There may be no force in nature as powerful, as engaging, as frightening or as beautiful as the sight of a volcano in full eruption. When you see such a thing in video, you really do get a perspective on how explosive nature can be and that we are just creatures on this earth and small creatures at that. In America, there are only a few active volcanoes that could ever visit upon us the kind of destruction that we have seen in documentaries of the great eruptions of history. And in recent memory, the volcano that has stopped our nation in its tracks with its explosive power was the eruption of Mount St. Helens on May 18, 1980.
That historic eruption is one of those history stopping events that you can remember exactly where you were when you became aware that a major volcanic eruption was going on right here on the mainland of the United States. We watched with wonder as the volcano created rivers of steaming gas, magma and boiling rivers for miles in its wake and leveled acre after acre of trees in a wave of destruction that reminded people more of an atomic bomb than of an act of nature.
Now as the devastation has somewhat become a civilized place and as the Mount St. Helens has returned to its brooding state, this can be one of the most inspiring sightseeing trips you can take your family on in any of the fifty states. Prepare to gasp and stand in awe as you drive up the prepared pathway to the devastation area. You will see that the Parks Service has worked hard to preserve the site exactly as nature left it when the mountain exploded so many years ago.
The way the site of this incredible volcanic eruption has been handled since the event will pass along to you a deep sense of reverence for nature and her powerful forces which were at work that day. The park rangers and custodians are very careful to explain that every effort is being made not to disturb the natural setting of the devastated landscape. The idea is that this is part of the natural molding process that our earth goes through and we need to not disturb it in any way to the lands around the volcano can recover and re-grow in a natural, evolutionary way. So you can still see the thousands of trees blown down facing away from the mountain showing the power of the blast and how it literally laid everything flat in the path of the destruction.
The beautiful visitors stations at different levels of the mountain side are carefully set up to give you maximum view of what can only be described as a breathtaking landscape that looks as much like the surface of an alien planet as it does part of planet earth. You can even take walks along paths that go a short distance into the now desert like conditions of the mountains. But you must be careful not to pick up a rock or disturb the landscape in any way in keeping with the philosophy of the naturalists who do not want to see this area distracted from the natural recovery that nature has in mind.
To complete your full appreciation of the shocking power and violence of the eruption of Mount St. Helens, the visitor?s center has some outstanding videos you can watch that were taken before, during and after the powerful blast. You will find yourself wanting to whistle with amazement as you see entire lakes displaced, whole forests reduced to rubble and then see the entire top of a mountain blown entirely away from an underground force as powerful as our most impressive bombs. To go from those films out to see the crater of the mountain live from the perch of the visitors center and even see plumbs of smoke still seeping out from the volcano center gives you the shivers because you know and the scientists know that this is still a powerful volcano and that it will erupt again.