The trip’s not over till the fat lady sings…or whatever. I had totally disregarded the potential for the drive to the airport to be quite so exciting – we stopped by Mount St Helens on the way to Sea-Tac and it was such a glorious, peach of a day that the experience was altogether overwhelming.
We got the first hint that it was a good day to make the detour as we turned off the freeway. The mountain was there in a cloudless blue sky and we knew it’d been a good decision.
We bypassed all the distractions of visitors’ centres and the like on the way up because we were time-limited. Both of our flights were leaving late afternoon and though we had plenty of time really, we didn’t want to risk a last minute rush. We parked up at Johnstone Ridge Observatory and walked up the pathway to the viewing point.
Once again, Mary’s Golden Pass gave us free entry and presented with fluorescent pink wristbands, the facilities were open to us to explore.
Wow. There in front of us was a geologist/vulcanologist’s dream. The crater where the top blew off the mountain was clearly visible, as was the lava dome in the centre, where subsequent action has taken place. What we had thought was a dried up river turned out to be the lava flow from the eruption in 1980 and the lack of vegetation and the small hummocks here and there were all further remains of that devastating event.
We watched a short film about the 1980 eruption but found it rather over-sensationalised the events and though it answered one or two of our questions, it didn’t really make for comfortable viewing for me being very loud and visually distracting.
That didn’t matter, though, because the other displays and explanations were well done and from a standing start, I learned a great deal about what we were seeing there in front of us.
We made a couple of stops on the way back to the freeway, taking the same photo over and over, such an impression did it make on all three of us. At one stop, we met a local volunteer who told us that only yesterday, the mountain had been covered with cloud most of the day – today was very unusual indeed.
He also clarified to us that none of this very impressive infrastructure had been there before 1980 – these elegant bridges, fine highways and great visitors’ centres were all recent developments and a commitment by the US government to creating this National Monument.
With the car set up for the last freeway journey of the trip – three drinks, an assortment of weird chocolate (Lime Tortilla with Salt, French Toast and Smores flavours!) and a bag of Hot Tamales, we set off for the airport.
Not wanting to be outshone by another mountain, Mount Rainier put in an appearance along the way.
And that was that. Bidding our dear friend Mary goodbye at the airport, we’re now sitting in the lounge awaiting our flight. We’ve had such fun along the way, have wondered if we are surrounded by a vortex which attracts the strange and off-the-wall types who have characterised our trip, because once again, our wealth of travel tales and the characters who populate them have been added to.
Here’s to the next one!!