At precisely 8:32 am local time, 35 years ago today, Mount Saint Helens erupted. I wasn’t around for it—I wasn’t even quite born yet. But I’ve had a thing for volcanoes ever since I moved to the Northwest, so St. Helens has never been far off my radar.
The funny thing is, it’s taken me years to get a decent sketch of it.
I visited the St. Helens for the first time just weeks after I moved to Washington, when I got to tag along on a geology trip. I was all excited to sketch at the top of Johnston Ridge, to peer down into the massive crater. This is what I saw:
Yep, welcome to the Pacific Northwest.
After that it became sort of a running gag. I kept trying to find a time to get back to Johnston Ridge—but it’s a trip that takes commitment, since it’s a very long drive, it’s not on the way to anything, and the mountain roads are closed for much of the year. On every day that might have worked out for my schedule, the weather was bad or the way impassable.
I did see St. Helens from a distance plenty of times, but even then it didn’t usually cooperate. More often than not, even on a bright sunny day, the volcano would be shrouded in its own private weather system.
So this year, I decided enough was enough. I cleared my calendar as best I could, and then just waited for a sunny day (at this time of year, one can wait a very long wait). Just a few days ago, the forecast offered up a perfect day—so I got up extra early and jumped in the car.
This time, St. Helens rewarded my effort. And as a bonus, I got there a full week before the tourist season starts, so I had the mountain entirely to myself, for a whole morning.
It’s entirely possible the mountain will erupt again in my lifetime. I dearly hope it won’t…but at least I have some good “before” documentation, just in case.