Known as Lawetlat’la by indigenous Cowlitz people, Mount St Helens blew nearly a quarter mile off its height 40 years ago in the most economically destructive volcanic event in the history of the United States. Killing at least 57 people and destroying homes, bridges, highways and railways in the paths of the resulting debris avalanches and ash.
Mother earth is making amends as the ash and pumice badlands begin regeneration to its former glory, greening out with grasses, flowers and trees. Wildlife is returning. Most surprising in today’s fear of “extreme weather,” Crater Glacier formed in the winter after the eruption and is now the only known glacier in the contiguous United States that is advancing! Yes, it is growing with an average thickness of 330 feet. Covered with ash, it is not readily discernable as a glacier from the visitor’s center viewpoint.
Our captain “beached” the Queen and then lowered the bow ramp onto the sand. The crew rolled out a carpet over the sand so we could walk up to the road. A two-hour bus ride from our dock at Kalama, Washington, to the visitor center is again filled with our bus driver’s (Jodi) continual chatter about history of the area and facts about the eruption and, of course, jokes. She drives her bus from docking point to docking point as we sail the Columbia River so she has been our driver for each side trip from Astoria to Umatilla.