Mount St. Helens

I know I promised you a tour of Mount St. Helens a couple of days ago, but it seems like my time has just slipped away from me, and besides I wanted to “study up” so I could give you facts as well as impressions.

Before I start, I urge you to take 23 minutes a view this You Tube video. I had forgotten much of what it told me, although I don’t know that I paid that much attention to the eruption at the time. We were in England, and so slightly removed from the action, although we did have an unusually cool and cloudy summer that was attributed to the ash in the upper atmosphere. You also might enjoy this video that is about 45 minutes long and tells about the recovery of the mountain. For a shorter, more scientific look at what happened you can see this clip.

We arrived in the late morning at the Silver Lake Visitors Center.

From there you can see Silver Lake through the trees.

We stopped for lunch at Hoffstadts Bluff for lunch and got our first good look at the mountain.

You can see the Toutle River in the foreground and the deposits of ash/pumice that washed down the mountain after the eruptions.

At this distance from the mountain you can see the regrowth of pines and forests that were burned and scorched by the heat blast accompanying the eruption.

We visited the Johnston Ridge Observatory, 6 miles from the crater, named for one of the people killed on the mountain in 1980. He was an employee of the US Geological Survey and was studying the mountain hoping to predict what was soon to happen. His were the last words heard from Mount St. Helens on that fateful May morning, “Vancouver, Vancouver, this is it…”

From Johnston Ridge, you can see Spirit Lake just in the middle of the picture. The mountain just visible on the left is Mount Adams, another one of the string of sleeping sister volcanos.

There, just across the valley is the crater. You can plainly see the new lava dome building in the center of the crater, and wisps of steam escaping from a vent in the middle of the photo.

At the center, we saw the roots of blasted trees.

And by the foot of the blasted root, these flowers bravely poking out of the ashy soil.

The vegetation is recovering here at the Johnston Ridge Center.

Across the hills small trees are growing back…

…with flowers, and low bushes.

In the valley, by the little streams and the river, the birches have come back and are full-grown trees.

Looking back as we go down the mountain, we could see what looked like steam, both from the vent we saw from the Observatory on the left, and farther down on the right from a fissure at the base of the cone.

If you are interested in learning more about Mount St. Helens, Wikipedia has a couple of really good articles, one about the mountain itself, and one about the 1980 eruption.

The folks around here say that geologists think the next one to go will be Mt. Rainier. Parts of Tacoma are in the lava flow evacuation area, but we should be safe on our hill (from my mouth to God’s ears!).


I woke up this morning to find my Weatherbug flashing with a weather alert. I opened it, and this is what I found.

*Temperatures… will climb to the upper 80s to mid 90s at many places today…resulting in the warmest day so far this year. Overnight temperatures will also be mild and will mainly be in the upper 50s to mid 60s. It will be a few degrees hotter at most places on Sunday with highs topping out in the lower to mid 90s at many places. (at 11:51 am it’s still 71 deg.) I think we can cope!

I’m doing my best to get on and stay on a decent diet, but it’s really hard here. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, we have continental breakfast in the lounge of the apartments (provided by Franke Tobey Jones). Most of the residents of the apartments gather for a gossip fest and we get to hear about all the doings of everybody, and who’s sick, and who’s back from the hospital, and which staff is nice and which staff is worthless. Al thoroughly enjoys it because he thinks we are all his harem, since there are only three or four men in the building.

Every Friday afternoon, we have Happy Hour, and while I don’t indulge in the wine or liquor that they serve, I do, unfortunately, indulge in the snacks and goodies that everybody bring. There are several ladies who don’t have anybody to cook for who enjoy bringing homemade goodies.

I already told all of you about the trips to Mt Rainier and the cruise to Meet the Fleet, with great lunches provided. I’m also already signed up to go to Mount St. Helen’s in a couple of weeks.

Yesterday, we had the Annual Picnic. It had an Hawaiian theme this year.

They set up a big tent on the lawn and fed all of the residents and many guests a great luau of roast pork, barbecued chicken, hamburgers, hot dogs, ambrosia, potato salad, rice and pineapple salad, rolls, and pineapple upside-down cake with ice cream or mango sherbet for dessert.

Big Al looks like he’s enjoying the day.

They served us buffet-style.

and the staff dressed up to help set the mood.

There was more than enough food.

In addition to all the dinner, they had popcorn, snow cones, and fresh-fried donuts (closer to beignets than donuts) with a choice of powdered sugar or cinnamon sugar.

There were also Hawaiian dancers for entertainment.

