Our Mount St. Helens Epic Adventure: The End of a Quest!

Suzanne and I went up to Mount St. Helens yesterday on a rather spur-of-the-moment whim. The weather wasn’t as clear as we’d have liked, but the clouds stayed just high enough to make things interesting without obscuring the vital bits, so that was a little bit of all right. And at the end of the day, we had a most spectacular moment of success, one that brought a years-long quest to a close. Come join me for a whirlwind overview before I go pass out!

It was a foggy morning when I rolled my arse out of bed at are-you-kidding-me-o’clock. Look, 9:15 in the ay-em is like 3 or 4 in the morning to regular people. And I’d only managed to drop off to sleep around 5. But I achieved a modicum of consciousness, packed my things, and leapt into the car for the journey.

Damn good thing I was headed south, because the Chinese President was apparently headed north. A big chunk of I5 was completely closed. I got to see the advance motorcade! I, alas, did not get to see the actual presidential vehicle. I felt rather badly for the northbound folks parked helplessly behind the roadblock as I zipped by in the other direction, but fuck yeah, that’s the closest I’ve been to a president from China ever!

Mount Rainier popped over the horizon at one point. It had it’s head in the clouds. I was able to snap one photo from the car. It ain’t great, but you get the idea.

Image shows a portion of I5. In the distance, the bottom portion of Mount Rainier showing Little Tahoma is silhouetted against the sky. The top of Rainier is lost in a cloud bank.
“Head in the clouds, that one.”

Traffic was my friend all the way down – I’ve never been able to go the speed limit through downtown during the day before! Suzanne and I met up at the Burger King down in Castle Rock right on time. We hopped in her car after a quick lunch, and headed up to the mountain. The weather was so lovely that we stopped for a quick view from Silver Lake. Check out the clouds piled over our girl’s summit!

Image shows Mount St. Helens looking over Silver Lake. Clouds are rising from its summit. One set looks like it's emerging from inside her in a lazy, soft-white eruption cloud. A few more oblong clouds further up make it look like she's been trying to blow smoke rings all morning!
Mount St. Helens with super-awesome clouds.

We got some really nice shots, and I got a very accommodating red dragonfly, who I will soon introduce you to.

Fall colors were starting to come in. We stopped opposite the waterfall quarry because there was a ZOMG VIEW! of St. Helens, and I got some of that wonderful foliage in the shot.

Image is looking across the North Fork Toutle River valley at Mount St. Helens, which is partially hidden behind a ridge. The summit is shrouded in clouds, leaving only a narrow strip of the volcano visible. In the foreground, a small tree with very brilliant red leaves frames the bottom right of the image.
Fall color and a bashful mountain.

Every time I go down, I get more and more determined to move to Castle Rock. I want to be able to drive that mountain nearly every day for a year, capture it at its best in all seasons. Hopefully, I’ll get back down this year after all the fall colors have popped.

We made a few more stops at viewpoints along the way. I’ll eventually post the best of the photos from those stops, just gotta get them sorted out and edited. This camera is getting pretty crotchety in its old age, but a few shots are really nice. We got to Johnston Ridge just in time to see a herd of elk, with two bulls fighting, down on the Pumice Plain. Unfortunately, I couldn’t persuade the camera to see what I saw through the telescope, so you shall just have to be content with my assurance that watching bull elk try to impress the lady elk on recent volcanic deposits looks pretty damned epic.

We were just in time for the ranger talk, which today consisted of how the mountain changed from March 1980 to the present. The person giving the talk was really, really good – she was funny, engaging, had a lot of great analogies, threatened to spray us all with soda and peanut butter (she had her reasons! Can you guess what they are?), and was kind enough afterward to dig out one of the photos she’d presented and pose with it for Suzanne. I grabbed a shot, too. It’s a little hard to see, but it shows Mount St. Helens’s former summit outlined against her current shape, and of course the real deal posing next to it, with the ranger doing a “what can you do?” pose.

Image shows a view of Mount St. Helens from Johnston Ridge. It still has its head in the clouds, but you can see the gaping crater quite well. The ranger, a tall blond female-presenting person, is holding a large photograph showing Mount St. Helens after the eruption. There's a dashed line showing the former summit - which is considerably taller and cone-shaped! The ranger has her other hand up in an exaggerated shrug.
Yeah, the volcano used to be taller… then she went all asplodey.

She cited an interesting stat: if you took all the landslide material that’s now in the North Fork Toutle River valley and surroundings, and dumped it within Seattle’s city limits, you’d bury the entire city 40 feet deep! Dang.

Suzanne and I paid our dues at the visitor’s center and played with the displays. They’ve got a thing where you can make your own earthquake and record it on a seismometer. I’ll have that video for you soonish. I’m so far behind on processing videos for you!

Once we’d had our fill, we headed back down the mountain. The lowering sunlight slipping in beneath the increasing clouds did spectacular things to the valley, ridges, and mountains, so we stopped at Hoffstadt Bluffs for a lookie-lou up the North Fork Toutle River valley. We turned into the parking lot, and made a sweep along its outer edge looking for the best place to park, and I saw a car there… and started shrieking like a preteen fangirl at a boy band convention. I was literally bouncing up and down in the seat shouting with glee. At last, after years and many a failed quest, I’d finally found it:

Image shows a white, boxy Mercury Monarch. It looks rather battered, with the door and hood both warped. An orange stripe runs down its side, and the words KOMO TV4 are painted in black block letters across the door.
Dave Crockett’s Car! AT LAST!!

I cannot believe it’s finally on display! I can’t believe we saw it! And it was complete serendipity – we almost didn’t stop there, but the light, and we did, and ZOMG I FINALLY GOT TO SEE IT!

For those who don’t know the story, Dave Crockett was a KOMO news reporter who hauled his ass out to Mount St. Helens before dawn on May 18th because he had a hunch – which almost got him killed, and led to the demise of his company car. You can read the whole story here.

If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to enjoy this moment of triumph.

Image shows me standing beside the car, hands raised in the heavy metal salute position.
Fuck yeah, KOMO car!

And then I’m going the fuck to bed, because seriously, need sleep! We’ll do our next chapter of Escape next week, I promise. And I’ll have lots more great stuff from our trip for you over the next few days!

Our Mount St. Helens Epic Adventure: The End of a Quest!

4 thoughts on “Our Mount St. Helens Epic Adventure: The End of a Quest!

  1. 3

    Crockett’s car…fuck yeahhhh.

    I finished my Windy Ridge tour a month ago. Looked over the pumice plain from the eastern side. No elk standoff. The park ranger told me I shouldn’t have been on the trail I took to get there. And I’m still shaking ash out of my shoes. Did I mention that I’m not a very effective storyteller?

  2. 4

    Wow. Would love to do that and see Mt St Helens’ too.

    Looking forward to the clips to come and hope you’ve had some much needed and well deserved rest – one thing to go to bed tired, quite another having to get up and face the whole day feeling that way. Thanks for the fb blogging on this too. Enjoyed that.

    threatened to spray us all with soda and peanut butter (she had her reasons! Can you guess what they are?)

    I’m guessing cleverly improvised model volcano demo yeah?

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