MISSION: To visit every state and territory in the U.S. For my mission a visit is greater than a stop over; I wish to explore the natural and cultural environments of these areas. Each of these locations has a story to tell, and I want to find it.

As of February 2018 I have visited all 50 states (and Puerto Rico and 2 island in the US Virgin Islands) at least once.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

No Volcano, No Big Foot - Just Rain and Fog (and an earthquake)

Last Sunday I caught the early flight and headed to Portland.  I had some lofty goals of for the early weekend arrival.  My friend and I had ideas of things we wanted to see; too bad the weather conspired against us.

By the time we drove the hour plus north, the rain had rolled in.  We learned from a ranger that if we would have made it that morning we would have saw the legendary crater... instead, we were treated to a fog covered picture on the computer monitor.  The rangers also provided us some advice on scenery that was visible.  We walked some of the marsh plank trail - until the rain steady increased in intensity... besides the views were not as spectacular without the foliage.  Moss grows thick and soft in that region - in fact, it is pet-able and grows everywhere. I was fascinated with trees that grew in knots... but since the visitors center was closed by the time we walked the planks, I could not ask for information about them...

Still, I did learn some interesting tidbits from them before they closed up shop - The whole preserved area is not part of the US Forest Service.  In fact, it is not always part of the state park system.  They shift between county and state park land depending on funding levels!  (ouch, that has to be stressful to not only not know your funding levels, but where you are getting paid.)  In fact only one unit of the Mount St Helens site is part of the federal system... the part closest to the crater.  In that area you find the observatory named for the USGS scientist that died getting the last warning out - Dave Johnson.

Mount St Helens has a series of visitor centers that focus on different aspects of the environment surrounding the mountain, highlighting the eruption effects.  Due to the season, many areas were closed, so we went to the areas available and recommended; after the marsh we headed east and continued to the  -  Toutle River Valley.  Rangers promised the area would be open for Valentines Day Dinner at the lodge; views were to be spectacular, because from this center you could see the mountain/valley regrowth developing after the volcano eruption mudslides.

As promised, the views from the valley, even with the fog were spectacular.  What added to the scene were the couples in love, taking in the evening, while the fog rolled in, while dining in a lodge that chronicled the horrible deaths and amazing survival stories of locals during the eruption.  Not exactly the most romantic place... but then again, the long drive up to the valley was a far way from any major town or city.

The lodge/visitor's center's gift shop embraced a different side of the area.  Beyond the information on plants and trails, the center provided a whole section on the hunt for the the Sasquatch.  Yes, there were  the easy reads for the casual interests, but they also carried books by regional university professors on the area lore and the myths surrounding the search for the giants as well as others by journalists promising "never before written about encounters."  So, for everyone that knows me, yes, I picked up a book because I am curious.  But no, there was no encounter.  But then again, with the fog and rain, I would not have seen anything if it was there.

I learned the following day that earthquakes were recorded at Mt St Helens.  The USGS announced that it was a 4.3 with 30 aftershocks... guess that is life on the mountain.  I just can't comprehend why people still live there.  Sure, it is beautiful, private and remote... but from everything that is chronicled from the past, that is not something that I would want to experience 2x.  Not my choice, but I still ponder...

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