It wasn’t until I received a call from a friend on the morning of the 18th that I knew Mount St. Helens had erupted. I went outside to take a look, but from my Burton-area home I couldn’t see anything. I got together with some friends, and we went up SR 503 until we found a good vantage point to watch the eruption. It wasn’t until we got there that I discovered I had forgotten my camera in the rush to get out the door!
We sat and watched the eruption with a mixture of awe and grief. I had grown up on that mountain, and I knew all of my familiar and favorite places were now gone: Clearwater Campground, Muddy Creek, Spirit Lake and all of the other areas that we spent countless weekends and vacations hiking, picking blackberries and fishing.
May of 1980 was the first time in five years that my buddies and I had to cancel our yearly Memorial Day backpacking trip to Spirit Lake. As we watched the ash plume rise into the air, we knew that all we would have left were our memories.
Even though we had seen all of the footage of the devastation, we wanted to see it firsthand. After they reopened the airspace around the mountain, we rented a small plane from Evergreen field and did an overflight. What we saw was indescribable as we realized the true extent of the power released on that day.
Over the years, we’ve discovered new places and wonders on that mountain and are building a new history with it but we’ll always be connected to the “mountain that used to be.”