Saturday, July 9, 2011

Day 16: Mt. Saint Helens

Today we arrived at Mt. Saint Helens Volcanic Monument, entering from the other side where the entrance roads were not closed due to (we assume) snow.

Mt Saint Helens, as well as Mt Rainier, are part of the High Cascades. This particular volcano has been active for a long time, considering its oldest rocks are 37,000 years old. Although earthquakes were growing more frequent, at the the end of March 1980 no one thought an eruption was possible. By the end of April, police strongly encouraged evacuations, but mandatory evacuations did not exist at that time. Not everyone left, including one man who decided to stay because his wife was buried in his backyard.  The man claimed he had chosen that location for his home because he "wanted to be closer to God." Well, if that was his intention, he chose wisely. On May 18, 1980 at 8:32pm, Mt. Saint Helens finally erupted. The explosion was so powerful, a third of the cone was completely destabilized, which can be seen by the pictures below. The nearby valley was filled with a hot mud flow, killing many people, and ash covered many states in the vicinity. The air blast knocked down trees and took lives as far as 20 miles away.

After a picnic on the deck of a ski lodge that was closed for the season, we had a very long drive (about 4 hours), stopping only for pit stops--one of which was at the Warm Springs Indian Reservation that had a great gift shop where I bought a children's book called Coyote Places the Stars which I look forward to housing in my future classroom someday. I feel that this trip will really enhance my effectiveness as an educator; some of my most inspiring teachers were travelers and dreamers.  I like to think that is one of my strongest characteristics as a teacher, one not found in any textbook.

Eventually, we arrived at the Newberry Park Basaltic Lava Flows. Here we walked along a path surrounded by what is known in Hawaii as "aa lava" (pronounced "ah-ah"), which is so named because it's apparently rather painful to walk on barefoot and "ah-ah" is the sound you make when you do.  We chose not to find out for ourselves.

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