Mt. St. Helens

[Olympia, Washington, July 2, 1983]

The volcano, Mt St. Helens, had "blown its top" in 1980, three years before we arrived at the visitor center of the newly formed "Mt. St. Helens National Monument". Apparently one of the visitor center's neighbors had opposed the building of the center. He retaliated by building a huge billboard type of barrier on the one spot where the distant Mt. St. Helens could be seen, effectively blocking the view of the mountain from the center. A television news crew was taking pictures and covering the story. We wondered if erecting the barrier made the man feel any better and we wonder if it still blocks the view now 20 years later, or has the dispute been settled.

We drove on through the park, viewing with amazement the devastation caused by the blast. Many of the roads had not yet been paved and we turned down a dirt road that we felt would lead to Spirit Lake where the elderly resident, Harry Truman, lived and died a terrible death.

It was the wrong road! Before we had gotten far, the road became much narrower and steeper as it wound down around the face of the mountain. The road became a narrow ledge just wide enough for the car. We realized we were in trouble and looked for a place where we might turn around. There were no turnouts!

Finally I decided, rather than go farther, we'd have to take a chance and try to turn in the road itself. When we came to a place where the road was two or three feet wider than the length of the car, and we made our try.

We zig-zagged back and forth going forward until the front bumper hung out over the cliff and backward until we touched the mountainside behind us. It was a tense situation for a while but we made it with out falling over the cliff. With sighs of relief we headed back up. A crowd had gathered at the top along with a police car, watching us do our maneuvering down below. They probably wondered if there was to be a rescue or recovery operation after we slid over the edge. There had been a sign at the top saying the road was closed.

The trooper said, "You were not supposed to be on that road, it's a bad one". I said, " You're telling me!" He got out his ticket book and began taking down the information from my driver's license. Then he said, " I won't give you a ticket this time, but watch out for those 'road closed' signs."

It was one of those "memorable incidents".

Charles E. Page, February 2004