Mountain-watcher missed the big one




After the snow melted in the spring, I started going up to a viewpoint of the mountain in a clear cut just north of Goat Mountain on the west side of the mountain. There were no road blocks and no signs. But I was just a few miles west of the mountain.

On May 17, I decided to drive further north and found a viewpoint just above the South Fork Toutle River — a scant 2.5 to 3 miles west of the mountain. I snapped a few photos, stuck around for a while to enjoy the view and left.

On May 18, I had promised someone I would go to the coast and we spent a nice sunny warm day over around Tillamook. We left Portland about 8:30 in the morning and had a wonderful day. Since I hadn’t turned the radio on in the morning I was ignorant of the eruption going on until we returned to Portland about 4:30 that afternoon. Heading east on Highway 26 around Hillsboro I turned the radio on, and they said and “Now we go back to the latest on the Mount St Helens eruption.” I looked over the hills and saw the towering eruption column for the first time and exclaimed “Holy Sh!!”.

I’ve spent a lot of time since then photographing the mountain and area around it. Many comparison photos can be found on flickr at: including the stunning comparison of the view from Norway Pass from 1985 to 2009: In that set are also a few views taken above the South Fork Toutle River.

I’ve also published a book on which I think does an excellent job of capturing the feel of the landscape and the continuing evolution of the landscape around the mountain.