Event to kick off visitor season at volcano

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TOUTLE — A public outreach and fundraising event next week will kick off the visitor season at Johnston Ridge Observatory and Mount St. Helens.

"It's A Blast" will showcase both Johnston Ridge and the nearby Science and Learning Center at Coldwater, including regular talks and exhibits at each. Both facilities will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, May 11, for the event. Guided hikes will also be offered.

The $8 admission fee will be waived for teachers with identification. The event is also free for youths 15 and younger, and federal recreation pass-holders.

All proceeds benefit the Mount St. Helens Institute's education and volunteer programs. The institute helps staff the visitor centers with the U.S. Forest Service, which manages the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument.

Johnston Ridge Observatory is about 50 miles east of Castle Rock, at the end of state Highway 504. Crews have kept the highway partially clear for much of the spring, and the highway will fully open in time for the event, according to the Washington State Department of Transportation.