8 Ball In The Wind

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Mt St Helens Run...I.M.O. The 57

Mt St Helens

With only a couple more days before heading out on the Mt St Helens Memorial Run, I am getting a bit antsy about the weather.  if it is good, and everyone who says they are going shows up there could be a couple hundred bikes riding up into the remote wilderness around the mountain with me.  If it looks nasty; or like it could rain, I am sure that number will drop dramatically.  Either way, I am going.  I have to go.  For a few reasons, and not just because I organized the ride.  But because it is how I pay my respects to what could have been, and to those that died.  Many who didnt even think they were in the danger zone.

The photo above was taken from Johnston Ridge.  Its where the young volcanologist David Johnston was killed just seconds after the eruption began 5 miles away.  The land on the valley floor used to be up on the mountain.  The old valley floor is about 250 feet or so below what you can see now.  Thats like putting a 25 story building up and down the valley and 5 miles across it.  The bluffs of the ridge had the soil scrape away by the initial landslide that set off the blast.  The blast itself knocked over and blew away trees that were upwards of 4 feet across.  For miles around the only trees growing now all took root years after the eruption.
Coldwater Ridge

The second photo is of Coldwater Ridge.  That is the ridge my Dad and I were suppose to be on.  But by chance it was Armed Forces Weekend, and my ship was "visit ship" in Seattle.  That meant I had to be aboard the ship, and couldnt take my Dad down like he had volunteered to do.  So he rescheduled to have me drive him down and spend a week with him on the ridge.  The guy he was suppose to relieve has never been found.  Neither has his RV.  That whole ridge was covered in a thick forest, and so was the ridge behind it.  That all changed on May 18, 1980.  Coldwater Ridge is 8 miles from the crater, and the ridge beyond is 10 miles away.  Yet the only trees left by the blast on that far ridge are a few dead snags on the very top of the ridge.  Like I said, that's 10 miles from the crater.  Can you imagine the power of those few hours of eruption. It blew trees down nearly 20 miles away like they were nothing.  The few that didnt get obliterated were baked dry by the heat of the blast.
57 people; men, women, AND CHILDREN were killed that morning by the mountain.  Most were outside the "Red Zone" where the danger was believed to be.  If it werent for a twist of fate that forced  me to reschedule bringing my Dad to Coldwater Ridge, that number would have been 59.  That is why I have to make this run, rain or shine.  It took me almost 25 years before I went back to the area around Coldwater Ridge, now I pay my respects every year.  While almost everyone else who rides up there with me every year spends their time gazing at Mt St Helens, I am always drawn to look back at Coldwater Ridge, where but for the Grace of God, my Dad and I would have died.  I have always hoped that my Dad's friend Gerry Martin didn't suffer when the blast and landslide took him out.  I pray that he passed quickly.

In Memory Of the 57...

Catch ya on the road sometime...

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