Seattle travel writer Crai Bower first came across Mount St. Helens when he was doing a census of the spotted owl population for the Washington State Department of Natural Resources in 1990. Crai was stunned by the vision of Mount St. Helens, which so famously and destructively erupted in 1980. Crai remembers seeing the mountain as he walked down a forest service road:
All of a sudden there it was. It was breathing and brooding as the gases were escaping. It was supposedly dormant. Or was it? And then as I was looking at the deep crater, all the earth science that I’d loathed studying in middle school came flowing back, like lava. I suddenly got geology, right there!
Pacific Northwest residents often talk about their desire to visit iconic places in our region like Mount St. Helens. But they often avoid those destinations because of crowds. Crai Bower says you don’t want to put off a visit to such a spectacular site too long. And now that the summer crowds are gone, Crai recommends fall as a great time to visit Mount St. Helens. He says the drive up the mountain features stunning views of the destruction in the aftermath of the eruption. There are acres of downed trees blown over by the force of the eruption. There is dramatic evidence all around of the path taken by tons of earth and mud in the immediate aftermath of the 1980 explosion.
Before he moved to the Washington state to attend The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Crai didn’t know much at all about St. Helens’ volcanic and geologic history:
Years ago my familiarity with Mount St. Helens had to do mostly with knowing that the Grateful Dead broke into "Fire on the Mountain" immediately when they heard the volcano had erupted.
Grateful Dead performs "Fire on the Mountain"
But now when Crai flies back home to Seattle from his many travels as a travel correspondent, he always makes sure to look out the airplane window in search of the distinctive mountain whose side was blown away in a powerful eruption. When Crai fixes his glance on Mount St. Helens, standing uniquely among many impressive northwest peaks, he knows he has arrived back home.