view through the valley, and during the eruption part of the debris avalanche flowed through here.
As we drove further east, you could see more and more hillsides covered with dead trees that were blown over in the eruption. Even 30+ years later, they're still the only thing visible on the tops of many of the hills.
We made a quick stop at Loowit Viewpoint. This picture doesn't even start to do justice to how huge the mountain is in person.
We made it to Johnston Ridge Observatory shortly before they closed and paid for our wristbands. It was ridiculously windy by the time we got there; that's not ash erupting from the volcano; it's dust being blown into the air from the wind whipping around. There was a path that veered off to the left of the building, so we decided to go check it out.
They had a map showing the areas affected by the eruption. We were standing right on the edge of the Landslide and Tree Removal zones. During the eruption, everything in this area was decimated.
The landscape stretches so far in each direction that I couldn't get it all into one shot!
I used my zoom lens to get a closer look at some of the landscape. It was neat to see how the land has eroded over time.
This was looking to the left of Mount St. Helens, from the path. You could just make out the top of Mount Adams (45 miles to the west) peeking over the ridges on the left side of the picture. Spirit Lake is in front of the ridges over to the right (it's actually about 2 miles away from where we were standing when I took this picture).
If you zoomed waaaay in with the camera, you could also see inside the crater. It was still steaming; the lava dome has been slowly growing since the 1980 eruption.
It was ridiculously windy while we were walking up the path, so we turned around and started back down. This was the view looking out to the west.
You can just make out the edge of Spirit Lake in front of the ridges toward the back.
We made our way back to the car and started driving back out to the main highway. Bye, Mount St. Helens! I'll be back again someday (and next time, I want to climb it!). Since I'm a bit of a volcano geek, the whole day was fantastic...I've wanted to see Mount St. Helens for years! :)
The road on the way out is lined with thousands and thousands of trees. Everywhere you looked, trees. I've never seen so many huge trees in one place. A lot of the land is owned by Weyerhaeuser, a huge logging company, and every once in a while they had signs posted indicating when a section of trees was planted and when it would be harvested.
We stopped at another overlook on the way back out, but I missed the name of it. It had a really neat view of the valley, though.
We drove over Hoffstadt Creek Bridge on the way to Johnston Ridge. It's over 2300' long and almost 400' high...it's huuuuuge! It's pretty neat how you come up to it, too...you'll be driving along through trees and the occasional overlook, when all of a sudden everything opens up in front of you and you're on the bridge before you know it.
We made our way back out to Route 5 and kept driving north. Every once in a while, you could see a huge mountain out in the distance (I think this one might be Mount Rainier)...it was really pretty. We eventually made a quick stop at a random Quiznos for dinner, drove through Seattle, and made it to our hotel just a little north of the city. We had more fun stuff planned for the next morning! :)