Arriving in Washington, we didn’t have wild expectations. We were still abuzz from California and Oregon — Washington to us felt like a chance to catch our breath. And that was great until we arrived at Mount St. Helens which is awe-inspiring and breathtaking.
While visiting the Mount St. Helens Forest Learning Center, we overheard a man talking to the cloud formations above us. As I started talking to him, I learned that he was a pilot and talked about how these “lenticular clouds” formed around mountain ranges and pilots were always on the lookout for them, to fly around them. “Flying through them,” he said “planes have been known to come out missing a few parts or not come out at all.”
So those clouds offer a highly turbulent experience. But from the ground, they were amazing. They looked like an artist painting with an impressionist flair.
The learning center, to us was a must-see. It is funded by Weyerhaeuser lumber company and is highly educational regarding the 1980 eruption, landscape and ecosystem surrounding the mountain. Their focus is on sustainability – not just taking from the forest but giving back. When Mount St. Helens erupted and an entire side of it collapsed in on itself, the lava flow and blast destroyed over 230 square miles of trees and vegetation. Weyerhaeuser went to work re-planting and today, 36 years after the 1980 eruption, the area has grown up but is very clearly delineated from the untouched areas.
We stopped and had a picnic at a pull-off area where chipmunks jumped in on our party. After we toured the main visitor’s center, we wrapped up our day with an early dinner at Patty’s Place at 19 Mile House looking over the North Fork Toutle river. It was a cute little place and family owned-operated but it fell short in service, but still all-in-all an amazing day.
If you had told me that Mount St. Helens was an amazing and inspiring place to visit before our trip, I don’t know if I would have believed it without photos.