Mt. St. Helens & Cascade Locks

September 16-17, 1999

"Vancouver, Vancouver. This is it!" These were the last words of David Johnston as Mt. St. Helens erupted May 18, 1980. The highest and last point on the 52-mile Spirit Lake Memorial Hwy. is named Johnston Observation Point after him. We left Eugene from Shop-Ko, stopped in Wilsonville Rest Area for cookies and coffee and picked up Mildred Weatherby in Portland. Arriving at Castle Rock about 11:30, we proceeded up the Memorial Hwy. and stopped at the Visitor Center where we were given tickets to enable us to visit all the other points of interest on the highway. As we arrived at Hoffstadt Bluffs for lunch, the sun came out and Mt. St. Helens was in full view. For the balance of the two-day trip, the weather was perfect with lots of sunshine. After lunch we stopped at the Forest Learning Center operated by Weyerhaeuser and where there is a stationary helicopter and visitors can climb aboard and see what they would see if flying over the area. The Center is perched high above the Toutle Valley, teaches about forestry and has sweeping views of the elk refuge below. We crossed the $13-million Hoffstadt Bridge (2340-ft. long, 370 ft. high) and arrived at Coldwater Ridge Visitor Center where we could see the crater. Opened in 1993, the 28,000 sq. ft. building cost $11.5 million and has many exhibits, a wrap-around deck for viewing and a restaurant. Coldwater Lake, created by the volcano, is below. As we climbed higher, we came to Johnston Ridge Observatory at 3,200 ft. This area is closed in winter until early spring because of snow. We now were only five miles from Mt. St. Helens and off in the distance can be seen what is left of Spirit Lake. Here also can be seen the lava dome, crater, pumice plain, blast zone and landslide deposit. Many of our group enjoyed the “then and now” show on the wide screen theater inside the observatory. Others hiked up the nearby bluffs for a wonderful view of the whole panorama. We returned to Kelso and the Best Western Aladdin Motel for the night.

The next morning we drove back to Castle Rock and the Cinedome, where we enjoyed “The Eruption of Mt. St. Helens” on the giant screen plus the roar and shaking which make it a real true-life experience. Some of it was filmed from a helicopter as it soared into the still-smoldering crater. We left Castle Rock about 10:00 and returned on I-5 to the exit for Cascade Locks, going on the Washington side of the Columbia River past Beacon Rock State Park and Bonneville and crossed the Bridge of the Gods into Cascade Locks. Our sternwheeler, Columbia Gorge, was scheduled to load at 12:15 so we had time to browse around the area — some visited the snack bar and gift shop, some walked in the park and some just relaxed on the covered deck. A photographer takes pictures of everyone as they board (these are sold at the end of the trip). Most everyone climbed to the top deck for the two-hour cruise. We went down river to the locks, with historical narrative about Lewis and Clark and the Oregon Trail with some humorous incidental information thrown in. Then we went up river and back to the dock about 2:30. We left for home and arrived about 6:00 after encountering some heavy traffic on I-205 and through Salem.

Many thanks to Ewart Baldwin who added so much to the trip with information about the Toutle River when the eruption occurred as well as about Spirit Lake and his experience in flying over the area only two weeks after the eruption. Also all his comments along the Columbia River about Beacon Rock and its final sale to the State of Washington. Thanks also to Rosella Jones, Barb Miller and Helen Knowlton for furnishing cookies. And thanks to all who went for being good sports about our motel as we were moved by the Doubletree to the Best Western Aladdin the day before the trip.

Enjoying the weather, scenery, etc., were Ethel Allen, Ewart Baldwin, John & Marian Borchardt, Billie Brown, Glendora Burbank, Ingrid Carmichael, Nicole Chase, Mary Lee Cheadle, Margaret Fea, Barbara Hasek, Betty Haralson, Dora Harris, Phyllis Hulse, Ben & Pat Jeffries, Rosella Jones, Helen Knowlton, Dodie Leppmann, Marie Loome, Barbara & Walt Miller, Grace Miller, Lois Nelson, Liz Reanier, Wally Swanson, Millard Thomas, June Smith, Louise Thurber, Mildred Weatherby and Bette Hack (leader).

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