Tom & Holly Travels
since 2004

Day 8 – Mount St. Helens

     Hard to know what to say about the story of Mount St. Helens. I think that is because there is just too much to say and my jaw is still dropped from hearing about the fury created when a volcano erupts. We watched a movie about the eruption and heard the stories from the few survivors who thought they were in the safety zone but were not. The movie was called The Fire Beneath Us.  One fascinating thing was the fact that the people close to the eruption heard nothing while people hundreds of miles away heard it loud and clear. The eruption certainly changed the landscape forever. We saw before and after photos and you just couldn’t believe it.

    The story of recovery is most interesting.  The Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument covers 110,00 acres has been set aside as a living laboratory to allow recovery to proceed naturally, unaided by humans.  Nature is proving to be more resilient than expected. Within a month, bracken ferns 13 miles from the volcano started to grow. The areas closer to the mountain are returning very slowly and it may be centuries before the first trees appear.

   In contrast, Weyerhaeuser logging industry who lost 68,000 acres decided to first salvage the logs that they could. Six hundred truckloads of logs were removed each day. The salvage operation  continued for two and half years.  The recovery effort saved 850 million board feet of timber. Then Weyerhaeuser scientists went to work and decided that, yes, they could replant. They invested millions and planted some 18 million seedlings. Today those trees are an average of 75 feet tall and will be ready for harvest in 2020.  For every tree cut, two are planted.

    Nearly all life above ground perished within the 150,000 acre eruption area.  Some insects did survive. I guess that is why when I read the story of the ice ages to my third and fourth graders, the story was told by Mel Roach. Yes the cockroach survived. There where over 150 species of wildlife who called this area home. Today about 90 species have returned. Some species are gone and have never returned while some new speices have decided to make this area home. Below used to be a river not a stream, but it filled up when the volcano erupted.

More to Follow,

Tom & Holly