If my last post on Mt. St. Helens was about a mountain as an indomitable survivor, this post reveals another vantage point of her character as she makes an exquisite, lush comeback from her desolation. The drive we took on a late summer day in September with temperatures in the low 70’s to view Mt. St. Helens took the road out of Randle to Windy Ridge. The contrast of the two routes (I-5 to Longview and over vs. Hwy 12 to Randle and over) to meet the mountain is remarkable and both a powerful testimony to the resilience and invincibility of nature…and ourselves.
Faith is the strength by which a shattered world shall emerge into the light. Helen Keller
|Out of Ash and Devastation Springs Life Amidst Reminders of Struggle Survived
At Fischer’s Market in Randle, we stopped to get a pass ($5 for the day/$30 for the year) and I checked out the little gift shop I’d heard so much about from locals in Morton where we visited the Tiller Art Gallery across from our optometry office, Medical Vision Center, on the way out of town. The Fischer’s gift shop was indeed a nice surprise, packed with tasteful gifts and things for the home and garden. Taking a right turn onto Cispus Road we took the right fork and headed toward Windy Ridge, noticing the other branch of the fork led to the Cispus Center and one of our favorite hikes; Angel Falls at Covel Creek.
|Donn and Forest Art
The Windy Ridge approach to the mountain seems much closer than heading down I-5 to Longview and over. And while the road was pretty rough in spots, particularly as we finished our loop and headed to the Ryan Lake area on a broken one lane mix of asphalt and gravel, the exuberant life that met us all along the way was a blessed relief after the desolation of the alternate approach a few weeks ago. That route has the benefit of the two superb lodges and visitor centers with their fun shops that remind me exactly of Museum Shops… While the starkness of the first approach taught me some deep lessons about our ability to withstand a stripping of all we possess and still stand firm and immovable, the other approach teaches me about rebuilding again when life takes us down to the core.
|Mt. St. Helens From the Windy Ridge Route
Since Windy Ridge closed September 4th for road repair and will reopen next year, we saw it- and Mt. St. Helens – from a distance but what a spectacular frame! This route allows us to drive through the former devastation and to see the contrast of man’s intervening attempts to replant the forest with many species of trees juxtaposed against what will remain “The Monument” forest in its natural state post volcanic explosion condition.
The territorial views from all the look-out points are remarkable; Mt. Adams to the left and Mt. St. Helens to the right and wide valleys in between refilling nicely with lush growth. No matter what the mountain’s experience taught, she was still speaking to each of us and that was quite clear in the energy of the sight-seers intent on reading the signboards and trying to understand the magnitude of what happened on that May morning.
|The Miner’s Car Monument
We stopped to see the Miner’s Car Monument flattened to scrap metal in the blast. That morning, mine owners signed a release to enter unsafe zones to check on their mine. They were some of the victims of that memorable day and their car shows the intensity of the demise they faced, obviously playing the odds against meeting their death that day.
Even here we were beginning to appreciate the beauty, however, that was created or set into place that day in the upturned trunks of hundreds of trees, ripped out of the ground with monstrous force and now aged to spectacular silver sculptures. Nature truly is the art of God as Dante said. Some of these trees are recorded at 400 years old. I loved the sign calling this particular tree a ‘timekeeper’… now they live on with lasting beauty as forest art.
Stopping by Meta Lake and hiking in on the short, paved trail that is handicap accessible was a refreshing escape into a glimpse of a form of St. Helens’ own “Noah’s Ark”. This lake was covered that May morning with 9’ of snowpack atop a thick sheet of ice which protected its inhabitants from the searing heat of the volcanic eruption.
All around Meta Lake, life was extinguished but here it remained safe and sound. Everyone around the little dock was excited to point out the crayfish, the tadpoles- some growing legs and some already tiny frogs- the baby trout, the Damsel flies neon blue that eluded my camera lens like flashing and darting playful fairies.
|Do You See the Crayfish? Polliwogs, Baby Trout, Frogs?
This is a hike for small children and the elderly whereas on so much of the other route taken last week we found ourselves saying, “so and so would
never be able to make this walk…” and we saw many people with handicap signs hanging from their rear view mirror sitting in their car while the mobile spouse hiked in alone. Windy Ridge joins whereas the other route has the potential to separate, so be forewarned.
|The Inveterate Pod and Cone Collector….
Windy Ridge also had an abundance of ripe Huckleberries which were a sweet reward, and the most adorable little pine cones to collect for the Adytum table, strewing them down the center, bringing Nature indoors as we move into Fall.
Next we stopped to see Ryan Lake and luckily the restrooms were still open. The small visitor center along the way had restroom facilities as well as picnic tables, but the sign on the door said, “See you next summer!” This lake was pretty too, and the foot trail above proved a nice little walk with unexpected lushness in the abundance of Maiden Hair Ferns. We did notice what seemed to be a cougar track and there were signs warning the animals not to eat human food (:…but we saw only birds.
As we negotiated the 12 miles of sketchy road that improved considerably as we neared Randle we talked about the ability of a mountain- or a person – to rebuild their lives after disaster strikes. The insuppressible exuberance of nature is so evident on the road to Windy Ridge, driving directly inside the zones that took the brunt of the impact that fateful morning. The birds have myriads of berries to feast on and they add such joy to the sky. Autumn color tinges the slopes softening the thousands of downed trees left lying like matchstick monuments to the terror of a mountain. The contrast of the forests where man began replanting three years after the blast to the Monument mountainsides where nature slowly makes her comeback is marked; both are beautiful in their own ways. Both are not interested in the past but are surging ahead with growth, life, and inexpressible beauty.
Silence is a source of great strength. Lao Tzu
|Be Still and Know
Like Muir, I gain spiritual strength and growth from nature more than any sermon I ever sat through. The music of the wind in the Firs was celebratory yet inside this music was a deep, profound silence at the core – the kind of silence that speaks of strength and endurance gained through trials. The lofty grandeur in the now-green vistas that stretch miles and miles ending in beautiful cloud swiped sky….all of it coalesced to join heaven and earth and my heart to the heart of the World and the heart of God all at once. The ever gentle teacher, Nature, reminds me that we are powerful beyond belief. Strong people move things. They are not moved by circumstance, no matter how seemingly crushing or overwhelming.
|Rebirth from the Ashes of the Stripping is Possible….
And rebirth is always the natural result of a stripping. The freshness of this approach to Windy Ridge and Mt. St. Helens really fed my spirit with beauty; the clean mountain air revived my body, and another great lesson in the Cathedral of the World has settled deep into the fabric of my life never to be removed.
“As your breathing partakes of the circumfluent air, so let your thinking partake of the circumfluent Mind. For there is a mental Force which, for him who can draw it to himself, is no less ubiquitous and all-pervading than is the atmosphere for him who can breathe it.” Marcus Aurelius, Meditations