Mt St Helens

August 20-21, 1983

Twenty-nine members, six nonmembers with leader, Ewart Baldwin, departed on time from South Eugene Parking Lot, August 20, 1983. With our friend Don Moorehead driving a Prevost Evergreen bus and with a tailwind, we kept a half hour ahead of schedule, arriving at Camp Cispus by 3:30 p.m. After a rest stop south of Portland we crossed the new Glen Jackson Memorial Bridge into the State of Washington, leaving I-5 at Toledo, then on to the U.S. Forest Service Visitor Center. Here we viewed exhibits and a movie depicting the beautiful Mt. St. Helens as it was before the eruption May 18, 1980, and the following stages of the blow-out, also pictures of Harry Truman at his Lodge where he is now buried under tons of ash. This prepared our minds and emotions for gruesome sights the next day. Lunch was enjoyed in the nearby Lewis and Clark State Park.

We arrived early at the Environmental Learning Center, which is situated close to the Cispus River ten miles south of Randle in a clearing surrounded by forests in the lower Cascades. It is north of Mt. St. Helens and west of the Goat Rocks area and Mt. Adams. Originally, this 45 acres was used for a CCC Camp; later buildings were constructed and was used for a time as a Job Corps Center. Following the recent economic crunch the funds were cut off. Because the program had been so valuable, a group of educators formed a governing body of Washington State School Principals and the Center is now operating by user fees and CETA help.

After settling in, reading the rules, etc., several people took advantage of the nearby trails. After dinner the evening was spent listening to a dedicated and inspiring James A. Garner explain their program—giving us a tour of the library, resource rooms, animal pelt center and logging history room—all impressive! The Center is used the entire year by groups for learning. The buildings and grounds are well maintained. Guests must help with serving the meals—set and clear the tables, serve the food family-style, sweep the floors. We were housed in dormitories with the men in “Birch” and the women in “Cedar”. The rooms had to be tidied up before departing.

After breakfast and clean-up, we boarded the bus at 7:30 a.m., 30 minutes early, then traveling south, stopping at the various view points: Windy Ridge, Strawberry Mtn, Bear Meadows, Meta Lake, Turn-out South and a short visit to Ape Cave. The weather was clear, the sun at our back, with a full view toward the crater of the mountain with always a small plume rising from inside. The snow on the mountain was covered with brown ash which added to the lifeless appearance of the once majestic symmetrical peak. Often there were spectacular views of Mt. Rainier and Mt. Adams as we rounded the many curves. As we viewed the vastness of the onslaught of the explosion it was easy to see the direction of the force with acres of downed timber all lying in the same direction like match sticks row upon row. The desolation of it all prompted one person on the bus to say it gave her the feeling of being among the dead. One section will be left for posterity along with the burned Pontiac—another is being logged, which is one of the reasons that some roads are closed to traffic week days.

We had an excellent view of Spirit Lake with the many logs, and across on the far side, the pumping station. Scientists are beginning to note a dramatic resurgence of plant and animal life and once in awhile a hawk overhead. In many places pearly everlasting and fireweed were growing out of the ash. Small evergreen trees two to four feet high were growing where they had been protected either by snow or a cliff or ridge. A good example of this was at Meta Lake. All this is showing how persistent nature is in healing itself, and in less time than scientists expected.

After traveling south, lunch was enjoyed in a wayside forested park, and, of course, ice cream in the town of Cougar almost due south of Mt. St. Helens. We re-entered I-5 at Woodland, Washington and drove south toward home. It was convenient to eat dinner early at North’s south of Portland, and we did avoid the long Sunday evening lines. But before we returned to Eugene, we had to make an unscheduled stop at T&R near Albany to replace a back tire that had started throwing its tread.

A wonderful and impressive experience, an able leader, a cooperative group, and an excellent bus driver. We journeyed 536 miles. Bill Eaton was the co-leader making plans, reservations and schedules, but missed going because of time out for heart surgery.

St. Helens viewers were leader Ewart Baldwin and wife Margaret, Mary Bundy, Ingrid Carmichael, Bernice Claypool, Eaton and Beth Conant, Clair Cooley, Bob Foster, Don and Geraldine Gott, substitute co-leader Jane Hilt, Virginia Horn, Virginia Horton, Art and Lillian Johnson, Bea LeFevre, Bob and Marilyn Morris, Elizabeth McMullin, Frances Newsom, Elizabeth Officer, Hazel Peck, Frances O’Neil, Edie Post, Clarence and Dorothy Scherer, Lois Schreiner, Grace Smith, Ethel and Robin Stoussy, Paula Vehrs, Val Thoenig, Gregory Wannier and Amy Clugston.


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