I know that over the past few years, I've become more entrenched in current events and politics than I ever expected. Many, many hours are spent reading news stories and blogs, trying to keep abreast of the political world.
Have you ever just become so consumed with anger and frustration that you can barely see straight? Have you ever realized you don't even remember what you're fighting for?
My recommendation is to get out of the house the next beautiful summer day you can and explore your world, by foot, by car, with camera and definitely with all your senses
Yesterday was one such day. I honestly can't afford much these days. My business hasn't been doing so hot ever since gas prices skyrocketed a year ago. People don't have nearly as much spare money to buy records, CDs and books these days. So on hand, I should have stayed home, put the nose to the grindstone and gotten some necessary work done. But, here in the Pacific Northwest, when nature offers you a day in the mid 70s with perfectly clear skies, you simply have to take advantage of it if you can.
Within sight of just about every point of Washington is Mount Rainier, 14,000+ feet of volcano and glacier. It has the largest glacier mass of any peak in the 48 continental United States. Often it creates its own weather and goes days or even weeks at a time out of view from Seattle or Tacoma. Yesterday was not the case. So I took the state route 410 to the east side. I mean to cut through the eastern portion of the park to head to US 12 to then head to Mount St. Helens, but that particular stretch of highway was closed for some reason. That required a long drive east nearly to Yakima and then heading back west on US 12. However, along the way I got this shot:
Wikipedia tells us:
Mount Rainier is a stratovolcano in Pierce County, Washington, located 54 miles (87 km) southeast of Seattle, Washington, in the United States. It is the highest peak in the Cascade Range, with a topographical summit of 14,411 feet (4,392 m); there is no greater elevation until the meeting of the borders of Yukon, Alaska, and British Columbia beyond the Alsek River to the north. The mountain and the surrounding area comprise Mount Rainier National Park. The mountain is mostly covered by snow and glaciers, but heat from the volcano keeps areas of the crater rim on its summit cone mostly free of snow and ice. The geothermal heat has also caused the formation of glacier caves in the twin summit craters.
Geologically speaking, Wikipedia informs us:
Mount Rainier's earliest lavas are over 840,000 years old and are part of the Lily Formation (2.9 million to 840,000 years ago). The early lavas formed a "proto-Rainier" or an ancestral cone prior to the present-day cone. The present cone is over 500,000 years old (Sisson 1995). The volcano is highly eroded, with glaciers on its slopes, and appears to be made mostly of andesite. Rainier likely once stood even higher than today at 16,000 ft. (4,877 m) before a major debris avalanche and the resulting Osceola Mudflow 5,000 years ago.
In the past, Rainier has had large debris avalanches, and has also produced enormous lahars (volcanic mudflows) due to the large amount of glacial ice present. Its lahars have reached all the way to the Puget Sound. Around 5,000 years ago, a large chunk of the volcano slid away and that debris avalanche helped to produce the massive Osceola Mudflow, which went all the way to the site of present-day Tacoma and south Seattle. This massive avalanche of rock and ice took out the top 1,600 ft. (488 m) of Rainier, bringing its height down to around 14,400 ft. (4,389 m).
The scary thing is that another large mudflow could occur without hardly any warning and bury a quite enormous area of land around its base, including portions of the Tacoma area.
I then headed down the Forest Service road from Randle, Washington, that leads to Spirit Lake. Alas, I was thwarted again by a closed gate. I hate backtracking so I continued down the road towards the town of Cougar, which is at the southern base of the mountain (more or less).
The south and eastern sides of the volcano get a little less attention, as the 1980 eruption didn't cause much devastation in that direction. But although the volcano erupted over a quarter of a century ago, there is still activity as evidenced by the steam venting from the crater.
Eventually I ended up on I-5 maybe 25 miles north of Portland (and spotting Mt. Hood in Oregon for the first time ever...there's yet another dormant volcano that plays hide and seek in the clouds). From there I headed north a few miles and headed back towards Mount St. Helens via State Route 504, the main method for visiting the volcano.
Over the past few months, magma pushing up from below has caused a "fin" type of rock to jut up inside the crater. Upon arriving at Johnston Ridge Observatory (the closest point you can drive towards the volcano), I was treated to a small belching of steam that was bigger than the normal venting.
There were another dozen people there who witnessed this little puff of steam, to some cheers and excitement. Needless to say, were that an explosive eruption (which is still slightly possible, given the geologic history of the mountain), we would have all soiled our undies and been heading in the opposite direction as fast as possible.
As of June 2006, the volcano is both growing and eroding. The avalanche of 1980 that resulted in the mountain's cone ended up at its base and nearby river valley is slowly being eaten through with erosion from snowfall melting each spring. Vegetation is slowly making a comeback in the area, providing areas of greenery
And off in the distance is Mt. Adams, Washington's second highest peak and, you guessed it, yet another dormant volcano.
The sheer size of Mount St. Helens' destruction and crater is very humbling. Yet, its that sort of beauty and sheer appreciation of the power of nature that reminds me why I don't wish to ever give up fighting for things that are worth believing in. Life is pretty damned fantastic, even if I'm essentially drowning in debt and other materialistic worries of life. Everyone should explore their world as much as possible. There is so much worth seeing out there.
Photos all taken by me.
Incidentally, I highly recommend visiting the Pacific Northwest and taking the time to see Mount St. Helens. I can't even begin to express how freaking amazing of a place it is.