Every Thursday night in August, they have a Concert on the Green that they invite the local residents and neighbors to. We had about 425 people in attendance for the first one with a great Dixieland Jazz Band named Uptown at the Lowdown.

Future concerts include the Tacoma Concert Band (60 pieces), the Voetberg Family (bluegrass, gospel, country and folk music), Hook Me Up (a variety quartet of guitar, accordion, horn, and drum), and A Touch of Class (a 20-piece swing band). I hope the weather is as nice for all of these as it was for the first one.

On Monday we are invited to a 60th Anniversary breakfast, and I have a feeling they are really going to lay on the food there!

We play bridge every Tuesday afternoon in a nice foursome upstairs in the card room/TV room/bar in the building here.

Since my birthday is this month we have been invited to a Birthday Celebration for lunch on the 22nd in the formal dining room in the Tobey Jones building.

Meet the Fleet Cruise

Yesterday, I boarded the Franke Tobey Jones bus and rode to Seattle where we caught a lunch cruise round the Elliott Bay for the beginning of “Fleet Week” in Seattle. (BTW, I am eternally grateful that I’m not going to be “on the ground” there during all the festivities which I understand is an excuse to gather in enormous crowds and drink.)

The cruise left from Shilshole Bay Marina. When the bus arrived we were greeted with the Viking statue.

I’m not sure what he was commemorating, but there he was at the entrance to the marina.

Both of the boat were there and available for boarding (even though we were about 1/2 an hour early). The bigger boat was the Emerald Star. It looked like it held about 60 or 75 folks comfortably.

Our boat was the Olympic Star and we had about 25 or 30 people on our cruise. There were 8 from FTJ including the bus driver and staff.

There was a wonderful doggy on the dock in his life vest, waiting to board another boat for the day on the water.

This is a good-sized marina with moorings for several hundred boats of all shapes and sizes.

We had plenty of time to look around while we waited for the rest of the parties to arrive. There were also some Canada geese that seemed to be headed somewhere important (at least THEY thought it was important.)

Captain Pete came by to visit with us before we left.

The lady and her husband were from San Antonio, so I had a good time comparing horror stories of the heat with them. We also spent some time congratulating each other on our foresight in “getting the hell out of Dodge,” this summer.

Hey! I guess I WAS there after all.

As we backed out of our slip we could see a metal sculpture of Nessie chasing a poor unfortunate sailor on the seawall. (Sorry we didn’t get close enough to take a better picture.)

They served us a fine lunch of salmon, mashed potatoes, and spinach, with creme brulee for desert. It tasted great, but I was so ready to be out on the water that I spent most of my time running upstairs and outside to take pictures, and then coming back for the next course, only to run outside again.

We motored around West Point and saw our first view (from the water) of the skyline of Seattle, complete with Space Needle in the center of the picture.

We took up our post in the middle of Elliott Bay, and waited for the parade of ships.

Pretty soon we looked south, and saw them coming, complete with a fire boat putting on a welcoming display!

It wasn’t long before they were around the headland and coming into Elliott Bay!

The ferry to Bainbridge Island didn’t seem to be at all impressed with the War Ships, as it passed, unconcernedly, between us and them.

There were three ships, all painted grey, so they are kind of hard to see (camouflage works). These were all active-duty war ships who had just recently returned from service in the Gulf War and Afghanistan.

There was a guided missile destroyer, a guided missile cruiser, and a helicopter carrier. (Sorry, my “brain like a sieve” has lost the names of two of them, but I do remember one was named the USS Bunker Hill.)

This is the helicopter carrier just passing Safeco Field and Qualcomm Field just by the container docks. Its camouflage is so good you can hardly see it.

See, there it is in a close-up that is kind of blurry because close-ups usually are on the iPad.

Here’s a picture of the fire boat in close-up (also blurry, but identifiable).

They finally finished their tour of the bay closer to us (and more visible).

We were also treated to a fly-by of a P-2 Sub-hunter.

Apparently, the Coast Guard felt like we were a little too close to the destroyer, and they came putt-putting over with machine gun at the ready, to make sure we didn’t interfere with the United States Navy!

We also had a fly-by by a two-engine sub-hunter (nobody seems to know what the Navy calls them – not Captain Pete, or Big Al).

After they complete the shoreline tour of Elliott Bay, the cruiser turned and came right at us!

And, not to be overshadowed, the little two engine sub-hunter buzzed us again!

Needless to say, we gave way, and the destroyer made the turn and headed back to downtown.

By now, it was time to go back to the Marina, so we went back around West Point.

What a great day on the water. Too bad that Big Al didn’t want to go, ’cause I had a WONDERFUL time.